You should confirm your return reservation at least twice, and at least 72 hours before your scheduled departure. Whenever possible, obtain a written confirmation. If you confirm your return reservation by phone, record the time, day, and the name of the agent who took your call. If your name does not appear on the reservations list, you have no recourse and may find yourself stranded.
Some countries levy an airport departure tax on travelers, which can be as high as $50. Please ask the airline or a travel agent about this tax. Make certain to have enough money at the end of your trip so that you will be able to get on the plane.
Immigration and Customs
If a passport was required for your trip, have it ready when you go through Immigration and Customs. If you took other documents with you, such as an International Certificate of Vaccination, a medical letter, or a Customs certificate of registration for foreign-made personal articles, have them ready, also. Have your receipts handy, in case you need to support your customs declaration. When returning to the United States by car from Mexico or Canada, have your certificate of vehicle registration available. It is a good idea to pack your baggage in a way to make inspection easier. For example, pack the articles you acquired abroad separately, if possible.
Articles acquired abroad and brought back with you are subject to duty and Internal Revenue tax. U.S. Customs currently allows each U.S. citizen to bring back $400 worth of merchandise duty free, provided the traveler has been outside the United States for at least 48 hours, has not already used this exemption within the preceding 30 day period, and provided the traveler can present the purchases upon his or her arrival at the port of entry. The next $1,000 worth of items brought back for personal use or gifts are subject to duty at a flat 10% rate. (Your duty-free exemption may include 100 cigars, 200 cigarettes, and one liter of wine, beer or liquor.)
There are two groups of destinations from which the duty-free exemption is higher. These are a group of 24 countries and dependencies in the Caribbean and Central America from which the exemption is $600, and a group of U.S. insular possessions (the U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, and Guam), from which the exemption is $1,200. For details, you can consult your travel agent or the U.S. Customs Service publication, Know Before You Go.
Additional Sources of Information
The publication, Know Before You Go, Customs Hints for Returning U.S. Residents, contains information on key U.S. Customs regulations and procedures, including duty rates. Single copies of the publication are free from any local Customs office or you may request copies by writing to: U.S. Customs Service, P.O. Box 7407,Washington, D.C. 20044.
Restrictions on the Entry of Products from Overseas into the United States
Fresh fruit, meat, vegetables, plants in soil, and many other agricultural products from abroad are prohibited entry into the United States because they may carry foreign insects and diseases that could damage U.S. crops, forests, gardens, and livestock. Other items may also be restricted, so it is advisable to be informed about such details before you return to the United States. The restrictions also apply to mailed products from overseas. Prohibited items confiscated and destroyed at U.S. international postal facilities have almost doubled in recent years. Further information can be found in the pamphlet, Travelers’ Tips on Prohibited Agricultural Products, obtainable from the Agricultural Affairs Office at the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate, or you may contact the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, 4700 River Road, Unit 51, Riverdale, Maryland 20737.
Wildlife and Wildlife Products
If, while abroad, you purchased any articles made from endangered animals and plants or any live wild animals to bring back as pets, you must be aware that according toU.S. laws and international treaties, it is a crime to bring many wildlife souvenirs into the United States. Some prohibited items include those made from sea turtle shell, most reptile skins, crocodile leather, ivory, furs from endangered cat species, as well as items made from coral reefs. So you should not buy wildlife souvenirs, if you are unsure about being able to bring them legally into the United States. The penalties that you risk are severe, and your purchases could be confiscated. To learn more about endangered wildlife and guidelines governing restrictions on imports into the United States, consult the pamphlet, Buyer Beware! You can request a free copy from TRAFFIC (U.S.A.), World Wildlife Fund — U.S., 1250 24th Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20037; telephone 202-293-4800.
Glazed Ceramic Purchases
The article, An Unwanted Souvenir, Lead in Ceramic Ware, explains the danger of lead poisoning from some glazed ceramic ware sold abroad. For a free copy, contact:Office of Consumer Affairs, U.S. Food and Drug Administration, 5600 Fishers Lane, Rockville, MD. 20857; telephone 1-800-532-4440.
The above information is excerpted from the Consular Affairs Publications.