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Travel Advisory

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Chayelle, Aug 1, 2007.

  1. Hi all...
    Received the following from a Artie Morris, Birds as Art.
    Artie is a professional photographer who travels all over the world, continuously...thought some of you may want to know about this,
    as there may be some crack-down beginning to occur...
    (spoke with Artie a short bit ago, and I will post more later this
    evening or tomorrow as it comes thru)

    Visit: www.birdsasart.com

    from Artie Morris

    On my return from Ecuador on Friday, June 28, 2007, I was pulled out of line at US Customs in Miami and asked if I had “documentation” for my cameras and lenses (which had easily been identified via x-ray). I stated that I did not and was told that my gear would be held in Miami by US customs, that I would need to provide documentation, and that after the documentation was received and verified that my gear would need to be imported by a broker and then be shipped as cargo to Orlando, all at my expense. After about 30 minutes a pleasant woman came by and said that the photography gear would indeed be confiscated and held; she had many forms to fill out. I explained to her that I had always traveled with documentation but that several years ago when I bought the forms to US Customs in Orlando that I was told, “We do not sign or verify those forms anymore. You do not need them anymore. You will not be hassled when you return to the US with your gear.” I have been in and out of the country more than a dozen times since then without any documentation and until Friday, I had never had a problem.

    I asked to speak to a supervisor, did so, and explained the above to him in a calm manner. I added that several folks in the group with 500 mm lenses had been on the adjacent line and had breezed through. After listening patiently he asked me, “What do you want?” I said, “I want to get on my flight to Orlando with my cameras and lenses. I will have documentation with me on all future trips.” After about 15 minutes the pleasant woman came back and said that I could go. I returned to the supervisor to thank him and he showed me the proper forms. I had previously listed all of my gear on a single form, Department of Treasury “Certificate of Registration” Customs Form 4455 (020984). He suggested instead that I fill out Customs Form 4457 (060992) listing several items on each form. He continued by saying that once that form had been signed and stamped that it could be used for subsequent trips.

    My plan is to fill out a single copy of Customs Form 4457 (060992) for each and every item that I own with a serial number (including my laptop) and then bring all the forms and all the great to the US Customs office at Orlando airport on a day when I am not traveling. I will then bring the forms with me when I travel so that I can avoid being hassled upon my return.

    I am not sure of the situation at other US Customs arrival stations (such as Detroit) but it would seem best that each of us travels with the proper documentation whenever traveling abroad."
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 2, 2007
  2. I've communicated with Cheyelle separately about this. I am a retired U.S. Customs employee and this is very puzzling. I've been traveling both officially and unofficially yearly since 1994 and have never been stopped either going or coming back from travel to prove ownership of my equipment. I've contacted the authorities at Customs and asked for clarification. In this day and age people carry all sorts of electronic equipment on travels. This could cause significant travel disruption if strict enforcement were started now.

    As soon as I get clarification I'll pass on the results. If we have any current U.S. Customs employees in the membership, perhaps they can check as well.

    Thanks, Rich
  3. I'm not knocking the customs service, but experience has taught me to not be surprised at anything customs comes up with in south Florida. I too will be watching this thread closely for more information, hopefully it'll give me another reason to stay in-country! :) 
  4. Hi guys,

    I think the funniest thing here is that you are Americans, so you could be supposed to know (in some way) this kind of quibbles and bureaucracy.. but.. just imagine if such kind of treatment is applied to all the ones coming from overseas with a DSLR... well, the cure would be worse than the (possible) problem.. You would have all the airports blocked.. and I'm sure you apply already strict safety measures there.. None here imagines such kind of forms there.. I thought that the "worst" thing that you could asked of could be just "declaring" generally what you have with you..
    I'm really interested too, if I would ever come there..

    Thanks for the useful info.
  5. GoGo


    Apr 20, 2006
    New York
    Thanks Rich


    I was just about to hit the PM button when I saw your reply.
    I for one am concerned as I have been stopped just like AM and it is not entertaining.
    I await your clarification, and thank you in advance.
  6. PJohnP


    Feb 5, 2005
    The form is downloadable at :

    I've encountered this once or twice before, but I was able to talk my way through it. I also note that I was told firmly that this needs to be completed for each trip individually, and not just once. However, this document :

    notes on page 8,

    "To make things easier, you can register certain items
    with CBP before you depart—including watches, cameras,
    laptop computers, firearms, and CD players—as
    long as they have serial numbers or other unique,
    permanent markings. Take the items to the nearest CBP
    office and request a Certificate of Registration (CBP
    Form 4457). It shows that you had the items with you
    before leaving the United States and all items listed on
    it will be allowed duty-free entry. CBP officers must
    see the item you are registering in order to certify the
    certificate of registration. You can also register items
    with CBP at the international airport from which you’re
    departing. Keep the certificate for future trips."​

    My experience in this area is that every officer has a slightly different interpretation of the regs and laws, regardless of what documentation is available to present to them, and occasionally become quite irate when they are "contradicted" by CBP publications (that's an observation, not a judgment, and uses the word they used). I travel almost all of the time, so my observations are based on repeated experience, not any particular prejudice or bias.

