STERLING, Va. – With airline staffing shortages forcing flight cancellations and route reductions, it seems now would be an ideal time for international travelers to truthfully report all of their currency to Customs and Border Protection officers during an outbound inspection.
One Ethiopia-bound family learned that lesson the hard way after CBP officers seized $27,330 from them on Sunday at Washington Dulles International Airport for violating U.S. currency reporting requirements. The family also missed their once daily flight to Ethiopia and lost a day of their vacation trip.
Officers approached the family of five at the departure gate and asked how much currency they possessed. The father, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Ethiopia, verbally reported that he had about $8,000. Officers then reminded the travelers of federal currency reporting laws and asked the father to annotate the back of the CBP form describing the currency reporting law. As the father prepared to write their currency amount and sign, the eldest son reported that he also possessed about $8,000.
The father then completed a U.S. Treasury form for the total amount of currency. During a subsequent inspection of their carry-on bags, CBP officers discovered an additional $11,000.
There is no limit to how much currency or other monetary instruments that travelers may bring to or take out of the United States. However, federal law [31 USC 5316] requires travelers to report all currency of $10,000 or greater to a CBP officer and complete U.S. Treasury Department Report of International Transportation of Currency or Monetary Instruments [FINCEN 105]. Read more about currency reporting requirements.
CBP officers then escorted the family back to CBP’s inspection station and examined their checked baggage. Officers found no additional currency. Officers discovered and seized a total of $27,330 for violating U.S. currency reporting laws. Officers returned $830 to the family and released them to continue their trip. However, their flight had already departed and they had to be rebooked on another Ethiopian Airlines flight.
CBP is not releasing any of the travelers’ names because none were criminally charged.
“We cannot make this point enough, travelers can carry all the currency they want to and from the United States, but U.S. federal law requires them to complete a simple form for amounts of $10,000 or greater. It really is that easy,” said Daniel Escobedo, CBP’s Area Port Director for the Area Port of Washington, D.C.
The consequences for violating US currency reporting laws are severe – from missing a flight and interrupting vacation plans, to seeing all their currency seized by a Customs and Border Protection officer, and to even facing potential criminal prosecution for bulk currency smuggling.
Travelers can get an early start on reporting their currency by completing the fillable FINCEN 105 form prior to a CBP arrivals or departure inspection.
CBP seized about $342,000 in unreported or illicit currency every day along our nation’s borders last year.
CBP officers have observed that smuggled bulk currency is generally the proceeds of illicit activity, such as from the sales of dangerous drugs or revenue from financial crimes. CBP officers work hard to hit back at transnational criminal organizations by seizing their smuggled currency.
CBP encourages all travelers to learn rules governing what they can and cannot bring to the United States, plus steps of CBP’s international arrivals inspection process at CBP’s Know Before You Go webpage. Just a little research can save travelers time during arrivals inspections and get them to their destination sooner.
CBP's border security mission is led at ports of entry by CBP officers from the Office of Field Operations. CBP officers screen international travelers and cargo and search for illicit narcotics, unreported currency, weapons, counterfeit consumer goods, prohibited agriculture, and other illicit products that could potentially harm the American public, U.S. businesses, and our nation’s safety and economic vitality. Learn what CBP accomplished during "A Typical Day" in 2021.
Follow the Director of CBP’s Baltimore Field Office on Twitter at @DFOBaltimore for breaking news, current events, human interest stories and photos, and CBP’s Office of Field Operations on Instagram at @cbpfieldops.