CBP prepared for busy summer travel, offers tips

As the busiest three months of international travel approach, U.S. Customs and Border Protection encourages travelers to “Know Before You Go” when traveling to the United States or returning home this summer.

CBP officers at Houston’s international airports and at the Galveston cruise terminals are prepared for the heavy traffic that typically accompanies summer. Last summer, CBP processed more than 108.3 million international travelers at U.S. ports of entry.

“The United States has been and continues to be a welcoming country and CBP remains committed to facilitating lawful travel to the United States,” said Acting Commissioner Kevin McAleenan. “In the spirit of this commitment, CBP has deployed innovative programs and technology including Trusted Traveler Programs, Automated Passport Control kiosks and Mobile Passport Control to make the arrival process as efficient and as quick as possible while maintaining our dual mission of border security and travel facilitation.”

“If your summer travel is quickly approaching and you haven’t become a Trusted Traveler, the next most expedient program is Mobile Passport Control, which is a CBP-approved application you download to your mobile device,” said CBP Port Director Charles G. Perez. “Mobile Passport Control allows a single household to submit one transaction which can contain up to twelve profiles. In Houston, CBP has a dedicated MPC line at both international airports, allowing CBP officers to process travelers who have submitted their transaction ahead of their arrival to the airport.”

MPC users are able to submit their information as soon as they arrive, once they receive their receipt, they can head to the dedicated MPC line. While MPC users are not afforded front of the line privileges that accompany Trusted Traveler status, many travelers are finding that the MPC lines are moving quickly.

Regardless of which program travelers use, CBP encourages all summer travelers to plan ahead to ensure a smooth and efficient processing experience. The following tips may be useful.

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 49 airports worldwide. Mobile Passport is now at 23 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 foods: Many agriculture products can bring damaging pests and diseases into the country. CBP has answers for questions about what food is allowed or not allowed in to the U.S. and remember don't pack a pest!

Apply and pay for an I-94 online: Speed up your entry into a land border port of entry into the U.S. by providing your biographic and travel information and paying the $6 fee for the I-94 application online up to seven days prior to entry. 01172017 TFO NOG undeclared currency1.jpg

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.

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: Gifts 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 prescription 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 countries, an approved Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) is required before boarding an aircraft. 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 in the United States 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 summer season, travelers should expect heavy traffic. Planning ahead and adopting these travel tips can save time and lead to a less stressful trip.

 

Images

A U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer processes an arriving traveler at George Bush Intercontinental Airport.

Travelers must report all currency they are carrying or risk its seizure.

CBP recommends declaring all foods to avoid civil penalties.