How to Fill Out Custom Forms

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Re-entering the U.S. after living abroad means going through Customs with a lot of items to declare.
Re-entering the U.S. after living abroad means going through Customs with a lot of items to declare. (Image: airport image by Svetlana Kashkina from Fotolia.com)

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection Service has hundreds of forms. Most forms address incoming goods of private citizens, companies, visitors, immigrants and military personnel. Although filling out some forms seems daunting, each includes detailed instructions. All forms and instructions also are available online. Despite the length of some forms, most are fairly easy to complete. Questions pertain to your personal informations. The United States Postal Service also utilizes two simple Customs forms that you need to complete when sending mail or packages to foreign countries.

Things You'll Need

  • ID
  • Fees
  • Passport

USPS Customs

Obtain either Form 2976 or 2976-A, if you’re sending mail to a foreign country. Forms are available at any post office. You also may complete the form online (see reference 2 below). Form 2976 is intended for packages weighing between one pound and four pounds. Form 2976-A is used for mail weighing more than four pounds. International mail is subject to a customs inspection in the country to which it being sent. Travelers must declare package contents and assign it a monetary value when filling out the Customs form. There also are exceptions for mail weighing less than one pound. .

Complete the form by following the accompanying instructions. Fill in required boxes for your signature, the date you are filling out the form, a description and number of enclosed items, plus their weight and dollar values. You also must provide your name and address and that of your recipient.

Take your package or envelope and the accompanying form to any USPS office. Ask for assistance from postal service employees if you have any questions. Complete the form and pay the required mailing fees.

Household Goods

Obtain Form 3299 (Declaration for Free Entry of Unaccompanied Articles) if you are reentering the country after a lengthy stay abroad. If so, you are required to declare any household goods, such as furniture, that you are bringing with you. This a more complicated, detailed form than a simple USPS form, but it is used by millions of businesspeople and military personnel stationed abroad. Foreign nationals relocating to the U.S. also must complete Form 3299. The form is available from post offices, libraries and other online sites (see reference 3).

Complete part one of the form. This is for required personal information: your name as it appears on your passport, date of birth, arrival date, U.S. address (or a contact address and telephone number), the airport at which you will clear Customs, travel information and names of family members (you are the “importer”).

Fill out Part II. Check the boxes, if they apply, about your former and current residency status. Also check the boxes that apply to the household goods you are bringing back.

Skip part III unless you are an evacuee or have been traveling outside the United States performing official government business.

Check your list of items in Part IV. This is simply a list of your entering household goods and a few questions. You may have to list and describe some recently purchased foreign items (such as alcohol). These items may be subject to duty taxes (see reference 4).

Leave Parts V and VII blank. These sections will be completed by Customs officials. Place your signature and the date in Part VI.

Tips & Warnings

  • Form 3299 is typical of many U.S. Customs forms in that it appears daunting to complete. Upon closer examination, it should be self-explanatory and straightforward, however.
  • Be prepared to provide personal identification when using Forms 2976 or 2976-A, depending on the package.

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