Upon Entering China
Each visitor to China is required to complete a customs declaration form and health declaration form; these forms are distributed by the cabin crew during the flight to China. The customs form must be filled out in duplicate and include a listing of items of value you are declaring--i.e., all currencies (including cash and traveler's checks), jewelry, watches, cassette players, radios, cameras, and calculators. Caution: When in doubt about an item, declare it!
If you are traveling with a group, your tour director will collect everyone's forms and present all forms to the customs officer.
The endorsed duplicate copy will be returned to you by your group tour director. You are required to keep the duplicate copy of the customs declaration form until you exit China; at that time, you must again present the form with your declaration of all valuable items.
In theory, all personal possessions declared upon entry into China must be taken out of the country at the end of your trip. Therefore, if an item declared upon entry is lost while in China, check with your Chinese host immediately. Depending upon the value of the item, it may be necessary to file a report with the local police in order for you to clear China customs at the end of your trip. Currently, if you are traveling with a Regent group on a group visa, you will not have to do any of the above.
However, this arrangement may change at any point should the Chinese government change its entry policy.
When leaving the U.S. with any foreign-made serialized items--e.g., cameras, watches, etc. that appear to be new--such items must be accompanied by the sales slip or be registered with the U.S. Customs Service in order to prevent having to pay duty upon re-entering the U.S. Thus, to avoid any confusion, you should declare any such items at your nearest U.S. Customs Service office or at the U.S. Customs Service office at the international airport from which you depart.
If you carry more than US$10,000 (all currencies, traveler's checks, money orders, or other bearer monetary instruments) into or out of the U.S., you are required by U.S. law to file a report with the U.S. Customs Service.
When re-entering the U.S., the duty-free exemption for each person over 18 years of age is 200 cigarettes, 100 cigars, or 1.36 kilograms (3 pounds) of tobacco. In addition, the duty-free exemption for each person over 21 years of age is one liter (33.8 fluid ounces) of wine, beer, or distilled spirits.
When re-entering the U.S., you must declare, at the price paid, everything acquired abroad, including gifts given to you and articles purchased even if they have been worn or used. You should be able to produce receipts for all goods acquired abroad and calculate their total U.S. dollar value.
Warning: If you fail to declare (or if you understate) the value of your purchases, penalties can be severe and articles subject to seizure. Again, if in doubt, declare it!
While abroad, gift packages may be sent to friends and relatives at addresses different from your own, and these may be received free of duty if the value does not exceed US$50.
Note that many travelers are confused by the term "duty-free" as it relates to shops. Articles bought in "duty-free" shops in foreign countries are subject to U.S. customs duty and restrictions, but may be included in your personal exemption. Also, articles purchased in U.S. "duty-free" shops are subject to U.S. customs duty if they are brought back into the U.S. "Duty-free" really means that the shop has not been required to pay a duty on the items it sells.
Caution: Be prepared for challenges to the originality of artwork and the authenticity of antiques. An original artwork is duty-free, but mass-produced artwork carries a 25% duty. In order to qualify as original, the piece should be the only one of its kind and should be signed. (You can argue past the absence of a signature. If the piece is indeed original, hold your ground and make your case.)
Certified antiques are duty-free, but duty on non-antique porcelain, bronzes, and jewelry can range from 25% to 110%, depending on the item. The U.S. Customs Service requires a signed receipt from the dealer certifying that the item is more than 100 years old.
Note also that you may get a good price for a supposedly brand-name product because it is counterfeit and thus subject to seizure.
Caution: Do not bring meats, fruits, or vegetables into the U.S. Also, many items made from the bone and/or skin of endangered wildlife may not be imported into the country. Among these items are all products made from sea turtles, all ivory, furs from spotted cats, furs from marine mammals, feathers and feather products from wild birds, and most coral.
The pamphlet, Know Before You Go, gives pertinent information about U.S. Customs Service requirements and how they apply to articles acquired abroad. Obtain a copy from your nearest U.S. Customs Service office or from the U.S. Customs Service, P.O. Box 7407, Washington, D.C. 20044.