Traveling abroad doesn’t have to be confusing if you know the right things before you go. This section provides answers to many common questions from international travelers about planning for your trip, returning home and navigating passenger processing.
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Preparing for your Trip
Get a passport for overseas travel. We also recommend you make a copy of your passport and put it in a separate place. Carry your passport – do not pack it in your checked luggage. You must present it to the Customs and Border Protection officer upon arrival in the United States.
Planning travel in the Western Hemisphere? Learn about what types of identification is required for travel in the Western Hemisphere (Canada, Mexico, Caribbean, Central and South America). There are six types of acceptable documents for crossing US borders.
Find out if you need to get a visa. United States citizens don’t need a U.S. visa for travel, but when planning travel abroad may need a visa issued by the embassy of the country they wish to visit. If you have a visa, we recommend you make a copy and put it in a separate place. Carry your visa with you — do not pack it in your checked luggage.
All children, including infants, must have their own passport or Trusted Traveler Program document for U.S. entry. Carry documents for traveling with minor children.
- If you are escorting a minor child without the parents, have a letter from both parents indicating that you have permission to travel with the minor.
- If the child is accompanied by only one parent, the parent should have a note from the child’s other parent. For example, “I acknowledge that my wife/ husband is traveling out of the country with my son/ daughter. He/She/ has my permission to do so.”
- If a single parent has sole custody, a copy of the court custody document can replace a letter from the other parent.
If bringing a dog, have a health certificate and proof of rabies vaccinations from a veterinarian in your country of residence. Prior to your trip, check with your airline for its rules on transporting animals – many airlines require a health certificate.
Find out what is prohibited or restricted before you pack for your return trip. Products that would injure community health, public safety and domestic plant and animal life are restricted from entering the United States and are subject to seizure by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency .
Other considerations for packing:
- Carry only medication needed for the trip in its original container. Do not pack it.
- Carry only the jewelry needed for the trip. Do not pack it.
Find out what you can bring on an airplane. Plan ahead and avoid the potential of additional screening, be sure to check out the prohibited items list below and pack accordingly.
Navigating Passenger Processing
Plan your travel. When planning connecting flights to or from the United States, allow at least two hours between flights. CBP processing must be completed at your first port of entry, so allow adequate time.
If entering the United States by air or sea, you will receive en route a CBP Declaration Form 6059B and, if you are not from a Visa Waiver Program country, a CBP Form I-94 Arrival/Departure Record. Complete all sections of the forms.
On your U.S. arrival, go to the primary CBP passport control area. The CBP officer will ask to see all of your travel documents and the completed CBP forms. The officer may refer you for a secondary screening.
Proceed to baggage claim to pick up luggage. Go to the CBP customs inspection checkpoint and show your declaration to the CBP officer, who may examine your bags and refer you for a secondary inspection.
Pay duty, if applicable.
Many of these tips are summarized in these helpful print-ready and web publications available for download or online viewing: