Frequently Asked Questions relating to customs and travel to the U.S.
Narcotics and dangerous drugs are prohibited entry. There are severe civil and/or criminal penalties if imported. Concerta and Ritalin are approved medicines. Declare all medications to Customs when entering the United States.
Not all medicines are approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or allowed into the United States.
More information, including a list of approved medicines, can be found in the FDA Orange Book.
A traveler requiring prescribed medicines (e.g. cough medicine, diuretics, heart drugs, tranquilizers, sleeping pills, antidepressants, stimulants, diabetes medication etc.) should:
- Have all drugs, medicines, and similar products properly identified
- Carry only such quantity as would normally be used by an individual having the health problem requiring the drugs or medicines in your possession.
- Have either a current prescription or written statement in English from your personal physician that the medicine is being used under a doctor’s direction and that it is necessary for your physical well-being while traveling. The doctor’s note should state the name and the exact quantity of the medicine you are bringing into the U.S.
- Carry all medication in your hand luggage (including needles for diabetics) also in case of loss of luggage.
It is recommended to ask for a medical passport from your pharmacy/physician.
Medication can be sent by post if the prescription or doctor’s letter is included. A notation should be placed on the outside of the parcel stating, for example, “DOCTOR’S LETTER ATTACHED.”
2. What is the I-94? How can I get my admission record from the CBP? What i still have it in my passport?
Before the VWP and the ESTA were active there was a paper form, the I-94/I-94W, you had to fill out at the airport. This form is still being used for LAND crossings into the U.S. Sometimes you need to retrieve your travel record, for example, to proof your legal visitor status. This is now possible online with the Customs and Border Protection.
to apply for or retrieve their I-94 admission number/record (which is proof of legal visitor status) as well as retrieve a limited travel history of their U.S. arrivals and departures.
If you forgot to turn in my I-94 when I left the U.S., what should you do?
see the CBP website
3. Child traveling with one parent or someone who is not a parent or legal guardian or a group
If a child (under the age of 18) is traveling with only one parent or someone who is not a parent or legal guardian, what paperwork should the adult have to indicate permission or legal authority to have that child in their care?
U.S. Citizens, please be aware that the Dutch authorities at Schiphol airport give extra scrutiny to parents traveling alone with minor children in order to prevent international child abduction. If a parent or other relative is traveling alone with a child, the best way to smooth the journey is to fill out and bring to the airport the “consent for traveling with minor abroad” form. Travelers should also bring a copy of the authorizing adults’ passport or identity card. The Dutch government says that the form is not compulsory, but they note it will speed your passage through border controls and avoid unnecessary delays and possibly missed flights.
More information can be found at “kinderontvoering.org“. The English version can be found by clicking on the Union Jack flag in the upper right corner of the page.
4. Food and Agricultural Products
Declare all agricultural products when entering the U.S.
Food Products which can be taken into the U.S.:
- Stroopwafels and other kinds of baked goods, such as breads, cookies, cakes and bakery items
- Hagelslag (chocolate sprinkles)
- Drop (liquorice)
- Pindakaas (Dutch peanut butter)
- Cheese (only vacuum packed and pasteurized, no cheeses made of raw milk). Most Dutch cheeses like Gouda, Edam and Leerdam are allowed.
- Powdered baby formula
- Gluten-free food
- Sweets and chocolate
Food Products which cannot be taken into the U.S.:
- Meat and meat products (also products containing meat, such as soups)
- Fresh fruits or vegetables
- Sweets filled with alcohol
Nonresidents who are at least 21 years old may bring in, free of duty and internal revenue tax, up to one liter of alcoholic beverage – beer, jenever, Beerenburg, kruidenlikeur, advocaat, wine, liquor – for personal use. Quantities above the one-liter limitation are subject to duty and internal revenue tax.
In addition to U.S. federal laws, the traveler must also meet state alcoholic beverage laws which may be more restrictive. If the state in which you arrive permits less liquor than you have legally brought into the United States, that State’s laws apply to your importation of alcoholic beverages.
The shipment of alcoholic beverages by mail is prohibited by United States postal laws.
You are permitted to bring 100 cigars or 200 cigarettes (one carton) into the U.S. duty free. Cuban cigars are prohibited.
Bringing bulbs to the U.S.? Look for an official white sticker on the package that says:
- “To the Plant Protection Service of the United States and Canada”
- The botanical name
- The date of issuance of the sticker
If the sticker is not there, the bulbs will be seized. Call Port Operations, Riverdale, Maryland at 001-301-734-8295, for more information.
Always check with your airline before departure.
Cats must be free of evidence of disease communicable to man when examined at the port of entry. If the animal is not in apparent good health, further examination by a licensed veterinarian may be required at the owner’s expense.
Dogs must be free of evidence of diseases communicable to man and must be vaccinated against rabies at least 30 days prior to arrival. (This requirement does not apply to puppies less than three months of age; puppies up to three months must be confined at the owner’s expense, then immunized and confined for an additional 30 days.)
