Importing Prohibited and Restricted

Before packing day, get in touch with the American embassy or U.S. Customs office that is closest to you to talk about forbidden items. In addition to the limits imposed on things like alcohol, drugs, plants, animals, and weapons and ammunition, there are other less obvious things that are subject to severe enforcement of U.S. laws.

International Moving and Prohibited Items

According to the U.S. Customs Service, items prohibited from entry into the United States include "absinthe, liquor-filled candy, lottery tickets, narcotics, and dangerous drugs, obscene articles and publications, seditious and treasonable materials, hazardous articles (e.g. fireworks, dangerous toys, toxic or poisonous substances), and products made by convicts or forced labor and switchblade knives". A person attempting to import any prohibited item into the United States will be subject to a personal penalty, and the item will be seized.

Articles subject to restrictions include:

Biological Materials

A permit is needed to bring in any kind of organism that will be used for education or research.

Latin American Cultural Property

Some Latin American countries require that an export certificate accompany any pre-Colombian artifacts shipped directly or indirectly to the United States. The U.S. Customs Service enforces this requirement.

"Pirated" copies of copyrighted books

This restriction includes any unauthorized copies of American books. The practice of producing photo-offset copies and selling the books at enormously reduced rates is common in the Far East If the price of a book seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Merchandise originating in North Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Cuba

A Treasury license issued under the Foreign Assets Control Regulations is required in order to import goods from any of the above mentioned countries. Questions Concerns regarding merchandise control should be addressed to the Office of Foreign Assets Control. Department of the Treasury, Washington, D.C. 20220, U.S.A.


You must file a form 4790 with U.S. Customs if you transport or send into or out of the country more than $10,000 in U.S. or foreign coins, currency, traveler's checks, money orders, negotiables or investment securities. A customs form 4790 must also be filed if you receive more than $10,000 while in the United States.

Persian Rugs

Unless you can prove it was purchased in the United States, the rug could be seized. Contact a U.S. Customs office before including a rug in your shipment.

Trademarked Articles

In the United States, the owner of a registered trademark may record that mark with the U.S. Customs Service. Therefore, the U.S. Customs Service is authorized to identify imitation products represented by a projected trademark. The items most frequently identified as having false trademarks are perfume, jewelry (including watches), cameras, tape recorders and musical instruments. Persons entering the United States are usually permitted to bring only one such item into the country every 30 days. The U.S. Customs Service booklet #508, "Trademark Information for Travelers" covers trademark protection in detail.

Products from Endangered Species

The United States has many regulations governing the importation of products made from parts of animals deemed to be endangered. Although items made from these animals may be on sale in many countries, these same items may not be permitted importation into another country. Therefore, it is important to determine any guidelines governing the importation of endangered wildlife products well in advance of your departure. Keep in mind that 100 countries, including the United States, have signed CITES, a comprehensive wildlife treaty regulating the import or export of endangered plant or animal species.

Here are some of the goods prohibited from entering the United States; products from most crocodile skins, lizard products from Brazil, Paraguay and some Asian countries most snakeskin products from Latin America and Asia; and all sea turtle products including tortoiseshell combs, jewelry, leather and creams and cosmetics made from turtle oil.

For more information on the importation of wildlife products, contact:

Division of Law Enforcement U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
P.O. Box 28006
Washington, D.C. 20005, U.S.A.

TRAFFIC (U.S.A.) World Wildlife Fund
1250 24th Street N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20037, U.S.A.