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Entry Requirements & Customs

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 U.S. mainland.

 

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 a vacationer.

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).

Family members 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 origin.

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. Thomas.

For 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 paying duty.

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).


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