WASHINGTON— Pack the sunscreen and camera, the summer travel season is upon us. U.S. Customs and Border Protection is encouraging travelers this summer to be a “ReadyTraveler” by educating themselves on the rules and regulations relating to international travel.
“CBP continues to make great strides to create a seamless, secure and passenger-friendly arrivals experience,” said Commissioner R. Gil Kerlikowske. “Programs such as Global Entry, NEXUS, SENTRI and the Automated Passport Control kiosks help expedite the arrivals process, but travelers can make their own experience better by being a ‘ReadyTraveler’ and being aware of the requirements when entering the United States.”
CBP is undergoing modernization efforts to streamline the traveler’s inspection process, increase officer efficiency and reduce operating costs in order to provide better services for all travelers entering the United States. More than two million travelers are now enrolled in CBP’s trusted traveler programs such as Global Entry, NEXUS and SENTRI and last year CBP launched the Automated Passport Control program, self-service kiosks that allow U.S. citizens and certain visitors to submit their customs declaration electronically. The I-94 was also automated last year eliminating another paper international travelers have to complete. These programs allow CBP officers to process travelers safely and efficiently while enhancing security.
Travelers can take additional steps to smooth their arrivals process by familiarizing themselves with U.S. rules and regulation before departing to avoid potential penalties and fines. And don’t forget to review the travel checklist to ensure you are a “ReadyTraveler” this summer.
Travel Requirements for U.S. Citizens
Individuals traveling abroad must have approved travel documents when returning home. The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) 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 (NEXUS, SENTRI, Global Entry or FAST/EXPRES), permanent resident card or an enhanced driver’s license that denotes both identity and citizenship when entering the U.S. by land or sea. U.S. and Canadian citizens under age 16 may present a birth certificate or alternative proof of citizenship when entering by land or sea. All travelers must have a passport for international air travel.
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.
- 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 www.travel.state.gov for country-specific information.
- For citizens of Visa Waiver Program countries, make sure you have an approved Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) before boarding. 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 at www.cbp.gov/i94.
- Have a completed Customs Declaration form (6059b) upon reaching CBP processing or use the Automated Passport Control kiosks at participating airports. Declare everything you are bringing from abroad, even if you bought it in a duty-free shop. Know that things bought abroad for personal use or as gifts may be eligible for duty exemptions. If you are bringing them back for resale, they are not.
- 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.). For more information, please visit the Restricted/Prohibited section of the CBP website.
- Do not attempt to bring fruits, meats, dairy/poultry products and/or firewood into the United States without first checking whether they are permitted. For more information, please visit the Bringing Agricultural Products Into the United States section of the CBP website.
- Understand that CBP officers can inspect you and your personal belongings without a warrant. This may include your luggage, vehicle, and personal searches and is meant to enforce our laws as well as protect legitimate travelers.
- Monitor border wait times for various ports of entry. Travelers are encouraged to plan their trips during periods of lighter traffic or to use an alternate, less heavily traveled port of entry. For more information, travelers can find up-to-date wait time information on the CBP website.
- If you are a frequent international traveler and haven’t already become a member of a trusted traveler program, sign up now. For more information, please visit the Trusted Traveler section of the CBP website.
- Familiarize yourself with the “Know Before You Go” brochure or section of www.CBP.gov.