What items and products are prohibited from importing into the USA: official list and requirements - ForumDaily
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What items and products are prohibited from importing into the USA: official list and requirements

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency is required to enforce hundreds of laws for 40 other government agencies, such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These agencies require that unsafe items are not allowed into the United States. CBP employees are always at points of entry and are responsible for protecting Americans from potential threats, noted on the official website agency.

Photo: Shutterstock

CBP prohibits the entry into the United States of products that could harm public health, public safety, American workers, children, pets or other animals, or harm the national interest. Sometimes products that cause or have the potential to cause harm may seem quite innocent - but this appearance can be deceiving.

Before you go on a trip abroad, you can discuss with CBP staff the items you plan to return to the United States to make sure that they are not prohibited or restricted for import. A ban means that goods cannot be brought into the United States. Examples of prohibited items are dangerous toys, cars that do not protect passengers in a collision, wild meat or prohibited substances such as absinthe and rohypnol. The restriction means that special licenses or permits from federal agencies are required to import such a product into the country. For example, these are firearms, some fruits and vegetables, animal products, and some animals.

Absinthe (alcohol)

The import of absinthe is subject to U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulations and the U.S. Department of the Treasury's Tax and Trade Bureau's Alcohol and Tobacco regulations. Absinthe must contain less than 10 parts per million of thujone, the term “absinthe” cannot be trademarked or appear separately on the label, and the image and/or graphics cannot reflect a hallucinogenic, psychotropic or mind-altering effect. Absinthe imported in violation of these rules is subject to seizure.

Alcoholic drinks

In addition to the laws of the United States, the laws of the state in which you first entered the United States will regulate the amount of alcohol you can bring with you and the need for a license. If you plan to bring alcohol with you, you should contact the state alcohol committee to determine what you need to do to comply with the laws and regulations of that state before you leave.


Vehicles imported into the United States must meet EPA fuel emission and safety standards and U.S. Department of Transportation theft prevention requirements. Trying to import a car that doesn't meet all the requirements can be a disaster. More details at special page.

Almost all cars, minibuses, sports utility vehicles, etc., purchased in foreign countries, must be modified in accordance with American standards, with the exception of most of the latest car models from Canada. Cars that have not been modified in an acceptable way must be taken out or destroyed. Also under these circumstances, the vehicle may require a security deposit upon entry until all necessary conditions have been met.

And even if the car meets all federal standards, it may be subject to additional EPA requirements: it is recommended that you contact EPA and DOT in advance before importing the car.

Information on importing vehicles is available at Environmental Protection Agency website. You can also find import information on the page Vehicle Safety Compliance Authority.

You can also visit EPA website.

Vehicles imported into the United States temporarily by non-residents (for a period of less than one year) are exempt from these restrictions. It is illegal to bring a car into the United States and sell it if it has not been formally held in the form of CBP 7501.


You may need permission from the US Department of Agriculture and / or permission from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to import biological samples, including bacterial cultures, culture media, excrement, fungi, arthropods, mollusks, livestock tissue, birds, plants, viruses or vectors for scientific, biological or pharmaceutical purposes. Permission requirements are on USDA website, and CDC permissions can be found at special page.

Ceramic tableware

While ceramic cookware is not banned or restricted, you should be aware that such cookware made in foreign countries may contain dangerous levels of lead in the glaze, which can leach into food and drinks. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends that when purchasing ceramic cookware overseas—especially from Mexico, China, Hong Kong, or India—it be tested for lead and used for decorative purposes only.

Cultural Artifacts and Values

Most countries have laws protecting their cultural property. These laws include export controls and / or national ownership of cultural property. Even if they were acquired from a company in the country of origin or in another country, the legal ownership of such artifacts may be called into question if they are brought into the United States. When importing such products into the United States, you must have permits and receipts. You cannot import stolen items, no matter how many times they have changed hands. The import of items such as:

  • any pre-Columbian monumental and architectural sculptures and murals from the countries of Central and South America;
  • artifacts of Native Americans from Canada;
  • Pre-Columbian Mayan archaeological sites from Guatemala;
  • pre-Columbian archaeological sites from El Salvador and Peru;
  • archaeological sites such as terracotta statues from Mali;
  • items of the colonial period, such as paintings and ritual objects from Peru;
  • ritual and church objects of the Byzantine period, such as icons from Cyprus and the Khmer stone archaeological sculpture from Cambodia.

