You’ve had a great international vacation and the last thing you want is to get hung up at U.S. Customs and Border Protection. In the best of cases, it only costs you time as you sit through dozens of questions. In more serious cases, you could face some pretty serious fines if you’ve (intentionally or not) brought forbidden items into the country. Here’s a closer look at some of the items that are not permitted to enter the U.S., as well as some tips that can save you time and money at the customs counter.
What are the common items that travelers get hung up for?
Most travelers know that you can’t bring fruits and vegetables into the country, but the same also applies to meat products. The reason is the possible infestation of insects. Keep in mind that the rules apply to domestic islands, too, like Hawaii. As for meat products, it’s not just steaks that are banned, but anything that contains meat, like soup mixes. Inspect your ingredients carefully before trying to enter the country.
Certain artwork and sculptures are also not permitted to pass through customs. Any piece that’s deemed pre-Colombian isn’t allowed. Murals from Central or South America, as well as colonial paintings from Peru and Khmer sculptures from Cambodia, are also banned.
Double-check what your souvenirs are made of. For instance, if you’re bringing back a hat that’s made from a plant product, you won’t be able to pass through customs.
Finally, be careful with your prescription medications as most aren’t allowed into the country unless you have prescriptions or doctors’ notes with you. Also, avoid putting your medication into those weekly organizers while you’re traveling. You’ll need everything in their individual bottles.
What can you do before passing through customs?
The best thing you can do before entering a customs checkpoint is thoroughly check your baggage for contraband. Most airports will have amnesty bins prior to entering the checkpoint itself so that you can ditch anything that will likely throw up a red flag.
If you do happen to get caught with a piece of contraband, you should remain courteous and follow the instructions of the customs agents. While you could certainly pay a fine for your first infraction, many officers will let you off with a warning. However, the infraction will be noted on your record and if you get caught again in the future you’re likely going to face a minimum fine of $500. Plus, you’ll likely face extra screenings on your future trips.