Customs Information

United States - All


  • All shipments are subject to examination at the discretion of Customs officials.
  • Do not indicate “packed by owner” (PBO) or miscellaneous descriptions on the detailed inventory.
  • For duty-free clearance, the household goods must have been used at least 1 year in the foreign household prior to shipment from the origin country.
  • It is important for agents in the origin country to make sure the ISF is timely filed prior to the sailing of the vessel from the last foreign port for all ocean shipments to avoid penalties.
  • Most household items used less than 1 year will require duty to be paid.  It is important for the importer to list those items in detail on the back side of the Customs Form 3299. The importer should list the item, quantity, what material it is made out of, the value paid for the items in US dollars and the country of origin of the items.
  • To import household effects (furniture, dishes, linens, libraries, artwork and similar household furnishings, etc.) for personal use, the items must have been available for personal use or used in a household where the shipper was a resident for 1 year and is not intended for another person or for sale.  The year of use does not need to be continuous not does it need to be the year immediately prior to the date of importation (Hawaii).
  • Only shipments of used household goods and personal effects may enter the U.S. under Informal Entry.
  • For shipments to Hawaii containing garden tools, outdoor furniture, playground equipment, motorcycles, scooters or any other items used outdoors, it is likely to be examined by U.S. Customs.  If Customs finds outdoor items to be dirty or contain insects or snails, they will notify the State of Hawaii Department of Agriculture. The State may require the entire shipment to be cleaned, fumigated or frozen to clean potential bacteria or kill any invasive species.  Shippers should be forewarned that they are responsible to pay for the expense of this process, it can be very costly and it may result in damage to household goods.  Informed decisions should be made regarding the import of items.
  • U.S. Customs may also order intensive exams on any shipments containing food products, medications or liquor.  The shipper is responsible to pay for the exams and any damage incurred during inspections by Customs officials.  To better understand the inspection process if your shipment is selected, please review the below link:


Following documents are required for import of household goods and personal effects into the United States:


Import of automobiles/motor vehicles are subject to import duties and taxes unless previously exported from the United States provided the customer can supply the export Ocean Bill of Lading and can prove that no modifications have been made to the vehicle since it was exported. Import is also subject to the following requirements and documents:

  • All automobiles imported must meet both the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for fuel-emission requirements and the Department of Transportation (DOT) requirements for the safety, bumper, and theft prevention standards. If the required conversions are not performed prior to shipping the customer is required to post a significant bond (approximately 50% of the value of the auto) in order to have the necessary conversions performed in the U.S.. Information on emission standards can be obtained from the EPA. Any costs for exam, testing, or modifications of auto are payable by the Customer.
  • Almost all cars, vans, sport utility vehicles and so on that are bought in foreign countries must be modified to meet American standards, except most late model vehicles from Canada. Passenger vehicles that are imported on the condition that they be modified must be exported or destroyed if they are not modified acceptably. Also under these circumstances, the vehicle could require a bond upon entry until the conditions for admission have been met. And even if the car does meet all federal standards, it might be subject to additional EPA requirements, depending on what countries it was driven in. You are strongly encouraged to contact EPA and DOT before importing a car. For information on importing vehicles, click HERE. Cars being brought into the United States temporarily, by nonresidents, (for less than one year) are exempt from these restrictions. It is illegal to bring a vehicle into the United States and sell it if it was not formally entered on a CBP Form 7501.
  • Customer must provide, EPA Form 3520-1, the purchase invoice, title, and a copy of Drivers License.
  • Customer must provide the Engine Family Name (EFN) information on all import shipments that include vehicles. The label is typically found under the hood of the vehicle or in the engine compartment, but could be on the inside of the driver’s side door frame.
  • Proof of conformity by either:
    • U.S. Title / Registration
    • Letter of Conformity from the manufacturer
    • Foreign military sales contract that indicates vehicle meets USA-EPA / DOT regulations
    • Exemption as a 25-model year old vehicle as proven by the title


