CBP: Know Before You Go

At the beginning of the holiday season, U.S. Customs and Border Protection published a “Know Before You Go” travel advisory. The advisory shows some of the direction the agency is moving with regard to inspections. Facial biometrics, the agency’s CBP One application, and COVID vaccination records are featured prominently among the ten tips. The U.S. Government is looking for as many ways as possible to clear individuals ahead of their actual entry, for processing facilitation and security reasons.

The CDC’s vaccination requirements for air travelers can be found here. Guidance for land travelers can be found here. CBP distinguishes between “essential” and “non-essential” travelers, for vaccination requirements. Non-essential travelers may enter at land with proof of vaccine. The government has suggested that the vaccinaton requirement will extend to essential travelers in January 2022, but we shall see.

“Essential travel” includes:

U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents returning to the United States;

Individuals traveling for medical purposes (e.g., to receive medical treatment in the United States);

Individuals traveling to attend educational institutions;

Individuals traveling to work in the United States (e.g., individuals working in the farming or agriculture industry who must travel between the United States and Canada in furtherance of such work);

Individuals traveling for emergency response and public health purposes (e.g., government officials or emergency responders entering the United States to support federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial government efforts to respond to COVID–19 or other emergencies);

Individuals engaged in lawful crossborder trade (e.g., truck drivers supporting the movement of cargo between the United States and Canada);

Individuals engaged in official government travel or diplomatic travel;

Members of the U.S. Armed Forces, and the spouses and children of members of the U.S. Armed Forces, returning to the United States; and

Individuals engaged in military related travel or operations.

I’ve pasted the CBP Travel Advisory below, for ease of reference. We wish all safe travels and all the best in 2022!

Know Before You Go: CBP Recommends Top 10 Travel Tips

Release Date: November 24, 2021

WASHINGTON—As non-essential travel restrictions lift and travelers prepare for the busy holiday season, advance preparation will become even more important. Longer-than-normal wait times and long lines at air and land ports of entry are expected, so travelers are reminded to exercise patience. However, to make their wait times as expedient as possible, CBP is providing 10 travel tips to improve the travel experience.

1. Prepare your documents. Before embarking on a trip to the United States, travelers should be prepared for the following:

  • Possess a Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative document, such as a valid U.S. passport, Trusted Traveler Program card, or Enhanced Tribal Card, ready.
  • Possess proof of an approved COVID-19 vaccination as outlined on the CDC website, and verbally attest to your travel intent and COVID-19 vaccination status.
  • Be prepared to present any other documents requested by the CBP officer.

   2. Facial biometrics. Travelers should be prepared to have their photo taken by a CBP officer during the enhanced inspections process at entry. Known as Simplified Arrival, travelers now have their identity verified through a secure, touchless facial biometrics process that further secures and streamline travel into the United States. The biometric facial comparison process only takes a few seconds and is more than 98 percent accurate while protecting travelers’ privacy. U.S. citizens can voluntarily participate in the facial biometric process. More information on CBP’s use of facial biometrics and the opt out process for U.S. citizens can be found here.

   3. Research your destination. U.S. citizens planning to travel outside of the United States for the holidays should visit www.state.gov/travelers for destination information. Each country has its own COVID-19 and safety restrictions, so researching this information ahead of time will make the travel experience easier.

   4. Download CBP One. Non-citizens traveling into the United States can download the CBP One mobile application to apply for an I-94 up to seven days in advance. CBP One is a mobile application that serves as a single point of entry for travelers and stakeholders to access CBP mobile applications and services. Through a series of intuitive questions, it will guide each type of user to the appropriate services based on their needs. The CBP One app can be downloaded for free from the Apple App Store or Google Play.

   5. Prep your ESTA or I-94. Although having an approved Electronic System for Travel Authorization is not a requirement to enter the United States through a land border, Visa Waiver Program country citizens and nationals must have an active ESTA to use the CBP One I-94 Apply feature. CBP encourages these travelers to obtain an approved ESTA to take advantage of the time savings offered by using CBP One or the CBP I-94 website. With an ESTA, these travelers can apply for their I-94 in advance of arrival and avoid filling out the Form I-94W at a port of entry.

   6. Report your food, cash, and memorabilia. Both U.S. citizens and non-citizens must declare everything they bring into the United States from abroad, even if bought it in a duty-free shop. Some items, such as ivory, tortoiseshell products, and certain foods and plants are prohibited in the United States. Visit the U.S. Department of Agriculture website for more information. Some foods, merchandise and total currency of $10,000 or more can be brought to the United States but must be declared on a U.S. CBP Customs form. Failure to do so can result in stiff financial penalties and loss of your possessions.

  7. Schedule your agriculture inspection. Beginning Nov. 30, travelers can use the CBP One mobile app to provide advanced notification if they require inspection of agriculture and biological products upon arrival at an airport in the United States. Click here for more information. Categories for declaration will include:

Biological materials that may require permits issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

  • Pets, specifically birds and dogs, accompanying travelers in various capacities that carry the potential of introducing foreign animal diseases to the U.S. or other public health concerns
  • Cleaning and disinfection of shoes
  • Hunting trophies

    8. Avoid counterfeits. Be cautious when buying from street vendors or other illegitimate shops while on vacation. These items often support criminal activity, violate intellectual property rights, and can be unsafe for consumers. More information on intellectual property rights can be found here. Note that CBP officers can inspect you and your belongings without a warrant.

    9. Consider duty exemptions. Items brought abroad for personal use or as gifts are eligible for duty exemptions. If you are bringing them back for resale, they are not eligible for duty exemption. More information on duty exemptions can be found here.

   10. Consider your medications. Be aware of traveling with medications. Many foreign-made medications are not approved for United States use and are not permitted in the country. When traveling abroad, bring only the medication you will need, and make sure it is in the original container.

For more information on holiday or other future travel plans, continue to monitor the CBP website.