Complete guide for US Customs Procedures

US customs procedures are very strict when it comes to importing household goods. Therefore,  if you are planning on moving to the US these days, you need to be well prepared if you want to enter the country without unnecessary interruptions.  Unfortunately, there are many things that you need to pay attention to and the paperwork is fairly extensive.  So dealing with the whole procedure on your own is not what we would recommend. The best thing is to find a moving company that handles international relocations and let them deal with US customs requirements. Luckily, Best Cross Country Movers prepared a complete guide on how to handle the process of moving into the US and you can even use our platform to find reliable movers to help you out.

US customs procedures can be complicated for an individual so find professional help

As we already mentioned, US customs procedures are among the strictest in the world.  A clear set of rules is imposed. And you need to comply completely in order to enter the country. There is no place for misinterpretation or bargains when you start dealing with US customs officers. Everything needs to be in a complete order when it comes to your inventory and paperwork in order to enter the USA.  It is good to know that any attempt to cheat US customs will be sanctioned. Therefore, it is very important to take this seriously and make sure that you do not make any mistakes in this process. Those mistakes could cost you a lot of money and in some cases even your freedom.  That is why the best thing is to find some good moving companies that have experience with US border control.

discussing US customs procedures
You will need a team of experienced professionals

Find international movers that have experience with US customs procedures

When it comes to the selection of moving companies, it is very important to find a moving company that has experience with international relocations to and from the US. If you are moving to the US and you are hiring a moving company in the country in which you are currently residing make sure that your movers have handled international relocations in the US in the past. This is a very important thing so make sure that you make no mistakes when it comes to the selection of your movers. If you are moving from the US you will have a large selection of residential movers that are offering intentional moving services. Of course, you still need to be careful as there are many moving companies that provide poor services.

There are many items that you cannot import to the US

US customs procedures regulate many things when it comes to international relocations to the US. And if you find some good moving services to help you, they will be in charge of almost the whole process.  However, you cannot solely rely on your moving company as you will be the one who will be determining what items you are moving with you to the US. Therefore, it is good to get acquainted with items that you cannot bring into the country. Remember to take this part seriously as you can get into a lot of trouble if certain items from the forbidden list are found in your moving inventory.  Here are the items that you should get rid of before packing for the move:

Alcoholic beverages

In the US each individual state governs the import of alcoholic beverages. Therefore, if you are planning on bringing in alcohol with you should find an agency that handles the import of alcohol in the state in which you first arrive in the United States. And ask them about the procedure. So if, for example, you are moving to Texas, you need to contact them directly to learn about the regulations. Or you can find some moving companies Texas has for international relocations and let them handle the process.

alcohol bottles
Alcohol is not easy to import to the US


If you are planning on importing your car to the US as well, that is not going to be easy. Besides the extensive paperwork, your car will also need to meet strict US requirements. Almost all vehicles entering the US from foreign countries need to be modified in order to meet US standards. The only exceptions are the newest models entering the US from Canada. The US customs procedures are pretty strict and complicated when it comes to shipping cars, therefore make sure that you contact the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Transportation, Office of Vehicle Safety Compliance before you decide whether to import a car or not.

Drug paraphernalia

All types of drug paraphernalia are prohibited from entering the US. The only exceptions when these items can be imported are in the cases of prescribed medication for authentic medical conditions such as diabetes, for example.


If you are planning on importing firearms, the US customs procedures say that you need to consult with The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF). They regulate the import of weapons and ammunition. The good thing to know is that if you are importing firearms you will have to go through a licensed dealer.


When coming to the US you can import certain foods with you. This mostly refers to bakery items, certain types of cheeses, condiments, vinegar, oils, packaged spices, honey, and coffee. On the other hand, there are strict rules when it comes to bush meat made from African wildlife and almost anything containing meat products, such as bouillon, soup mixes, and similar, which are not admissible.  Rice can also be problematic so you better avoid bringing it with you. Even though there are many food items that you can import into the US, the best thing would be to consult U.S. Food and Drug Administration before you go.

packing food according to US customs procedures
Inform yourself well before you pack food


Many people have pets these days. And don’t worry, your dog can enter the country. Still, because every state and county regulates the procedures on their territory, you should consult them before you go. Also, be sure that you find good movers California has to offer if you are moving to the Golden State. As they will be able to give you the best information regarding the import of pets. Also, be sure to check CBP brochure Pets and Wildlife before you go.

