Customs offers tips for safe travel to U.S. Caribbean
This upcoming Memorial Day weekend kick starts the summer travel season and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection is offering guidelines on international arrivals at any port of entry, particularly those arriving from destinations into Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
At the ports of entry, CBP Officers inspect passengers for compliance with U.S. immigration, customs and agriculture regulations. The more international travelers know about what to expect, the easier and quicker the process becomes, the agency said in a release Wednesday.
In preparation for the summer travel season, CBP’s San Juan Field Office issued an advisory to improve visitors experience when entering United States via the territories in the Caribbean.
“Programs such as Global Entry, expedite the arrivals process, but travelers can make their own experience better by being ready and aware of the requirements when entering the United States,” said Vernon Foret, acting director of Field Operations for Puerto Rico and USVI.
Tourists, U.S. citizens and legal residents can take additional steps to smooth their arrivals process by familiarizing themselves with U.S. rules and regulations before departing to avoid potential penalties and fines upon their return, the agency noted.
Upon arrival to a U.S. port of entry, travelers must declare the following:
- Items purchased and are carrying upon return to the United States.
- Items bought in duty-free shops, on the ship, or on the plane.
- Repairs or alterations to any items taken abroad and then brought back, even if the repairs/alterations were performed free of charge.
- Items brought home for someone else.
- Items intend for sale or use in a business, including business merchandise that was taken out of the United States on the trip.
Individual U.S. citizens traveling abroad must have approved travel documents when returning home, namely a valid passport, U.S. Military ID with official orders, Merchant Mariner’s Document for USC’s on official maritime business, or Permanent Resident card for international air travel.
The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative requires U.S. and Canadian citizens, age 16 and older to present a valid, acceptable travel document, such as a passport, a U.S. passport card, a trusted traveler card, permanent resident card or an enhanced driver’s license that denotes both identity and citizenship when entering the U.S. by land or sea.
Meanwhile, U.S. citizens who board a cruise ship at a U.S. port within the Western Hemisphere and return to a U.S. port on the same ship may present a government issued photo ID, along with proof of citizenship (birth certificate, Consular report of Birth Abroad or Certificate of Naturalization.)
U.S. and Canadian citizens under 16 may present a birth certificate or alternative proof of citizenship when entering by land or sea, the agency stated.
Travel requirements for visitors to the U.S.
All nationals or citizens of Visa Waiver Program (VWP) countries are required to have an approved Electronic System for Travel Authorization, or ESTA, prior to boarding a carrier to travel by air or sea to the U.S. under the VWP.
ESTA applications may be submitted at any time prior to travel, and once approved, generally will be valid for up to two years or until the applicant’s passport expires, whichever comes first.
Authorizations will be valid for multiple entries into the United States. CBP recommends ESTA applications be submitted as soon as an applicant begins making travel plans.
Travelers should consider the following checklist:
- Have all the required travel documents for the country you are visiting, as well as identification for re-entry to the United States. Passports are required for air travel. Visit travel.state.gov for country-specific information.
- 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.
- Know the difference between prohibited merchandise (which is forbidden by law to enter the U.S.) and restricted merchandise — items needing special permit to be allowed into the U.S.
- Understand that CBP officers can inspect you and your personal belongings without a warrant. This may include luggage, vehicle, and personal searches and is meant to enforce U.S. laws as well as protect legitimate travelers.
- A traveler may bring into or take out of the country, including by mail, as much money as they wish. However, if it is more than $10,000, they will need to report it to CBP.