Washington, DC - U.S. Customs and Border Protection encourages travelers to “Know Before You Go” when traveling to the United States or returning home during the holiday season. CBP officers at international airports, cruise terminals and land border ports of entry around the country and at Preclearance facilities around the world are prepared for the additional traffic expected.
CBP continues to leverage technology and make advancements in the screening process at ports of entry. Travelers should also to plan ahead to ensure a smooth and efficient processing experience. Use these tips to help you prepare.
Travel Documents: Travelers should have appropriate passports and any other associated travel documents ready when approaching a CBP officer for processing or visiting a foreign country. Find out more information about approved travel documents for entry into the U.S. as well as country specific information at getyouhome.gov and travel.state.gov. Remember to carry these documents with you, do not pack them.
Familiarize yourself with Automated Passport Control (APC) and Mobile Passport Control: These two programs are making the entry process more efficient, intuitive and paperless for travelers. Learn which option works best for you and speed up your entry into the United States. APC expedites the entry process for most international travelers by allowing them to submit their biographic information and answers to inspection-related questions electronically at self-service kiosks located at 56 airports worldwide. At 25 U.S. airports, U.S. citizens and Canadian visitors can submit their passport information and answers to inspection-related questions to CBP via a smartphone or tablet app prior to arrival. Android and iPhone users can download the Mobile Passport app for free from the Google Play Store and Apple App Store.
Declare goods: Truthfully declare everything you are bringing from abroad including duty-free items. If duty is applicable, credit cards or cash payment in U.S. currency is acceptable.
Declare food: Many agriculture products can bring damaging pests and diseases into the country. If you have questions about what food is allowed or not allowed in to the U.S. visit https://help.cbp.gov/ and remember don't pack a pest!
Apply and pay for an I-94 online: Speed up your entry into the U.S. by providing your biographic and travel information and paying the $6 fee for the I-94 application online at https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/ up to seven days prior to entry.
Monitor border wait times: Download the Border Wait Time app or use the border crossings wait times website to plan your trip across the border. Know which ports of entry have heavier traffic and possibly use an alternate route. Information is updated hourly and is useful in planning trips and identifying periods of light use/short waits. The official Border Wait Time app can be downloaded from the Apple App Store and Google Play.
Familiarize yourself with biometric entry and exit: CBP is testing biometric exit at 15 major airports across the United States. The facial recognition verification process takes less than 2 seconds, with a 99 percent matching rate. CBP has also implemented facial comparison technology for arrival processing at 15 air and two land ports of entry. The new simplified arrival process enables increased security, faster throughput, and better efficiency.
CBP uses airline manifest data to retrieve existing traveler photographs from government databases, including passports and visas, to build a photo gallery of travelers who are expected to arrive and depart the United States. CBP then compares the “live” photographs of travelers taken with those that are already on file in DHS holdings. No new data is required. U.S. Citizens who request not to participate in this biometric collection may notify a CBP Officer or an airline or airport representative in order to seek an alternative means of verifying their identity and documents. CBP has been testing facial recognition technology to satisfy its biometric exit Congressional mandate.
Obtain a radio frequency identification (RFID)-enabled travel document to use a Ready Lane at some land ports of entry: At some ports of entry, processing in Ready Lanes is 20 percent faster than normal lanes and provide a time savings of up to 20 seconds per vehicle. To use Ready Lanes, adult travelers (over 16 years of age) are required to have high-tech RFID enabled cards. These include RFID-enabled U.S. Passport cards, Legal Permanent Resident cards, B1/B2 border crossing cards, Trusted Traveler Cards (Global Entry, NEXUS, SENTRI, and FAST) and Enhanced Driver’s Licenses.
Declare gifts: Gift you bring back for your personal use must be declared, but you may include them in your personal exemption. This includes gifts people gave you while you were out of the country and gifts you have brought back for others.
Prohibited vs. Restricted: Know the difference between prohibited merchandise (which is forbidden by law to enter the United States) and restricted merchandise (items needing special permit to be allowed into the United States). For more information, visit the Restricted/Prohibited section of the CBP website.
Traveling with medication: Travelers must declare all medicine and similar products when entering the United States. Prescription medications should be in their original containers with the doctor's prescription printed on the container. It is advised that you travel with no more than personal use quantities, a rule of thumb is no more than a 90 day supply. If your medications or devices are not in their original containers, you must have a copy of your prescription with you or a letter from your doctor. A valid prescription or doctor’s note is required on all medication entering the U.S.
Traveling with pets: Cats and dogs must be free of disease and illness when entering the United States. In addition, dog owners must be able to show proof of rabies vaccination. If crossing with a puppy, certain paperwork will need to be completed at the border for the “new addition to the family.” All pets are subject to health, quarantine, agriculture, or wildlife requirements and prohibitions. The regulations about bringing a pet into the United States are the same whether you drive over the U.S. border with your pet in your car, fly, or travel by other means. Pets taken out of the United States and returned are subject to the same requirements as those entering for the first time. For more information about traveling with your pet to a foreign country or bringing your pet into the U.S., visit APHIS’s pet travel website.
Report Traveling with $10,000 or more: There is no limit to how much currency you may take in or out of the United States; however, U.S. federal law requires you to report your total currency of $10,000 or more. Currency includes all forms of monetary instruments. Travelers who fail to truthfully report all of their currency risk their currency being seized, and may face criminal charges.
For citizens of Visa Waiver Program (VWP) countries, an approved Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) is required before boarding an aircraft. CBP encourages VWP travelers to apply for an ESTA as soon as they begin preparing their travel plans to the United States and no later than 72 hours in advance of their departure to the United States. For those traveling by air or sea on a visa, CBP has automated the Form I-94 removing the need for travelers to fill out a paper copy. Travelers will still be able to obtain their I-94 number and/or a copy of their I-94 online.
For your next trip, consider joining the ranks of a Trusted Traveler. Trusted Traveler members enrolled in Global Entry, NEXUS or SENTRI continue to enjoy the most expedited CBP processing experience. Trusted Traveler members retain their membership for five years.
CBP’s mission is to facilitate travel while maintaining the highest standards of security for those who live here and for those who come to visit. On a typical day last year, CBP officers processed more than 1 million travelers arriving airports, seaports or border crossings. During the holiday season, travelers should expect heavy traffic. Planning ahead and adopting these travel tips can save time and lead to a less stressful trip.