What to expect at customs


May 18th, 2015, 07:14 PM
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What to expect at customs

I'm taking my first international flight this year, U.S. to Brazil. Do all international flights go through customs?

What can I expect there? Is it similar to security on domestic flights?

SeekerOfTheWay is offline  
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May 19th, 2015, 01:21 AM
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First, you must get a Brazilian Visa.This is a costly and cumbersome process, and you should start it early. The visa is good for several years, and there is no advantage to waiting to start the application.

You may expect some time in processing at immigration, but it is not likely that will take more than 30 minutes. There is essentially no delay with customs, but be careful that you are not attempting to bring any food across the border.

Getting off the plane and into the arrivals hall will be far easier than getting onto the plane.
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May 19th, 2015, 04:27 AM
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When you cross an international border you are subject to both immigration and customs regulations. Immigration refers to the movement of people, customs to the movement of goods. Generally these two functions are performed simultaneously, and involve mostly standing in lines to have documents inspected and your passport stamped. You might be asked a couple of questions: purpose of your visit, how long you will be in the country, etc.

You will probably be given a form to fill out on the plane, stating what you are bringing into the country. Be truthful. I don't know anything about Brazil customs specifically, but border officials in general take a dim view of anyone trying to sneak banned or regulated products into the country. The worst that is likely to happen to a casual traveller is a reprimand and confiscation of your goods, but there is a small chance you will be subject to a luggage search and further scrutiny.

Play by the rules and there should be nothing to worry about. Years from now when are a seasoned traveller you will have that stamp in your passport to remind you of the excitement and nervousness of your first international journey.
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May 19th, 2015, 07:16 AM
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As the others said, you'll go through both Immigration & Customs whenever you enter a different country. While the actual "experience" can vary from country to country it will be similar.

When you deplane simply follow the overhead signs to Immigration Control - if you are unsure just follow your fellow passengers and you'll be just fine.

When you get to the Immigration checkpoint you'll be directed to the "Visitors" line. Present your passport and visa (if required) to the official. The officer may or may not ask you questions. How long it takes to clear Immigration depends on the number of people who are ahead of you in the line but if your travel documents are in order it will take only a couple of minutes for the Immigration official to stamp your passport and send you on your way.

From there you'll proceed to the baggage claim area to pick-up any checked luggage you may have. You'll then proceed to the Customs check point. Usually this entails being asked if you have anything to declare and/or if you packed the bags yourself. Answer the questions truthfully and you'll be fine.

Sometimes people are randomly selected for a more detailed check or screening of their luggage. If this happens your bags could be x-rayed or you could be asked to open each bag for inspection. As long as you are not carrying any contraband you'll be just fine.

FYI - you'll go through a similar process when you return to the US.

I'm not sure about Brazil but many countries have you pass through "Passport Control" when you leave that country. It's simple process that you do just prior to going through the Security Checkpoint at the airport.
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May 19th, 2015, 10:12 AM
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Thank you all so much for the detailed replies! They are really helpful so I can be a little prepared.

As far as the VISA, A Briggs got my package today and it's processing. My trip is in December.

If I'm asked, "do you have anything to declare" what does that mean exactly? What would I need to declare? I'm only going to have one carry on bag, and I'm going to a yoga retreat.

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May 19th, 2015, 10:25 AM
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Ok, so lets say you go shopping in Brazil. You are allowed to bring back $800 worth of goods into the US. Let's say you spend $900, you need to declare the difference.
If you're bringing back more alcohol/cigs/etc over the limits- you need to declare.
You will get a blue form on your flight home that will tell you what the limits are. I haven't been to Brazil, so I can't elaborate on what you'd need to declare entering.
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May 19th, 2015, 11:25 AM
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Those $ limits ($800 back into the US) are duty (import tax) free limits, not a limit on what is allowed.

You can import whatever $ value of items your heart desires, but you must declare and may be required to pay duty on anything over the $800. Duty rates are in the 2-3% range, so if you brought back $1800 worth of goods you would owe $20 or $30 (2-3% of $1000). Above $1800 duties are listed in detailed tables (http://www.usitc.gov/tata/hts/bychapter/index.htm) (more than you wanted to know).

Personal items you bring with you round trip do not count as imports. - you do not need to declare that Jade yoga mat.
J62 is offline  
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May 19th, 2015, 11:39 AM
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People get customs & immigrations confused sometimes. Yes you do it anytime you are entering a new country. It's not really like domestic security (TSA check).

Think of "customs" as your possessions, and "immigrations" as your person, being about yourself.
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May 19th, 2015, 12:36 PM
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Regulations vary from country to country, but generally speaking the form you are given on the plane will give you an indication of what must be declared.

These items generally fall into one of several categories:

-- Cash over a certain amount (often $10,000). While not illegal to bring this amount into the country, you need to be able to demonstrate it was obtained through legitimate means. This is to prevent money laundering.

--fresh fruit, vegetables, plant materials, seeds, meat, animal parts. Many items will be restricted to prevent transmission of plant or animal borne pests that could infect local crops or livestock. There are sometimes restrictions on moving these items from one part of a country to another also.

--items on which high duties could apply if over the allowed limit: tobacco and alcohol for example

--firearms, dangerous goods, illicit drugs. Worth noting these days that even if you have a license to use marijuana for medical purposes where you live you can not take it across a border into another jurisdiction.
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May 19th, 2015, 12:59 PM
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Op wrote: If I'm asked, "do you have anything to declare" what does that mean exactly? What would I need to declare?

While it varies from country to country you generally have to declare any item you purchased in your home country or a different country that you acquired on the trip before entering the new country AND that you will be leaving in the country you are visiting. For example: If you purchased an iPad to give to someone in the country you are visiting, you have to declare that item and, if necessary, pay the import duty on that item. (On the other had, if you bring your own iPad with you and plan to take it back to the US you DO NOT have to declare it.)

You also have to declare any prohibited items or items that have an import limitation that you are carrying in your luggage. Usually these include fresh fruits & vegetables, firearms, drugs (for which you don't have a prescription), livestock, cigarettes, wines, liquors and similar items. You'll usually find a list of these types of items on the Customs Declaration Form you'll either be given when you check in for your flight, before you land or as you enter the Customs Hall (again procedures vary slightly from country to country). You'll also see plenty of signs as you enter the Customs Hall listing "prohibited items".

When in doubt better to let the Customs officer know what you have in your bag rather than say you have "nothing to declare".

No for some practical advice - If you are just bringing a carry-on bag with just your clothes, personal toiletries, your yoga mat and other personal items you won't have anything to declare.
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May 19th, 2015, 03:21 PM
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Great information, thanks to all!
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