Planes, trains and automobiles… throw a cruise ship in there and that could be the summary of my last four years. After enough travel, I pretty much know what documents I need, when to present them, and what I can and can’t do during the immigration process.
One thing I didn’t know is that US Customs requests that you register any cameras, laptops or electronics before you leave. This way you have proof that you didn’t buy them overseas and are bringing them back into the country illegally.
I almost learned this lesson the hard way coming back into the US from Germany on my last trip. The customs agent asked for proof that I bought my video gear before I left and didn’t purchase it in Germany. I didn’t have proof, I bought my gear last summer and it didn’t even cross my mind that I had to do it. I offered to show him footage but he seemed that he enjoyed giving me a hard time more-so than he was worried about my items.
Here are five ways to show US Customs and Border Protection that what you have is in fact yours, and wasn’t purchased on your trip:
1. Register your electronics.
The easiest thing to do is register your gear with the US Customs and Patrol. You can see what the customs and border protection require here.
Personally, if it was only a couple hundred dollars and you weren’t carrying it in your case or around your neck, I wouldn’t worry about it – but that’s up to you.
2. Time-stamp feature.
Cameras these days have a time stamp feature; if you’re worried about being asked about it, turn the time-stamp feature on when taking photos. Consider leaving some time-stamped pre-trip photos on your camera.
3. Dated publication.
Before you leave, take a photo of a newspaper or a big newspaper headline that someone can’t forget.
Although it may be a pain, travel with a receipt of your electronic so if asked, you can pull it out and show the customs agent.
5. Photos of home.
Keep some photos of your house on your camera. This way, if it escalates to this level, you have something to show. I’m not saying this will get you out of it, but it can’t hurt. 99.9% of the time you will not be questioned about anything you bring, it’s that .1% that you have to worry about. This was my first time, in dozens of times dealing with customs, but it does happen. I am sure the agents look for certain traits and key countries of travel.
It probably didn’t help that I wrote that my method of transportation to North Carolina was Carnival Sunshine, when I should have wrote Luthansia airlines, considering there isn’t a cruise port anywhere near Charlotte, NC.
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