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Importing Personal Items

Are you moving to the United States? Are you bringing in items from abroad for your personal use? You likely have many questions about customs clearance and importing personal items. Thankfully, importing personal items is generally a simple process and you won’t need a customs bond.

Importing personal items and your personal effects involves a little bit of legwork. You’ll find that U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has strict rules around what can come into the country and the required documents. Some rules will apply to you, others might not. In most cases, you can import household goods and personal items duty-free and without a bond. This means you can bring clothing, jewelry, household goods and other items into the country without any hassle from CBP. Some items, including alcohol and tobacco products, might require a little more intervention on your part. Learn about what it takes to bring your personal items into the U.S. without a headache.

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Do I Need a Customs Bond to Import Personal Items?

In a majority of cases, you will not need a customs bond to import personal items. You need a customs bonds when you are importing items for commercial purposes.

Importing Household Effects

You can bring household goods, furniture and other personal items into the United States without a bond and free of duty and taxes. You won’t have to pay duty to CBP when importing these items. It is important to know that when importing household effects, you must have owned the items for at least a year. Items purchased within the past 12 months can still be imported, but a fee might apply. Additionally, you cannot import household items for commercial use without following other rules.

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If you are traveling with your items into the country in a vehicle or in your luggage, the only form you’ll need to fill out is CBP Form 6059B. This Customs Declaration form is only available at your point of entry, so you can’t fill it out in advance. You’ll also need to provide CBP officers with a list of everything in your vehicle. If someone else is traveling with your goods, you’ll need to provide them with a notarized letter stating they are authorized to import the goods on your behalf, in addition to any other declarations forms.

However, it is also important to know that you don’t have to travel with the items you are importing. If you are not traveling with your imported goods, you should complete CBP form 3299. This Declaration for Free Entry of Unaccompanied Items form requires that you document all of the goods you are importing. This packing list should be a complete inventory of imported goods and should be given to CBP as requested.

Other items from your household, like antiques and art, might require special precautions when they are imported to the United States. Antiques less than 100 years old will require a duty. Art is duty free, as long as you have owned it for at least a year and do not plan to resell it.

Restricted Items

There are a number of items you can import to the United States, but must adhere to a few restrictions. Learn about these items below.


According to CBP rules, you are allowed to import one liter of alcohol into the U.S. duty free. That means if there’s a favorite wine or liquor you’d like to bring into the United States, you can bring in a bottle without paying duty. If you’d like to stock your entire liquor cabinet with libations from abroad, you’ll need to pay duty on the additional bottles. Learn more about importing alcohol.


Absinthe is a botanical liquor with a very high alcohol content. Some kinds of absinthe contain a chemical called thujone. Thujone is a toxic chemical and has been associated with hallucinations. Absinthe containing thujone is prohibited in the United States. This means you can bring absinthe without thujone into the U.S. The same duty rules surrounding other alcohols apply.

Cigarettes and Cigars

You can import tobacco products including cigarettes and cigars into the U.S. duty free. You can bring up to 200 cigarettes and 100 cigars without paying a duty. Additional cigarettes and cigars will be subject to duties and taxes. Some tobacco products, like Cuban cigars, have been subject to embargoes. At one time, it was illegal for Americans to import or consume Cuban cigars, even in foreign countries. Today Cuban cigars can be brought into the country for personal use in personal luggage.


You’ll need to follow a few rules for importing firearms for personal use. A permit from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) is required. The permit allows you to import guns and firearms into the U.S. as long as they are for personal use and not for resale. Some kinds of firearms, including armor piercing, tracer, or incendiary ammunition, cannot be imported.


If you are importing medications for personal use, there are a few rules to follow. Some medications, including narcotics and those with a high potential for abuse, cannot be imported at all. When bringing medication into the country, it is important that everything remain in its original containers, everything is declared to customs, and you bring in no more than you need.


If you are importing wood or wooden items for personal use, you’ll need to make sure your products do not contain an endangered species of wood. You can determine this by checking the species against the CITES list. As long as your item is not for resale, it can be imported without a customs bond.

Prohibited Items

There are a few personal items that can’t be imported into the U.S. If you’re importing personal items, you’ll want to leave the following goods behind:

  • Meat and meat-containing products like soup mixes, bouillon and canned meat
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Fish and fish eggs
  • Narcotics and medication containing controlled substances
  • Soil, livestock and pests
  • Products made from endangered wildlife
  • Cat and dog fur
  • Fully- and semi-automatic weapons
  • Items that infringe on copyright regulations
  • Ancient artifacts from the Byzantine period, Pre-Columbian period and Khmer sculptures

Ready to Start Importing Personal Items?

Bringing items into the United States for personal use doesn’t have to come with a headache. Use the link below to buy our Ultimate Guide to Importing Personal Items to the U.S. E-book. We've done all of the hard work and research for you!

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