Importation of items such as those listed above is permitted only if they are accompanied by an export permit issued by the country of origin where such items were first discovered. It is known that suppliers of such items often offer fake export certificates. It’s advisable for potential buyers to visit the website. US State Department.

Goods that are considered Iraqi cultural property or other objects of archaeological, historical, cultural, rare scientific and religious significance, illegally exported from the National Museum of Iraq, the National Library and other places in Iraq since August 6, 1990, are also banned from import.

Defense items

Objects that have military use and are considered defense items require a license for permanent export, temporary import and temporary export abroad. Such elements may include software or technology, drawings, design plans, retail software packages, and technical information. If CBP officials suspect that such an item was temporarily imported / imported or exported on an ongoing basis without a license, it may be detained or arrested for violating the International Arms Trade Rules. A complete list of products and rules can be found on the website. Defense Control Office (DDTC).

Goods having both commercial and military uses are considered dual-use goods and may require an export license, depending on the specifications of the goods. These products may include hardware, software, technology, drawings, design plans, and technical information. A complete list of products and rules controlled in accordance with export administration rules can be found on the website. Bureau of Industry and Security.

Dog and cat fur

In the United States, it is illegal to import, export, distribute, transport, manufacture or sell products containing dog or cat hair. As of November 9, 2000, the Law on the Protection of Dogs and Cats provides for the seizure and confiscation of each item containing dog or cat fur. The law provides that any person who violates any of his provisions may be fined up to $ 10 for each separate, deliberate and intentional violation, $ 000 for each individual gross violation, or $ 5000 for each individual violation due to negligence.

Narcotic components

It is forbidden to import narcotic substances and their components into the United States, unless there is written confirmation of a real medical condition (for example, diabetes mellitus). CBP confiscates any illicit drug-related components. The law prohibits the importation, exportation, manufacture, sale or transportation of drug supplies. For violation rely on a fine and imprisonment.


The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) regulates and restricts firearms and ammunition and approves or prohibits all ongoing import operations with weapons and ammunition. If you want to import weapons or ammunition, you must do this through a licensed importer, dealer, or manufacturer. In addition, if the National Firearms Act prohibits the importation of certain weapons, ammunition or similar devices into the country, you cannot import them unless ATF grants you written permission to do so. If a firearm is on the U.S. Ammunition List and is temporarily imported into the United States or temporarily exported, it may also require a Department of State license or the conditions for exemption from licensing.

You do not need ATF permission if you can prove that you are returning with the same firearms or ammunition that you removed from the United States. To avoid problems when returning, you must register your firearm and related equipment by delivering it to any CBP office before leaving the United States.

In many countries, you will not be allowed to enter with firearms, even if you are traveling in transit to your final destination. If you plan to bring your firearms or ammunition to another country, you should contact the embassy of that country to find out about its rules.

Fish and wildlife

Some fish and wildlife species and their products are subject to import and export restrictions and require permits or certificates. CBP recommends contacting the US Fisheries and Wildlife Service prior to departure if you plan to import or export any items on this list:

  • wild birds, land or marine mammals, reptiles, fish, mollusks or invertebrates;
  • any part or product of the foregoing, such as hides, fangs, bones, feathers or eggs; or
  • products or products made from wildlife or fish.

Endangered species of wild animals and products from them, as a rule, cannot be imported or exported. You will need permission from FWS to import almost all types of ivory, unless it is a warthog bone. Contact the agency before purchasing ivory in a foreign country (1-800-358-2104) or go to the website U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services. You can import an ivory item if it is an antique of at least 100 years old and you will need documents supporting this information. If you plan to buy items such as tortoise shell jewelry or items made of whalebone, ivory, leather or fur, call the number above. It is also worth contacting CBP to find out at which points of entry into the USA you can import certain imported products and goods from this section.

Some states have more stringent laws and regulations than federal, and state laws take precedence. Remember that the federal government does not allow the import into the United States of wild animals that have been killed, sold, captured, or taken out of another country if any of these acts violate foreign laws.