Pack your items properly if you want them to go through US customs procedures without problems

When you are moving to the USA, you need to prepare your inventory well. This means that you need to pack and secure your items properly. Unfortunately, this is something that can be too difficult for individuals. Therefore, the best thing is to find an international moving company that offers professional packing services. They will be able to properly pack your items so they can withstand the long journey and so they are in proper form when entering the US customs procedures.

packing items
Pack your items well

Importing household effects duty-free

It is good to know that you can import many of your personal belongings to the US duty-free. When you are entering the country, you will complete Customs Declaration for accompanying goods and Declaration For Free Entry of Unaccompanied Articles which is basically a complete list of items that will be arriving later. Those lists will be treated as a complete packing list. And you will need to provide them to Customs and Border Protection (CBP) upon request. If you want to have your items like furniture, carpets, paintings, tableware, book, artwork, and other domestic furnishings imported to the US duty-free you will have to provide proof to the Port Director if required.

Be aware that the Port Director may require other proof that your items are in your possession longer than 1 year, other than the declaration. If the director finds your evidence fitting, under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States, your items will be able to enter the US tax and duty-free.

You need to import your household effect within the period of 10 years since moving into the US if you want to avoid taxes

Your items do not need to accompany you when moving to the US. Some items may arrive later. Still, if you want to reduce your moving costs and import your items duty-free, you shouldn’t wait longer than 10 years to do so. If you want to import items after the period of 10 years since you arrived in the US has passed, you will have to provide a good explanation to the Port Director regarding unavoidable circumstances that made it impossible to import them within the given period.  If you provide good proof, Port Director may allow you to import items duty-free even 10 years after you moved into the country.  Just make sure that you do not wait 25 years to import something. As you won’t be allowed to do so duty-free under no circumstances.

completing paperwork
You need to have proper paperwork when moving into the US

Import of personal effects

Bear in mind that items that are considered personal effects like jewelry, photographic equipment, tape recorders, and clothes, cannot enter the country like household goods. A CBP office will review these items and then decide on the possible taxes and other procedures. As with everything, this also can be pretty difficult for an individual who has no experience with US customs procedures.  That is why it is crucial to hire good freight forwarders that will be able to give you accurate advice on how to import personal effects into the US.

Canadians entering the US

As far as Canadians are concerned, they also must submit a CBP Form 3299 regarding the import of unaccompanied household items. If you are a Canadian and you are bringing in all your stuff with you, you do not have to have a CBP Form 3299 submitted. Still, you will need to provide a CBP officer with a manifest listing of the items that are in your vehicle.

Paperwork required when moving to the US

As you can see, there are many things that you need to bear in mind when moving to the US. The US customs procedures are complex. And you can easily get into problems if you do not prepare properly. Therefore, the best thing to do is to make a moving plan that will contain all the information regarding your upcoming process.

making a plan
Make a plan that will contain all the details regarding your move

This plan needs to contain things like packing, getting free moving estimates from moving companies, hiring a moving company, and similar. Your plan also needs to have a separate section in which you will write down all the documents that you need to prepare for US customs procedures. Here are the documents that you will need to prepare:

  • Personal identification card and your passport
  • An international birth certificate (issued in English)
  • The original copy of your marriage or divorce certificates and an also an English translation of those documents
  • Original custody declaration and an English translation for your child if you are a single mother or father
  • Bank documents including account number and transfer information
  • Tax records and other important financial documents
  • Job application documents translated into English
  • School transcripts, school and university degrees, and any proof of further education in original and an English translation
  • Vaccine records and all other important medical records for every family member translated into English
  • Driver’s license

Find professional assistance and follow the process

As you can see, US customs procedures are a complicated thing to handle. So make sure that you check everything and contact your port of entry before you go. Of course, a good international moving company will make things much easier. Still, do not let them handle everything without you. You need to be there for the entire process. That is if you want to have a smooth and stress-free move in the end.

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