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What Are the Rules About Customs and Immigration?

  • avatar
    Jonathan Chum

If you are planning on flying in the near future, you may have gotten an alert as you were purchasing your ticket. This may indicate that you have to go through customs and immigration before you are allowed to fly or enter another country. If that is the case, you need to know about the rules and regulations surrounding customs and immigration. We have flown all over the world, including internationally. This is the most common situation where you are going to encounter customs. We are going to cover:

  • What is meant by customs and immigration, and why this is something you may have to go through
  • What you can and cannot bring through customs and immigration
  • Ways you may be able to expedite this process

We understand that it can be intimidating to go through Customs and Border Patrol the first time. Hopefully, we can use our experience to make this process easier for you.

What Is Customs and Immigration?

One of the top priorities of every country is the security of its borders. Today, most people cross international borders by flying. If you are going to cross international borders on an airplane, you need to get ready for the customs and immigration process. First, you will not be able to get through customs in any country without a passport. A passport is issued to you by your country of citizenship. A passport essentially gives you permission to leave the country. If you are going to another country, there is also a chance you need to be given overt permission by that country to enter. This could include a visa. Because the United States generally has positive relationships with just about every country, you typically will not need to apply for a visa. If you are wondering if you need a travel visa to enter a country, you should visit the US Customs website.

When you go through the customs and immigration process, the agent is going to ask you for your passport first. Then, they are going to ask you several questions about what you are bringing into the country and why you are visiting. Simply state that you are there for vacation, business, or whatever reason why you might be going to that country. Then, do not answer questions you are not asked. If they are asking you if you are bringing more than X number of dollars or a specific type of food or beverage, answer with a simple yes or no.

What is Prohibited When You Go Through Customs and Immigration?

There are very few items that are actually prohibited as you are entering the country. The customs office may ask you to declare if you are bringing certain items into the country; however, they are unlikely to take them from you. There are certain restrictions on the number of certain items you can bring with you. For example, a lot of countries limit the amount of cash you can bring into the country in an effort to reduce money laundering.

There are also a lot of restrictions regarding foods and beverages you can take with you. That is because a lot of these are common carriers of certain diseases that the country is looking to limit. Make sure you look at the list of prohibited food and beverages carefully if you are traveling to another country. You do not want to be caught with those items at customs. If you are bringing food or beverages, they are among the most common items people are asked to declare. Make sure you specify if you are bringing them into the country. As long as you are honest, the border agent will let you know if that is allowed or not.

Even though this should go without saying, the vast majority of countries are not going to allow you to bring weapons or drugs into the country. Furthermore, you are unlikely to even make it on the plane with these, as they are usually caught by security.

How Can You Make This Process Easier? 

It is not unusual to see a long line at the Customs and Border Patrol area. Countries are focused on keeping their own citizens happy. Therefore, they often expedite these lines at the Customs process, making international travelers wait. If you are looking for a way to expedite this process, try to avoid declaring any items. If you look at the list in advance, you should be able to limit the number of items you actually have to declare when you go through a country's border.

Furthermore, you may be interested in applying for a program called the Global Entry Program. This is a program that you have to pay for; however, if you answer the questions, apply, and are approved you may not have to speak to a border agent at all when you arrive at the airport. All you have to do is scan your passport, answer a few questions, and you should be given the receipt that allows you to skip the rest of the process. In some situations, this may not be worth it if there is no line. On the other hand, it is also not unusual to see lines that last more than an hour as you are trying to get through a country's border, which can be frustrating for travelers.

Get Ready for the Customs and Immigration Process

When you fly internationally, there are a lot of differences. In addition to being on a longer plane, you also have to have your passport with you and go through customs. Even though this can be an intimidating process, you can prepare for the process in advance by reading up on what to expect. Make sure you do not have any illegal or prohibited items in your bags. This can also make it easier for you to get through Customs and Border Patrol without having to deal with any additional headaches.