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Be a “ReadyTraveler” This Holiday Season

Release Date: 
December 18, 2014

WASHINGTON—As millions around the world travel to be with family and friends this holiday season, U.S. Customs and Border Protection is reminding travelers of several important things they can do to ensure a smooth and efficient processing experience upon arrival in the United States.

“CBP is prepared for a busy holiday travel season, but travelers can also help in the process by being aware of the requirements when entering the country,” said Commissioner R. Gil Kerlikowske. “CBP has programs in place to help expedite the arrivals process for travelers including Global Entry, NEXUS, SENTRI, Automated Passport Control and Mobile Passport Control. And this holiday season, we are pleased to add the Border Wait Time app which is available now for download for Apple and Android users.”

For those traveling by car this year, CBP recently announced the addition of the Border Wait Time app to the Apple App Store and Google Play. The app is a one-stop shop for cross border travel and provides estimated wait times and open lane status at land ports of entry.

CBP continues to make great strides in creating a traveler-friendly processing environment. More than three million travelers are enrolled in CBP’s trusted traveler programs such as Global Entry, NEXUS and SENTRI. These programs expedite entry into the United States for pre-approved, low risk travelers. This year, CBP added more than 20 locations to the Automated Passport Control (APC) program.  The APC kiosks allow U.S. citizens and certain visitors to submit their customs declaration form electronically and have helped to reduce wait times by as much as 25-40 percent in some locations. Travelers arriving at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport also have a mobile option to expedite their entry. Much like APC, the Mobile Passport Control app allows travelers to submit their customs declaration form using their mobile device. 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.

If you are traveling with festive foods or beverages this holiday season, remember to check ahead of time to ensure any agriculture or animal products are admissible into the United States. Every year, CBP intercepts more than one million prohibited agriculture items at ports of entry.

Familiarize yourself with the duty exemptions when traveling with goods, especially if transporting gifts or alcoholic beverages around the holidays. Typically, U.S. citizens and residents are allowed $800 worth of goods and one liter of alcohol duty-free. For more information visit CBP.gov/travel.

Travelers can take additional steps to smooth their arrivals process by familiarizing themselves with U.S. rules and regulations before departing to avoid potential penalties and fines.

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), permanent resident card or an enhanced driver’s license that denotes both identity and citizenship when entering the United States 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 United States

All nationals or citizens of Visa Waiver Program (VWP) countries are required to have an approved Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) prior to boarding a carrier to travel by air or sea to the United States 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.

Travel Checklist

  • 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. Travelers can find the most up-to-date wait time information on the CBP Border Wait Time app on the Apple App Store and Google Play.
  • 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.
Last modified: 
February 9, 2017