Food products (raw and prepared)

You can bring baked goods and some cheeses to the United States. On the aphis website There is a section “Tips for travelers” and a section “Game and hunting trophies”, which provide extensive information on the importation of food and other products into the United States. Many finished products are acceptable. However, wild meat from African wildlife and almost everything that contains meat products such as broth, soup mixes, etc., are not allowed to be imported. As a rule, seasonings, vinegar, oils, packed spices, honey, coffee and tea are allowed. Since rice can often contain insects, it is best to avoid importing it to the United States. Some imported products are also subject to US Food and Drug Administration requirements.

On the subject: What New York airport is doing with seized prohibited items and products. VIDEO

Advance notice of food imports

The Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act requires that foods imported (or offered for import) for commercial use, including those carried by hand, be properly notified to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration - before these goods arrive in the United States. FDA advance notice periods (by mode of transport) are 2 hours by land, 4 hours by rail or air, 8 hours by ship, and prior to "shipping time" by international mail.

Food that was made by a person in his personal place of residence, or food bought from a seller and sent as a personal gift (for non-commercial reasons) to someone in the United States, does not apply to the requirements of the Bioterrorism Act. However, food shipped to an individual in the United States by business is subject to the specific requirements of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. For example, if you go to a grocery store in England and buy a gift basket, and then send it to your friend’s mail or courier service, the package does not meet the requirements of BTA. But if you go to the same store and ask them to send a gift basket for you, the delivery will be subject to BTA requirements, and the seller will need to give prior notice. Failure to notify may result in denial of goods and even fines for either side of the import transaction.

Fruits and vegetables

Permission to import fruits and vegetables depends on a number of factors. For example, consider an apple that you bought at a foreign airport before boarding and did not eat. Whether you are allowed to bring an apple to the United States depends on where you received it and where you are headed after arriving in the United States. The same can be said of Mediterranean tomatoes. Such factors are important because fresh fruits and vegetables can bring pests or plant diseases to the United States.

A good example of the problems that imported fruits and vegetables can cause is the outbreak of the Mediterranean fruit fly in the 1980s. Getting rid of this pest cost the state of California and the federal government about $ 100 million. The reason for the outbreak was the only traveler who brought home one infected fruit. Therefore, it is better not to import fruits and vegetables into the United States. But, if you plan to do this, contact CBP or visit the Permissions section of the website USDA-APHIS.

The penalty for not showing agricultural products at the point of entry in the US is $ 300 for the first time and $ 500 for the second. Therefore, it is important to provide all products to the customs and border guards for verification, so that the agricultural specialist can determine if this product is acceptable.

Meat, Livestock and Poultry

The rules governing the import of meat and meat products are very strict. You cannot import fresh, dried, or canned meat or meat products from most foreign countries into the United States. In addition, you cannot import food that has been cooked with meat.

The rules for importing meat and meat products often change because they are based on outbreaks of disease in different regions of the world. APHIS, which regulates the importation of meat and meat products, as well as fruits and vegetables, invites you to contact them for more information. A list of countries and / or regions with specific livestock or poultry diseases can be found at page.

Game and hunting trophies

Information on this category of imported goods can be found on the website. US Fish and Wildlife Services. Currently, 14 points of entry are intended for processing game and hunting trophies; other items must be approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in order for you to import such products. You may also need permission from the country where the animal was obtained. Regardless of the type, you will need to fill out special forms. Trophies can also be inspected by the CBP for sanitary purposes. General recommendations for importing trophies can be found in the Import Authorization System (IAS) APHIS or call (301) 734-3277.

There are many regulations applied by various agencies that regulate the importation of animals and parts of animals. Failure to do so may result in long delays at the border, so it is important that you contact your state agencies or federal agencies before entering the United States.


Gold coins, medals, and bullion previously banned may be imported into the United States. However, in accordance with the rules regulated by the Office for the Control of Foreign Assets, such items imported or exported from Cuba, Iran, Burma (Myanmar) and most of Sudan are prohibited. Copies of gold coins are prohibited unless they are properly labeled by the issuing country.

Haitian drums

Haitian goat skin drums were previously associated with anthrax cases, and the CDC restricts the importation of drums from animal skin from Haiti if they were not handled in such a way as to make them non-infectious. Travelers should be aware that drums made from the skins of uninhabited animals from Africa can pose a risk, albeit low, of anthrax.


