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When completing the Customs and Border Protection Form(CBP Form) 6059B, “Customs Declaration,” for accompanying goods or the CBP Form 3299 “Declaration For Free Entry of Unaccompanied Articles,” the statement that the goods are “household effects” is not enough information. The complete inventory of imported goods will be treated as the packing list and must be provided to CBP upon request.

Household effects are furniture, dishes, linens, libraries, artwork and similar household furnishings for your personal use. In order to avoid paying duty on these items, the articles must have either been available for your use or used in a household where you were a resident for one year. And are not intended for any other person or for sale.

Personal effects are items that belong to and are used by one person, such as wearing apparel, jewelry, photographic equipment and tape recorders. They cannot be entered as household effects. As with everything entering the US, these items will still be subject to inspection by Customs and Border Protection officers.

Canadians (who live in the U.S. for certain parts of the year, known as “snowbirds”) must also submit a CBP Form 3299 in order to import unaccompanied household effects into the U.S., although not permanently. No form is needed if you plan to travel along with your goods, however, a manifest listing the items contained in your vehicle is necessary to present to the officer at the Port of Entry.

Household and personal effects should not be packed in the car or other vehicle that you are importing into the United States.

Vehicles are subject to various federal agencies requirements, increasing the possibility that the vehicle will be delayed (or possibly refused) entry. If your household and personal effects are packed in the vehicle, they would also be delayed or refused entry. Furthermore, if U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) decides to inspect the interior of your vehicle, any goods inside the vehicle would be at risk for breakage.

If you are driving your vehicle across the border, CBP does not have a problem with your household or personal effects being in the vehicle. Just be sure to declare your household and personal effects on a CBP Form 6059 at the border. Also be aware that an entry must be filed with CBP on the vehicle in order to register it in the state you reside. If you failed to formally enter the car when you drove it into the U.S., you can file the entry and pay duty at your nearest CBP office.

To learn about the requirements for importing a vehicle into the U.S., see Importing a Motor Vehicle located on our website.

You do not have to bring your household and personal effects into the United States all at once. However, in order for you to import them duty-free, you should not wait longer than 10 years after the importer’s/owner’s last arrival in the U.S. from the country in which the goods were used.

After 10 years, the only way they may be imported duty-free is if you can provide the Port Director with an explanation of unavoidable circumstances, which made it impossible to import them within 10 years.

Under no circumstances can they be imported duty-free if 25 years or more has elapsed, since the last arrival into the U.S. from the country in which the effects were used. For additional information please reference 19 CFR148.52(d)

Duty Exemptions for Household and Personal Effects

Personal and household effects entitled to duty-free entry need not accompany you to the United States; you may have them shipped to your U.S. address at a later time if you choose. Your shipment of personal and/or household goods must be cleared through U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) at its first port of arrival, unless you have made arrangements with a foreign freight forwarder to have your effects sent to CBP custody in-bond from the port of arrival to a more convenient port of entry for clearance. Ask your moving company if they offer this service.

You may import furniture, dishes, linens, libraries, artwork and similar household furnishings for your personal use free of duty. To be eligible for duty-free exemption, the articles must have either been available for your use or used in a household where you were a resident for one year. The year of use does not need to be continuous, nor does it need to be the year immediately before the date of importation.

CBP will not notify you that your goods have arrived. It is essential that the carrier notify you that your goods have arrived in port – otherwise after 15 days, they will be taken to a general order warehouse and may be sold at auction after six months.

If you cannot come to the CBP office yourself, you may designate a friend or relative to represent you in CBP matters. You must give that person a letter addressed to “Officer in Charge of CBP” authorizing that individual to represent you as your agent on a one-time basis to clear your shipment through CBP along with a completed CBP Form 3299 Declaration for Free Entry of Unaccompanied Articles to give to the CBP Officer.

If your household/personal effects will accompany you, a manifest list of your items must be presented to the CBP Officer.

Professional Equipment/Tools of Trade

Your professional equipment or tools of trade are entitled to duty-free consideration if they are for your personal use. They do not have to have been in your household for more than 1 year to qualify for this exemption.

Liquor and Tobacco

You may bring in one liter of alcoholic beverages, free of duty and internal revenue tax, if you are at least 21 years of age, if it is for your own use or for a gift, and it is not in violation of the laws of the state in which you either arrive or are moving to. Alcoholic beverages beyond the one-liter limitation are subject to duty and Internal Revenue tax. Additional bottles may be imported, but it can be complicating.

Up to 100 cigars and 200 cigarettes (one carton) may be included in your exemption. If you have Tobacco products from Cuba you will need to contact the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) and for updated information on current Cuban sanctions.

Firearms and Ammunition

You must use a registered dealer to enter your firearms. For more information, please contact the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives at (866) 662-2720 or ATF licensing.


Items that you intend to give to other people as gifts when you arrive in the U.S. are not considered to be part of your household or personal effects and are not eligible for duty-free treatment. However, there is a duty-free exemption for up to $100’s worth of gifts. Any items in excess of that value will be dutiable at applicable Harmonized Tariff Schedule.

A part time resident may maintain two households , one in the United States and one in another country. They may be in the United States for business, for pleasure, or for educational purposes. The visit can be for a few weeks or for several years.

A part time resident may be classified, for CBP purposes, as either a returning resident or a nonresident. The status of either returning resident or nonresident is dependent upon several things and is usually decided on a case by case basis.

Deciding factors include:

  • citizenship
  • where the traveler pays taxes
  • where they are employed
  • what country or state drivers license they possess, etc.

A U.S. citizen is presumed to be a resident unless they can show that they are a resident of another country (possess a residency visa for another country, a round-trip ticket to return to another country, etc.) A citizen of another country residing in the U.S. must have a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (formerly Immigration and Naturalization Service) Form I-551, residency visa, also called a “green card,” or LPR card (Lawful Permanent Resident) to be considered a returning resident.

Part time residents may import household goods for use in their U.S. residence free of duty only if those goods have been in their foreign residence at least 1 year. See answer ID #107 regarding the declaration of goods.

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