Op-Ed: What the end-of-summer traveler needs to ‘know before you go’
As the summer season winds down after Labor Day, travelers take to the skies for that last end-of-summer trip, or return home from international trips.
With increasing numbers of travelers coming to the U.S. from abroad, U.S. Customs and Border Protection continually seeks means of improving wait times through efficiencies such as upgraded facilities, different queuing techniques and other means such as the Ready Lanes at land ports of entry, AM radio broadcasts at some Southwest border land ports of entry and enhanced signage.
CBP’s “Trusted Traveler” programs, in particular “Global Entry,” also serve as an important tool to enhance traveler facilitation saving both CBP officers and travelers time.
Last year over Labor Day weekend, CBP processed more than 3 million travelers as well as more than 124,000 containers. CBP is urging travelers to be prepared and “Know Before You Go” to ensure smooth and efficient processing at ports of entry.
- Have all the required travel documents for the country you are visiting, as well as approved and valid identification for re-entry to the United States. Passports are required for air travel. Visit www.travel.state.gov for country-specific information.
- For citizens of Visa Waiver Program countries, make sure that you have an approved Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) before boarding. For those traveling on a visa, have a completed I-94 form when approaching CBP processing.
- Have a completed Customs Declaration form (6059b) upon reaching CBP processing. Declare everything you are bringing from abroad, even if you bought it in a duty-free shop. Know that things bought abroad for personal use or as gifts may be eligible for duty exemptions. If you are bringing them back for resale, they are not.
- Know the difference between prohibited merchandise (which is forbidden by law to enter the U.S.) and restricted merchandise (items needing special permit to be allowed into the U.S.). For more information, please visit the Restricted/Prohibited section of the CBP website.
- Do not attempt to bring fruits, meats, dairy/poultry products and/or firewood into the United States without first checking whether they are permitted. For more information, please visit the Bringing Agricultural Products Into the United States section of the CBP website.
- Build additional time into trips during busy travel seasons and understand that CBP must conduct a thorough inspection of the nearly one million travelers entering the country each day.
- Understand that CBP officers can inspect you and your personal belongings without a warrant. This may include your luggage, vehicle, and personal searches and is meant to enforce our laws as well as protect legitimate travelers.
- Monitor border wait times for various ports of entry. Travelers are encouraged to plan their trips during periods of lighter traffic or to use an alternate, less heavily traveled port of entry. For more information, travelers can find up to date wait time information on the CBP website.
- If you are a frequent international traveler and haven’t already become a member of a trusted traveler program, sign up now. For more information, please visit the Trusted Traveler section of the CBP website.
- Familiarize yourself with the “Know Before You Go” brochure or section of www.CBP.gov.