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My Odyssey
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Returning Home

Be aware of U.S. Customs regulations.

When shopping overseas, you’ll want to keep all your shopping receipts for your customs declaration upon your return home.  Residents reentering the U.S. generally are allowed to bring $800 per person worth of merchandise into the country duty-free.   These goods must be in your possession at the time you go through customs; shipped items do not apply to the $800 exemption.  Family members living in the same household may combine their exemptions.  The next $1,000 worth of goods will be taxed at 3%.  Note that the duty-free exemption when returning from some developing countries may be higher.  It is always the best policy to fill out the customs form completely and honestly.  Before your departure, you may wish to visit the “Know Before You Go” page on the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) website, which spells out the exemptions for various countries.

Remember that in addition to regulations prohibiting travelers from bringing perishables into the country, the U.S. also bans such items as ivory and other products derived from endangered species.  Also note that foreign countries such as Turkey, Greece, Egypt, Peru, and Israel, among others, will not allow “precious” or “historic” artifacts to be exported.  Stay away from “antiques” on the black market, as many of these items are fakes.

Be sure to have all proper documentation for any important items or reproductions that you purchase abroad.  Do not wrap any gifts that you purchase since customs officials may be required to open them.  And where possible, try to carry your purchases home with you rather than having them shipped – and possibly switched with inferior merchandise.  If you do have an item shipped home, be sure to take a photo with it before leaving the establishment.  In the same vein, try to pay for major purchases with a credit card that may offer protection in the event of a problem.

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