    However, that all said, IMO, a completed form would offer a fair bit of protection for the casual enquiry on this subject.

    YMMV, as they say.

    John P.
  7. I have been traveling overseas on and off for nearly 40 years and have never been asked to provide proof of ownership of and personal items, camera gear, computers, or anything else. I have noticed that I get treated a bit differntly on a Diplomatic passport than on an Official or Personal one.
  8. Gale


    Jan 26, 2005
    Viera Fl
    Maybe, (?) I should be glad I don't travel:<((((((
  9. I've been to Portugal with my gear and on several cruises in the Caribbean and to Alaska via Canada and never had a problem but this is good to know and I too will await the the answer from Rich.
  10. The chemist

    The chemist

    Jul 22, 2005
    subscribed:0 thanks for the heads up
  11. Cougar8045


    May 25, 2007
    Thank you for posting this. I will be going to Aruba in about 2 months. I guess I might have to travel "light".
  12. Muonic


    Jun 14, 2006

    My experience exactly. I'm an airline pilot, and have flown internationl flights off and on for 15+ years, and exclusively for five of those years. I never understood why the US Customs regulations varied so greatly from airport to airport....or for that matter, from officer to officer.

  13. GoGo


    Apr 20, 2006
    New York
    Thanks John

    Thanks John,
    I am downloading the forms, I am certain Rich will have supplemental info to follow. Most appreciated.
  14. Ghunger


    Apr 2, 2007
    Seattle, WA
    I travel across the border to Canada at least once a year and was in Germany on vacation last year and didn't hear anything about needing to prove I owned anything I brought across the border. This seems absurd to me. What's next, I have to prove I own my pants or they're confiscate those too?
  15. Big Brother!

    Ahhh don't we all love Big Brother!
  16. Ppub101


    Oct 10, 2005
    Asheville NC
    I have never traveled outside USA, and I plan on it hopefully soon. I have no idea what this is all about. I didn't know such a thing existed. Basically this form is just saying you returned home with the gear you left with? What if you buy a lens out of the country, say if you went to Japan? I just can't believe this crap. Please correct me if I am wrong about this form. Wow this is ridiculous.

  17. Update on previous Travel Advisory

    Aritie Morris sent this further information this morning:
    Sounds as if travel must be with great care...
    everyone be prepared, on upcoming travel dates, and
    have a great time...


    Many folks wrote concerning the related info in the last BAA Notes. Thanks to the many who sent links to form 4577 (http://www.cbp.gov/linkhandler/cgov/toolbox/forms/4457.ctt/cbp_4457.pdf). Jim Caldwell did some additional detective work and sent me the following via e-mail:

    This is the update on what I found after calling the customs office this morning. I spoke to the office at the St. Petersburg airport (St. Petersburg, Fl). I described your situation and explained I was heading to Ecuador in 10 days and was concerned as I would be traveling with approximately $15,000 worth of photographic equipment. The agent confirmed that I should fill out a 4577 form for each piece of equipment and take it and the equipment to one of the customs offices and have an officer sign it. I explained that I was not able to get to one of their offices before I left since they are only open Monday - Friday, 8:30 - 5:00. (Note; Customs and Border Patrol Offices in major international airports are open 24-7.) I asked what other forms of proof would be acceptable. She indicated that I should have a sales receipt for each item that includes the serial number. I explained that some of the equipment was purchased from individuals and that I did not have a receipt; I asked if my insurance rider would suffice since it lists each piece of equipment along with value and serial number and is on a State Farm letterhead. She explained that accepting anything other than Form 4577 form is entirely up to each agent.

    The following paragraph, however, is from the government website:

    "If your laptop computer was made in Japan—for instance—you might have to pay duty on it each time you brought it back into the United States, unless you could prove that you owned it before you left on your trip. Documents that fully describe the item—such as sales receipts, insurance policies, or jeweler's appraisals—are acceptable forms of proof." (http://www.cbp.gov/xp/cgov/travel/vacation/kbyg/register_items.xml).

    Another page on the site indicates that travelers have a right to speak to a supervisor.

    Unfortunately, even though the government's own website indicates they will accept receipts or insurance documents, it may be up to the individual agent that you encounter. (Note: it would be nice if you could believe what they state on the web site. It would be a good idea to print the relevant pages and carry them with you also…)

    Thanks again for the advisory!!! Jim Caldwell

    More: the CBP web site (http://www.customs.gov/xp/cgov/travel/vacation/kbyg/travelers_checklist.xml) states that receipts or registration paperwork (CBP Form 4457) for any new electronics, such as cameras or laptops are needed, but are only suggested if traveling with recently purchased goods. Not necessary for goods more than 6 months old…

    Visit www.birdsasart.com
  18. John P. thanks for your great info...
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 2, 2007
  19. PJohnP


    Feb 5, 2005
    Cheryle :

    Not a problem - pleased to help.

    I've carried receipts most times, but if I can get all of this addressed, I'll use the CBP form from now on. Just have to find a CPB office open at the right times to carry in a pile o' gear...

    And note that all of this can change without warning or publication, depending on the time and events in the world...

    John P.
  20. Lowolf


    Jan 26, 2006
    Just one way to harass us bad enough the lines and sec now new ways to steal gear from us
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