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Understand U.S. Customs

The worst part of international travel is the time it takes to get through customs. Just remember that once you get through, you have the fun of learning waiting for you.

18: Customs | 19: Call Home
Before you leave, get ready for the travel by learning about U.S. Customs. You are limited with regard to how much money and what kinds of items you can bring with you. By learning about what restrictions you face, you will make your arrival in America much more pleasant. After you get through customs, you’ll need to know the information in Step 19.

When should I take this step?
Any time before you finish packing and leave for the U.S.

Why do I need to understand U.S. Customs? Isn't it just like customs in my country?
There might be rules in U.S. Customs that you are different from your country's customs. These differences are what you need to understand. For example, you can't bring fruits into the U.S.

What can I bring with me?
The list of what you can and can't bring into the U.S. is very long. The best resource for this is the U.S. Customs web site. However, here are the list of items that you cannot bring into the U.S. or you must declare for inspection.

  • Currency: if you bring more than $10,000, you will need to report it to Customs.
  • Most fruits and vegetables are prohibited and must be declared for inspection.
  • Fresh meat is generally prohibited from most countries of origin.
  • Canned, cured, or dried meat is severely restricted from most countries.
  • Pirated copies of copyrighted articles (e.g., software, video tapes) are stricly forbidden (being caught with these may result in arrest or deportation).
  • Firearms and ammunition
  • Every single plant or plant product must be declared to the Customs officer and must be presented for inspection.
  • Pets. Click here to find more information regarding bringing pets.

What should I do if I have trouble getting through customs?
Call your embassy. Your embassy is there to help you in situations such as this, and they should be able to clear up any difficulties fairly quickly. It may help if you have all of the documents relating to your school in the U.S. in your carry-on bags, so that you can get to them easily if customs officials ask for them.

17: Pack | | 19: Call Home

Important US Official Links:
1) SEVIS is a government, computerized system that maintains and manages data about foreign students and exchange visitors during their stay in the United States. More info >>
2) U.S. Customs - Department of State

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