I am coming back to America in a week on a spousal visa. I was hoping to bring some gifts back to America for my friends and my wife’s family.
I just want to cover my bases here: does anyone have a comprehensive list on what I’m NOT allowed to bring back? I’ve found a couple of resources but I just want to be sure that I don’t screw myself over at the airport by bringing anything illegal that I missed by mistake.
Any food, unfortunately. Last two times I cleared customs in Atlanta, CBP brought out a dog to sniff luggage retrieved off the carousel. Lots of people had to break open their luggage on the floor. The agent was a lady, though, and at least she was very friendly and kind about it. She brought the dog up to everybody and asked if you had food in your baggage (meanwhile the dog was already sniffing). There was another dog used in the carousel over. They moved pretty quickly among passengers.
ETA: I didn’t have any food. I am only assuming that they confiscated everything, based on what I observed. Probably best to check about specific food items.
Aren’t packaged candies and cakes OK? I’ve also brought tea and told them that I had it with no problems. I think the big threats are fruits and vegetables due to potential importing of pests that can wipe out crops. One time, I had an apple in my bag, ate it on the plane, threw the core away on the plane, and the airport beagle went straight to my bag. Even though the apple was no longer there, he could smell the residue. Smart dog.
The issue with electronic items is that it might exceed the value of goods that you can bring in duty free for personal use or as a gift. There is a specified amount above which you have to pay duties.
Also, if you bring in something like 10 phones, you’ll have a hard time arguing they are for personal use. Then the duties for commercial imports would kick in.
I always carry my laptop in my carry-on bag. TSA will make you place your laptop in a tray, by itself, but once onboard I’ve never had any problems at all. Usually I fly Delta, but the last flight was JAL - again, no problems at all.
If you’re flying domestically in the US, I recommend booking a flight with TSA PreCheck. American Airlines offers flights with this feature. AA kinda sucks, imho, but the TSA PreCheck is very convenient. A couple years ago my gf (now my wife) and I flew into the middle of the US to visit my family. I had no problems booking a TSA PreCheck flight for her. If I recall, you just enter a little more information when buying the ticket, pay a little extra, and you should be good.
There’s a separate queue when clearing TSA at boarding. Just follow the signs with this logo:
Those restrictions (when they were instituted, but now no longer valid) were like for flights from 7 or more countries from the MidEast. Those restrictions were never for flights inbound to N. America (U.S. and Canada) from Asia.
You can keep your laptop. It just goes through X-ray machine like everything else.