How to Reenter the U.S.
Below you will find useful information regarding documentation for reentry, declaration procedures, duty-free personal exemption limits, returning with your high value possessions and helpful tips.
Passports & Other Accepted Forms of ID
To gain reentry into the U.S. it is important to have one of the following:
- Passport card
- SENTRI pass
- Enhanced Driver's License
- FAST - for commercial drivers
- NEXUS - for crossing the US/Canada border
As you approach the U.S. Customs facility, have all items acquired outside the U.S. handy in order to declare them to the officials. This includes purchases, gifts, inherited items, duty free merchandise, repaired or altered items, items purchased for others, and items for resale or business use. Keep receipts for purchases in case you need them.
Duty-free Personal Exemption Limits
Currently, the duty-free exemption for items brought back from Mexico is $800 per person as long as the items are in your possession. For any amount in excess of $800, you will be required to pay the appropriate duty. A joint declaration is possible for families. For example, two people may bring back a total of $1600, which is useful if one of them brings $1000 worth of items and the other $600. Items mailed home are exempt up to $200.
Here are the guidelines to follow in order to make sure you may take advantage of the exemption:
- The items are for personal or household use.
- The items are declared to the Customs official.
- In the past 30 days, you haven't used any part of your $800 exemption.
- The items are not prohibited or restricted. For example Cuban cigars purchased in Mexico are prohibited.
Within the duty-free personal exemption limits, you are allowed to return to the U.S. with 200 cigarettes or 100 cigars that were previously exported (usually found in duty-free shops in the foreign country). One liter of alcohol is allowed if you are over the age of 21, if it is for your use or you plan on giving it as a gift, and the state you are returning to allows you to import it. Any amount in excess will be subject to duty.
High Value Foreign Items
If you are leaving the U.S. with high value foreign items such as a laptop computer, watch, camera, or CD player that you acquired in the U.S., it is advisable to register it with U.S. Customs before you leave to expedite duty-free reentry. The items must have a serial number or equivalent marking. Bring acceptable proof of prior possession: receipts, insurance policies, appraisals, or bills of sale. The Customs officials will issue you a Certificate of Registration that is good for as long as you own the item. If you cannot register your items before you leave, at least bring the proof of prior possession to present to U.S. Customs to avoid paying duty.
- To avoid hassles, it is best to not bring back fruits, vegetables, meat or dairy products from Mexico unless you know they are allowed. Read our article about Bringing Food Back From Mexico.
- Some foreign bought prescriptions may not be FDA approved and therefore are not allowed in the U.S. If you are traveling with a prescription, keep it in the original container and bring a copy of your prescription.
- Money or monetary instruments worth more than US $10,000 must be declared.
- Check out the list of prohibited and restricted items if you are in doubt. For further questions or to check out a great resource, click on the icon below to see the U.S. Customs "Know Before You Go" online brochure. It is user friendly and packed with information.