  • There are strict controls and restrictions on the importation of animals, which is regulated by the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and U.S. Public Health Service. Import regulations for pets may include the following, depending on the country of origin:
  • Original Certificate of rabies vaccination showing proof that the vaccination was administered more than 30 days prior to the flight, but not more than 180 days
  • Health Certificate from a veterinarian must be issued within 15 to 10 days prior to animals departure
  • Dogs and cats are not normally quarantined, but birds require 30 days quarantine and an Import Permit
  • Cats are subject to inspection at ports of entry and may be denied entry into the United States if they have evidence of an infectious disease that can be transmitted to humans. If a cat appears to be ill, further examination by a licensed veterinarian at the owner's expense might be required at the port of entry.
  • All pet cats arriving in the state of Hawaii and the territory of Guam, even from the U.S. mainland, are subject to locally imposed quarantine requirements.


Documents Required:

  • Purchase Invoice
  • Detailed inventory

Specific Information:

  • U.S. Customs requires items to be at least 100 years old be classified as antiques.
  • A recently purchased antique should indicate the circa date on the invoice.
  • Antiques are duty free.
  • Carpets of Iranian origin that have been used in the foreign household for at least 1 year and being imported with the owner’s household goods and personal effects are generally approved for import.  It is recommended that if you have a large number of carpets or they
    are new that you do not ship as the USA currently has an embargo on Iranian origin goods, subject to change at any time.
  • Paintings of nominal value can be shipped with household goods shipments.
  • Artifacts of any type should not be shipped without first checking with the USA agent and the country of export, as different regulations may apply depending on the country of origin, type of artifact and circa date. Additionally, many countries are parties to CITES Treaties or Acts that don't allow the import or export of certain types of artifacts or require permits that must be issued prior to export.


It is possible for these goods to be duty free if they qualify as an inheritance as per the below.

You do not have to pay duty if the goods were available for your use in a household where you resided for a year prior to you moving to the United States. It does not have to be the year prior to the inheritance. For example, they were in your parents' house while you were growing up. They would be duty free under the provision for household and personal effects and may be entered with CBP Form 3299 - Declaration for Free Entry of Unaccompanied Articles.

If you inherited the goods from a friend or a relative and you never lived in the household along with the goods, they are not duty free and the correct form to use to clear them through CBP is CBP Form 7501. Since the goods are used, the duty required may be minimal.


  • Plants and seeds (an Import Permit and Plant and Plant Product Declaration Form are required)
  • Soil (an Import Permit is required)
  • Meats and meat byproducts (e.g., bouillon soups)
  • Medications
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Game and hunting trophies. Currently, 14 ports of entry are designed to handle game and trophies; other ports must get approval from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to clear your entry.
  • Gold coins, medals and bullion, formerly prohibited, may be brought into the United States. However, under regulations administered by the Office of Foreign Assets Control, such items originating in or brought from Cuba, Iran, Burma (Myanmar) and most of Sudan are prohibited entry. Copies of gold coins are prohibited if not properly marked by country of issuance.
  • Merchandise from embargoed countries (a license from the Office of Foreign Assets Control is required)
  • Certain animal species (contact the destination agent for information)
  • Textiles and clothing
  • Plants and seeds (an Import Permit and a PPQ Form 505 – Plant and Plant Product Declaration are required) (Hawaii)
  • Biologicals - You may need a U.S. Department of Agriculture permit and/or a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention permit to import biological specimens including bacterial cultures, culture medium, excretions, fungi, arthropods, mollusks, tissues of livestock, birds, plants, viruses, or vectors for research, biological or pharmaceutical use. Click HERE for Permit Requirements. 
  • Wood packing materials (materials from China must be fumigated, verified by documentation) (Hawaii)
  • Ceramic Tableware - Although ceramic tableware is not prohibited or restricted, you should know that such tableware made in foreign countries may contain dangerous levels of lead in the glaze, which can seep into foods and beverages. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends that if you buy ceramic tableware abroad - especially in Mexico, China, Hong Kong or India - you have it tested for lead release when you return, or use it for decorative purposes only.
  • Cultural Artifacts and Cultural Property - U.S. law may also restrict the importation of specific categories of art/artifacts/antiquities. For example, U.S. laws restrict the importation of:
    • Any pre-Columbian monumental and architectural sculpture and murals from Central and South American countries;
    • Native American artifacts from Canada; Mayan pre-Columbian archaeological objects from Guatemala; pre-Columbian archaeological objects from El Salvador and Peru; archaeological objects like terracotta statues from Mali; Colonial period objects such as paintings and ritual objects from Peru;
    • Byzantine period ritual and ecclesiastic objects such as icons from Cyprus; and
    • Khmer stone archeological sculpture from Cambodia.
    • Importation of items such as those listed above is permitted only when an export permit issued by the country of origin where such items were first found accompanies them. Purveyors of such items have been known to offer phony export certificates.


