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CBP Expands Filing of Joint Customs Declarations

U.S. Customs and Border Protection broadened the definition of “members of a family residing in one household” to include long-term same-sex couples and other domestic relationships.

The final rule (CBP Dec. 13-19) published in the Federal Register on Dec. 18, 2013 and became effective Jan. 17, 2014, 30 days after publication. The final rule allows more returning U.S. citizens, residents and international visitors to file a joint customs declaration for items acquired abroad. The regulation change creates less paperwork for people who are traveling together as a family and streamlines passenger processing, thereby increasing efficiency for CBP, airline personnel and the traveling public.

CBP expects this process streamlining to save money in personnel time while maintaining the highest standards of security.

Domestic Relationship Definition

“Domestic relationship” would be defined to include:

  • Foster children, stepchildren, half-siblings, legal wards, other dependents, and individuals with an in loco parentis or guardianship relationship.
  • Two adults who are in a committed relationship including, but not limited to, long-term companions and couples in civil unions or domestic partnerships where the partners are financially interdependent, and are not married to, or a partner of, anyone else.

“Domestic relationship” does not extend to roommates or other cohabitants not otherwise meeting the above definition.

“Members of a family residing in one household” will continue to encompass relationships of blood, adoption and marriage.

What This Change Will Mean to Travelers

U.S. Citizens and Residents

  • Under the new definition of domestic relationship, one combined family declaration can be presented to the CBP officer upon arrival. 
  • For returning U.S. residents to be considered members of a family and group their exemption from customs duty and internal revenue tax, individuals must have lived together in one household at their last permanent residence and intend to live together in one household after their arrival in the U.S.
  • As with any joint declaration, verbal or written, the person making and/or signing the declaration will be held accountable for its validity.
  • If family members are U.S. residents, regulations allow them to combine the applicable personal duty exemption per each individual family member. For example, a family of five (5) members returning directly from Paris, France would be entitled to a combined personal duty exemption of $4,000 ($800 x 5 individuals = $4,000).

International Visitors

  • Under the new definition of domestic relationship, one combined family declaration can be presented to the CBP officer upon arrival. 
  • For visitors to the U.S., regulations allow them certain exemptions (gifts, tobacco, personal effects, etc.), and they will be able to file a single family declaration. For more information on specific exemptions, go to CBP.gov/travel.
  • As with any joint declaration, verbal or written, the person making and/or signing the declaration will be held accountable for its validity.