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Generally speaking, personal effects and household goods are duty-free. You can take your furniture, clothing, and other personal items to the USA without difficulties and free of charge. However, you must have used these items for at least one year and you cannot import them for commercial use. Also, you can only do that within the first ten years of your arrival in the US. If you import these goods after that, you will have to pay duty.
You also don’t have to personally bring your property through US Customs. Though if you do send somebody in your place, you will have to provide them with a copy of the document that proves your legal status in the US (e.g. immigration documents) as well as a letter in which you officially authorize the person to represent you in this matter.
Still, no matter who is taking care of the goods declaration, a CBP Form 3299 (Declaration for Free Entry of Unaccompanied Articles) will have to be filled out. Furthermore, you might be asked to provide an inventory list, so make sure to have one prepared and keep it with you. All your items will need to go through US Customs, so be aware that it may take some time until your items are released. Also, note that the CBP is not going to inform you about the arrival of your shipment, so make sure that your chosen carrier does that, or your shipment might end up in a Customs warehouse.
When thinking about what to pack when moving to the US, apart from the essentials like documents, medication, and personal electronics, don’t forget about the little things, like plug adaptors. You can also consider bringing foods that are popular in your home country and you might miss. Items like spices, condiments, processed foods, baked goods, cheeses, coffee, tea, and honey are admissible. However, meats and fresh fruits and vegetables you will have to leave at home.
Depending on where you are moving from, you should keep in mind that some products from certain countries might fall under existing trade embargoes. To check if any of your belongings fall into the category of restricted items, check the CBP website.
If you are moving to the US from Canada, the rules are usually less strict.
What to Keep in Mind When Shipping Alcohol, Tobacco, and Medication
You are allowed to take up to one liter of alcoholic beverages for personal use duty-free as long as you are 21 or older. So, if there’s a beer, (homemade) wine, liquor, or spirit from home that you’d miss and want to take along, you can certainly do so. However, if you plan to stock your private wine cellar with the finest vintages from your home country, you will be charged import duty and taxes on all but one liter.
Similarly, you can take a certain number of cigarettes (up to 200) and cigars (up to 100) with you duty-free. Any additional ones, however, will be subject to duty and taxes.
If you need any special medications, remember to check whether they fall into the category of narcotics and medication with a high potential for abuse, which you may not import at all. In general, there are some things to keep in mind when taking medication with you:
Declare all your medications to US Customs
Keep everything in its original container
Only take along as much as you personally need
Always remember to bring a prescription and/or a written statement from your doctor (in English or with an English translation attached)
In general, you can only take medication to the States if it can be legally prescribed there as well. You cannot import any medication which the US government considers an illegal drug or narcotic.
How to Ship Household Items to the US
Once you figure out what goods are coming with you and what you have to leave behind, you can start packing. When doing so, make a list of your belongings; it will make it an easier process and the document will come in handy when you go through customs. It will also aid you when prioritizing on what to take with you on the plane and what can travel separately.
Depending on where you are moving from, you should be able to choose between air, sea, or land travel when it comes to shipping itself. Air is usually the fastest and the priciest option while shipping your belongings as sea cargo will take a while but cost you the least. Moving your goods with trucks lands somewhere in the middle, and might be the best option if you live relatively close to your new home.
Before deciding on how to move your belongings, weigh and measure your cargo – that will determine the price of the shipment. Once you’ve done so, you might consider renting a storage space for some of the household items if the price gets too steep.
Home Good Storage
Storage in the US is extremely popular, so you won’t have any trouble finding an ideal space for your goods. Whether it is shipping your household items to the States before you get there or securing the belongings you wish to leave behind, you will find plenty of long- and short-term storage options available.
Some of the popular storage companies are:
Storage King USA
In most cases, storage locations will be available near your home. Once you choose the size of your space, you will be able to book the appropriate facility by calling, visiting, or simply applying with an online form.
Make sure to shop around when looking for storage space. Some companies offer better deals with no time restrictions, while others provide extra security with constant surveillance.
Vaccinations and Health Requirements for the US
Good news if you are planning on traveling to the United States –– there are no vaccinations required. Of course, basic immunizations, including tetanus and diphtheria, should always be up-to-date. If you are planning a backpacking or hiking trip, that will lead you through rural areas, it makes sense to get vaccinated against rabies and hepatitis B if you haven’t already done so. Also, make sure your travel health insurance covers emergency care and other medical services.
What you should keep in mind, is that the rules for mandatory vaccinations are different if you travel to the United States on a work visa or as an immigrant. In that case, stricter rules apply, and you will be required to provide proof of immunization together with your visa application.
Schools and universities often have similar requirements. Even if you are personally opposed to vaccinations, your children will need to be properly vaccinated if they are supposed to attend school in the US.
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