Getting through US Customs

Yesterday when I went through the US Customs upon my reentry to the US, I was asked to go for baggage inspection. I wasn’t surprised.

As soon as I handed in my passport and the agent verified it in the computer, my passport was handed over to another agent standing by the window who then told me: "After you get the luggage, follow the blue line for inspection."

I knew I was on the blacklist for a reason.

Five years ago when I returned from my last trip to China, I had two small bags of snack made from beef and wrapped in candy paper in my suitcase that my mother bought for kids. I didn’t think it as a meat product and is prohibited and didn’t declare it.

After I got my baggage I was done and could leave. But I was waiting for someone to go through the customs who didn’t know English and might need some help.

I waited and waited near the inspection area. I probably became suspicious and was called by an inspector to go over and open my suitcases.

I was fined for failing to declare the meat product and had to pay $100 for the mistake.

It was during the Chinese Moon Festival season. I saw boxes and boxes of Chinese Moon cakes in and outside of the trash canes. These were nice and expensive products, but they are prohibited because they contain eggs.

I learned a lesson.

This time I knew better. I didn’t bring fresh fruits and vegetables, plant and meat products, eggs, seeds and soil. They are restricted because they may carry animal and plant pests and diseases.

On the customs form I wrote down all food related items I have in details: candies, cookies, crackers, dried fruits, dried shrimps and processed fish.

Most of my suitcases were opened for inspection. Everything passed.

I asked the inspector whether I will be inspected ever time I go through the customs. She said: "You will be fine if you keep doing what you are doing."

To prevent any trouble I had experienced, don’t bring anything that is not allowed and declare food if you have it and write down what you have.

Here is the listing of Prohibited and Restricted Items from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website.
 

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