Rule of thumb. When you travel abroad, take the medications you need, no more, no less. Narcotics and some other drugs with a high risk of abuse—Rohypnol, GHB, and Fen-Phen—cannot be brought into the United States and can result in serious fines. If you need medications that contain narcotics or other addictive substances (such as some cough medicines, tranquilizers, sleeping pills, antidepressants, or stimulants), do the following:

  • Tell all the medicines and products to the appropriate CBP staff member.
  • transport such substances in original containers;
  • take only the amount of substances that a person with this condition (for example, chronic pain) usually has for personal use;
  • Carry a prescription or written statement from your doctor that these substances are used under the supervision of a doctor and that they are necessary for your physical well-being while traveling.

US residents entering the United States across international land borders and transporting a legally obtained controlled substance (other than drugs such as marijuana, cocaine, heroin, or LSD) are subject to certain additional requirements. If a US resident wants to administer a controlled substance (other than the listed drugs), but does not have a prescription for the substance, issued by a US licensed practitioner and authorized by the Drug Enforcement Administration to prescribe the medicine, an individual cannot import more than 50 dosage units to the United States. If a US resident has a prescription for a controlled substance issued by a DEA registrant, he can import more than 50 dosage units.

Please note that only drugs that may be prescribed by law in the United States can be imported for personal use. The storage of certain substances may also violate state laws. Typically, the FDA does not allow the import of prescription drugs that were purchased outside the United States.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration forbids the mailing or personally scamming of prescription and over-the-counter drugs and medical devices. These include “cures” for diseases such as cancer, AIDS, arthritis, or multiple sclerosis. Although such drugs or devices may be legal elsewhere if the FDA has not approved them for use in the United States, they cannot legally enter the country and will be confiscated, even if they were obtained by prescription from a foreign doctor.

Further information on travel and drug import can be found at FDA Drugs Page.

Goods from embargoed countries

As a rule, you cannot import any goods from Cuba, Iran, Burma (Myanmar) or most of Sudan. The US Treasury Department of Foreign Assets Control applies economic sanctions against these countries. To import goods from these countries, you first need a special license from the Office for the Control of Foreign Assets. Such licenses are rarely issued.


  • You can bring information and information materials from any of these countries - books, magazines, films, posters, photographs, microfilms, tapes, CDs, recordings, works of art, etc. Blank tapes and blank CDs are not information materials;
  • household and personal items of persons arriving in the United States that were actually used abroad by the importer or other family members arriving from the same foreign household that are not intended for any other person or for sale and which are not otherwise prohibited for import;
  • accompanied baggage intended for personal use;
  • permitted goods from Sudan include gifts worth up to $ 100.

There are some travel restrictions for certain embargoed countries. Study brokerto determine which countries have restrictions before going to them.


If you plan to take your pet abroad or to import it upon return, consult with county, state, and local authorities to find out if their restrictions and animal prohibitions are more stringent than federal requirements. Animal imports are strictly regulated for public health purposes as well as for animal welfare. There are restrictions and prohibitions on the importation of many species into the United States.

Cats are screened at points of entry and may be denied entry to the United States if they have evidence of an infectious disease that can be transmitted to humans. If the cat appears sick, further examination by a licensed veterinarian may be required at the point of entry.

Cats are not required to have evidence of rabies vaccination for entry into the United States. However, some states require vaccination of cats for rabies, so it is recommended that you consult your healthcare provider at your destination.

All domestic cats arriving in the state of Hawaii and on the territory of Guam, even from the mainland of the USA, are subject to local quarantine requirements.

Dogs also should not have signs of diseases that can be transmitted to humans. A general health certificate is not required by the CDC for pets to enter the United States, although some airlines or states may require them. Dogs must have a certificate that they were vaccinated against rabies no later than 30 days before entering the United States. This certificate must indicate the date of vaccination, the expiration date (vaccinations for 1 or 3 years are possible) and the signature of a licensed veterinarian. If the certificate does not have an expiration date, the CBP will accept it if the dog has been vaccinated 12 months or less before arriving in the United States. Dogs from rabies-free countries should not be vaccinated.

These requirements apply equally to service animals, such as guide dogs.

If your pet does not meet CDC guidelines as described above, contact CDC at [email protected]to discuss your specific situation.