A valid rabies vaccination certificate must accompany the animal. This certificate should identify the animal, the dates of vaccination and expiration, and bear the signature of a licensed veterinarian. If no expiration date is specified, the certificate is acceptable if the date of vaccination is no more than 12 months prior to arrival in the United States. At the same time, pick up a “gezondheidsverklaring (health certificate)” from your veterinarian.
U.S. Customs has published a useful website called “Bringing an Animal into the United States”. Different rules may apply to Hawaii and Guam.
Further information on importing pets can be found at:
6. My child got his/her own passport a couple of years ago, when he/she was a baby. Now he/she looks completely different. Do we need to apply for a new passport even though it is still valid?
Dutch (and also American) passports are valid for five years and do not become invalid just because the passport holder grows older. So, no, a new passport is not required.
There is no limit on the total amount of monetary instruments (U.S. or foreign coin, travelers check, money orders and securities etc.), that may be brought into or taken out of the United States.
However, if you transport or cause to be transported (including by mail or other means), more than $10,000 in monetary instruments on any occasion into or out of the United States, or if you receive more than that amount, please ask the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol officer for the Currency Reporting Form (FinCen 105). The penalties for non-compliance can be severe.you must file
8. Travelers with disabilities and medical conditions
9. Ashes of Deceased People
You can legally transport ashes of a deceased person into the U.S., if you meet the following conditions:
- The ashes should be transported in a non-metallic urn
- One should bring an International Death Certificate
- One should bring an International Cremation Certificate
- The ashes should be carried with your hand luggage
The urn can be subject to inspection, and it is recommended to come early to the airport.
Suitcases should be transported unlocked. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) opens suitcases at random. Possible costs of breaking open the suitcases are for the owner. Suitcases with approved locks may be locked. TSA travel tips, including lock tips, see the TSA website
Schiphol Airport has a special website regarding luggage & hand-luggage.
11. Fireams and Ammunition
It is prohibited for nonimmigrant aliens to import firearms and ammunition.
However, if your travel to the U.S. is primarily for the purpose of hunting or lawful sporting activities, your firearms and ammunition may be brought into the United States, provided you take the firearms and any remaining unfired ammunition out of the United States when you depart.
For complete information and to obtain the necessary permits to import firearms, contact the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, Department of the Treasury, Firearms and Explosives Import Branch.
12. Tax Return: can I get a refund of the tax paid on merchandise and services purchased in the United States?
13. What is the duty-free allowance for sending gifts?
Gifts Sent By Mail
Persons in the U.S. may receive, free of duty, a gift mailed from a foreign country if the shipment does not exceed $100 based upon its retail value, You may send as many gifts as you wish, but the U.S. addressee will be required to pay duty if the gift parcels received in one day total more than $100. Gifts that exceed these amounts will be subject to customs duty based on the entire value. There is no $100 deduction.
Packages should be marked with the following clearly written on the outside wrapping:
- “Unsolicited Gift”
- The name of the donor
- Nature of the gift
- Fair retail value
- Alcoholic beverages, cigars, cigarettes, and perfumes containing alcohol may not be included within this gift privilege.
Gifts intended for more than one person may be consolidated in the same package provided they are individually wrapped and labeled with the name of the recipient.
Be sure that the outer wrapping of the package is marked:
- “Unsolicited Gift”
- “Consolidated Gift”
- The name of the donor
- Nature of the gift
- Its fair retail value
- Names of the recipients listed and the value of each gift
This will facilitate Customs clearance of your package.
14. Motor Vehicles
You may temporarily import an automobile, trailer, airplane, motorcycle, boat, or similar vehicle for the transportation of yourself, your family, and your guests.
Motor vehicles and motor vehicles equipment for personal use may be imported for a period of one year or less. The vehicle must be imported in connection with your arrival and be owned by you or on order prior to your departure.
A vehicle not complying with all applicable Federal laws (Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of Transportation (DOT)) cannot be sold in the United States.
Further information can be found on the website of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection: https://www.cbp.gov/trade/basic-import-export/importing-car
15. Prohibited Items
Some items, which are permitted in the Netherlands, are not allowed in the U.S. and will be confiscated by Customs. Such items include ivory ornaments, sealskin and certain other coats, certain exotic animals, tortoiseshell and feathers. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection has a list of Prohibited and Restricted Items on their website.
16. What can I do if I feel I have been unfairly or incorrectly delayed at U.S. ports of entry, denied boarding or identified for additional screening for U.S. bound flights?
The Department of Homeland Security Traveler Redress Inquiry Program (DHS TRIP) is a single point of contact for individuals who have inquiries or seek resolution regarding difficulties they experienced during their travel screening at transportation hubs—like airports and train stations—or crossing U.S. borders. Read more information on: https://www.dhs.gov/dhs-trip