    • The importation of alcohol is governed by both Federal and state laws. In general the Federal Government allows a reasonable amount of alcohol to be imported in a household goods shipment. If Customs feels the amount is excessive they will require the importer to hire a licensed alcohol importer to file a commercial entry.
    • Domestic importers should comply with the residence state laws which vary from state to state. Some states allow no alcohol imports while others require the importer to obtain a permit and pay a fee and still others allow a reasonable amount. Each state has regulations and must be consulted before making a shipment.
    • A detailed inventory must be made at the time of packing in order for food and drug filings to be performed and proper duties and taxes to be paid on the shipment.
    • For imports into Hawaii as part of the household goods shipment, the shipper is required to apply for a Liquor Permit with the City and County of Honolulu Liquor Commission on Oahu.  The importer must appear in person to apply for the permit and provide the permit for the liquor to clear U.S. Customs.
    • A Permit C – Household Goods Permit form is required for the import of alcohol (Hawaii).

Food Items

    • The importation of food items is strongly discouraged.
    • Food products also require a detailed inventory for food and drug filings and duty payment.
    • A Food Questionnaire form must be completed if importing food items (Hawaii).

Fish / Wildlife

    • Ivory items, skins, feathers and shells are regulated by Fish and Wildlife.
    • Many of these items require special CITES Permits or may be prohibited from being imported.
    • It is critical for the origin agent to consult with the U.S. agent to determine if an item requires a permit or can be legally imported. The permits cannot be issued once the shipment has left the origin country.
    • The destination agent will need to know the common, scientific names and country of origin to determine if a permit is required.


    • Guns (ammunition should not be shipped as it is a hazardous good) previously owned and shipped from the U.S. can normally be imported if military, government personnel can establish to the satisfaction of Customs that the items were sent from the U.S..
    • The best method is for the owner to register the weapons with Customs prior to export from the U.S. If the importer does not have a registration then a copy of sales receipts, the export OBL, inventory and a Declaration will sometimes satisfy Customs.
    • Weapons purchased overseas are normally required to be imported using a Federal Firearms permit holder but some exceptions do apply to allow non-resident individuals to apply for a permit directly with Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF).
    • The ATF Permit filing should be applied for at least 6 weeks in advance of the arrival of the shipment. The application requires that the Customs broker who will handle the entry be named on the ATF application, so it is important that the application is filed properly
      from the start to avoid delays on arrival.
    • The importer should consult with the U.S. agent when considering shipping any weapons and provide all the facts regarding how and where the weapons were acquired. It should be noted that not all types of weapons can be imported


  • Tuna
  • Drug paraphernalia
  • Haitian animal hide drums
  • Dog and Cat Fur
  • Cuban cigars
  • Blank tapes and CDs from Iran
  • Absinthe - the term "absinthe" cannot be the brand name; the term "absinthe" cannot stand alone on the label; and the artwork and/or graphics cannot project images of hallucinogenic, psychotropic or mind-altering effects. Absinthe imported in violation of these regulations is subject to seizure.
  • Counterfeit items or items inappropriately using a federally registered trademark
  • Products made from dog and cat fur
  • Flavored cigarettes, including cloves
  • Generally, you may not bring in any merchandise from Cuba, Iran, Burma (Myanmar) or most of Sudan. The Office of Foreign Assets Control of the U.S. Department of Treasury enforces economic sanctions against these countries
  • Palm Oil and Palm Oil products from Malaysia 
  • Any goods, wares, articles, and merchandise mined, produced, or manufactured wholly or in part in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) of the People’s Republic of China, or produced by certain entities.