Birds can be imported as pets if they meet the APHIS and US fish and wild animal requirements. There is a temporary ban on the import of poultry from countries / regions affected by the highly pathogenic subtype of H5NI avian influenza. For more information visit page.

All poultry of non-American origin imported into the United States (with the exception of Canada) must be quarantined for 30 days in the quarantine facility of the US Department of Agriculture at the owner’s expense. After making a reservation and receiving full payment for all quarantine services, the quarantine institution will issue a USDA import permit (form VS17-129). This authorization must accompany the bird during transport. The U.S. Department of Agriculture defines poultry as those imported for their individual owners and not for resale.

For more information, visit APHIS Animal Health

Other common pets, such as rabbits, ferrets, hamsters, gerbils and guinea pigs, can be imported if they are in good health. Import of reptiles and invertebrates is limited; most species of snails are not allowed. All civet, African rodents and non-human primates are banned from import, except for the purposes of science, education and exhibitions. These species cannot be imported as pets. Contact to CDC for more information.

On the subject: 20 new rules at airports that will affect passengers in 2020

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The CBP will not study the film that you bought abroad and brought to the United States if the officer has no reason to believe that it contains prohibited materials, such as child pornography. You will not pay a fee for film purchased in the United States and exported, whether used or not. But the film that you bought and used abroad is considered a duty free.

Plants and seeds

Some plants, cuttings, seeds that can propagate, unprocessed plant products, and some endangered species are allowed to be imported into the United States, but require import authorization and other documents; some are completely prohibited. Permitted or endangered species must have permits for export from their country of origin.

Each individual plant or plant product, including handicrafts made from straw, must be presented to a CBP official and presented for inspection, regardless of how free they are from pests. For information on importing plants or plant products visit page.


The soil is considered the loose surface of the earth on which plants, trees and shrubs grow. In most cases, the soil consists of disintegrated rock mixed with organic material and soluble salts. Soil is prohibited from being imported into the United States unless accompanied by an import permit. Import must be reported to a CBP employee and allowed to be checked.

Textiles and clothing

In general, there is no limit on how much fabric and clothing you can take with you if it is intended for personal use or as a gift. If not, you may have to pay a duty for the goods. However, unaccompanied personal items (parcels sent by mail) may be limited in amount.

On January 1, 2005, quotas were canceled for all countries that are members of the World Trade Organization (WTO). There are some other countries, such as Vietnam, which are not part of the WTO and have quotas for commercial supplies. These countries may require an additional document called a “visa” to accompany the shipment.

China may have restrictions on certain types of clothing, called “guarantees”. It is recommended that you contact a CBP import specialist in your area or at the point of entry through which you plan to import to determine which countries are subject to quotas and which products from China are subject to restrictions.

Additional documentation may be required for textiles from other countries, such as African countries, to qualify for duty-free import. The same requirement may be made under many free trade agreements between the United States and a foreign government.

Trademark and copyrighted articles

CBP enforces trademark and copyright laws. Articles that violate the federal registered trademark or copyright, as well as copyrights protected by the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, are subject to detention and / or arrest.

Items marked with fake or improper use by a federal registered trademark are subject to seizure and confiscation. Importation of items intended for sale or public distribution with fake marks may result in a fine. Items marked with a mark that are confusingly similar to a registered trademark and gray market products (goods with genuine marks not intended to be imported into the United States for which CBP provided gray market protection) are to be detained and arrested.

However, travelers arriving in the United States may be granted an exception and allowed to import one item of each type, provided that the product is for personal use and is not for sale. This permission may be granted no more than once every 30 days. For example, an arriving person who has three wallets, regardless of whether each trademark violates copyright, or whether all three have the same trademark in violation, is allowed to keep only one wallet. If an item imported in accordance with the exclusion clause for personal use is sold within one year after the date of importation, the item or its value is subject to confiscation.

As for copyright infringement, products that are clearly pirated—that is, products that are not authorized but are substantially similar to copyrighted materials—are subject to confiscation. An exception is articles for the personal non-commercial use of the importer, not intended for sale or distribution.

You may return the original trademarks and copyrighted articles. The most commonly imported copyrighted products include CD software, sound recordings, toys, soft toys, cartoon clothes, video tapes, DVDs, music CDs and books. The most commonly imported trademarked products include bags and accessories, as well as clothing.

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