Requirements & Customs
The U.S. Virgin Islands are duty-free ports,
which means that many goods imported to the
islands are not subject to import taxes and
therefore can be sold at a discount. Shoppers
can take advantage of the duty-free bargains,
but only up to a limit prescribed by their
government. On leaving the U.S.V.I., Americans
must clear Customs. Customs procedures for
Canadian, Australian, British, and other
travelers to the U.S.V.I. are the same as on the
In the British
Virgin Islands (which aren't duty-free ports),
there is a Customs review upon entry.
Customs restrictions on what you can bring to
both the B.V.I. and U.S.V.I. are rather
flexible. Usually you are waved through
Immigration and Customs after only a brief
question or two, especially if you appear to be
You're allowed to
bring in a "reasonable" amount of duty-free
goods for your personal use; the Customs agent
has the right to determine what constitutes a
reasonable amount. (One or two bottles of
perfume -- yes. Three dozen? No.) You can also
bring 2 liters of alcohol and 2 cartons of
cigarettes into both B.V.I. and U.S.V.I., but
very few visitors do that, especially in the
U.S.V.I., where discounted liquor is sold. In
general, it's a question of what you take out of
the Virgin Islands duty-free -- not what you
bring in. Of course, the importation of firearms
or dangerous materials is forbidden.
Bringing It All Home
For U.S. Residents -- The U.S. government
allows citizens a total of $1,200 worth of
duty-free imports from the U.S.V.I. every 30
days. The duty-free exemption for purchases made
in the British Virgin Islands is $600. Purchases
made in the U.S. Virgin Islands over the
duty-free exemption are taxed at a flat rate of
5% (10% in the British Virgin Islands).
traveling together can make joint declarations.
For a husband and wife with two children, the
exemption in the U.S. Virgin Islands is $4,800.
Unsolicited gifts worth up to $200
per day can be sent from the U.S. Virgin Islands to friends and
relatives, and they do not have to be declared as part of your
$1,200 duty-free allowance. Gifts mailed from the British Virgin
Islands cannot exceed $50 per day.
U.S. citizens can bring back 5
liters of liquor duty-free, plus an extra liter of rum (including
Cruzan rum) if one of the bottles is produced in the Virgin Islands.
Goods made on the island are also duty-free, including perfume,
jewelry, clothing, and original paintings; however, if the price of
an item exceeds $25, you must be able to show a certificate of
Be sure to collect receipts for all
purchases in the Virgin Islands, and beware of merchants offering to
give you a false receipt -- he or she might be an informer to U.S.
Customs. Also, keep in mind that any gifts received during your stay
must be declared.
For additional information on what you
can bring back, download the invaluable free pamphlet Know Before
You Go online at www.cbp.gov. (Click on "Travel," then
"Know Before You Go.") Or contact the U.S. Customs & Border
Protection (CBP), 1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington, DC
20229 (tel. 877/287-8867). If you need a refresher on U.S.V.I.
requirements once you're there, call tel. 340/774-4554 in St.
Canadian Residents -- For a clear summary of Canadian rules,
write for the booklet I Declare, issued by the Canada
Border Services Agency (tel. 800/461-9999 in Canada, or
204/983-3500; www.cbsa-asfc.gc.ca). Canada allows its citizens a
C$750 exemption, and you're allowed to bring back duty-free 1 carton
of cigarettes, 1 can of tobacco, 40 imperial ounces of liquor, and
50 cigars. In addition, you're allowed to mail gifts to Canada
valued at less than C$60 a day, provided they're unsolicited and
don't contain alcohol or tobacco (write on the package "Unsolicited
gift, under $60 value"). All valuables should be declared on the
Y-38 form before departure from Canada, including serial numbers of
valuables you already own, such as expensive foreign cameras.
Note: The C$750 exemption can only be used once a year and
only after an absence of 7 days.
For U.K. Residents -- U.K.
citizens returning from a non-E.U. country have a customs allowance
of: 200 cigarettes; 50 cigars; 250 grams of smoking tobacco; 2
liters of still table wine; 1 liter of spirits or strong liqueurs
(over 22% volume); 2 liters of fortified wine, sparkling wine, or
other liqueurs; 60cc (ml) perfume; 250cc (ml) of toilet water; and
£145 worth of all other goods, including gifts and souvenirs. People
under 17 cannot have the tobacco or alcohol allowance. For more
information, contact HM Customs & Excise at tel.
0845/010-9000 (from outside the U.K., 020/8929-0152), or consult
their website at www.hmce.gov.uk.
For Australian Residents --
The duty-free allowance in Australia is A$400 or, for those under
18, A$200. Citizens can bring in 250 cigarettes or 250 grams of
loose tobacco, and 1,125 milliliters of alcohol. If you're returning
with valuables you already own, such as foreign-made cameras, you
should file form B263. A helpful brochure available from Australian
consulates or Customs offices is Know Before You Go. For more
information, call the Australian Customs Service at tel.
1300/363-263, or log on to www.customs.gov.au.
For New Zealand Residents --
The duty-free allowance for New Zealand is NZ$700. Citizens over 17
can bring in 200 cigarettes, 50 cigars, or 250 grams of tobacco (or
a mixture of all three if their combined weight doesn't exceed
250g); plus 4.5 liters of wine and beer, or 1.125 liters of liquor.
New Zealand currency does not carry import or export restrictions.
Fill out a certificate of export, listing the valuables you are
taking out of the country; that way, you can bring them back without
Most questions are answered in a
free pamphlet available at New Zealand consulates and Customs
offices: New Zealand Customs Guide for Travellers, Notice no. 4.
For more information, contact New Zealand Customs Service,
The Customhouse, 17-21 Whitmore St., Box 2218, Wellington (tel.
04/473-6099 or 0800/428-786; www.customs.govt.nz).