Stupid? Customs Question

This may sound dumb, but how do Customs know whether the jewelry you might be wearing is from the current cruise or a previous one. I don't wear much jewelry when traveling anyway BUT how do they know or is it really the "honor system"?

11 Answers

The only stupid question is the one you do not ask :)

Short answer is, they do not know. It is honor system that people will declare what they purchase. It is not reasonable for them to expect people to carry past purchase receipts so basically they go with what you put on the form.

Technically they have the right to ask for proof of purchase. I'm pretty sure if they saw a bright new Rolex on my wrist, they would question me. Many people buy Movados in the islands. We did years ago. Now, keep in mind, they are what are considered " grey market " watches. That is, it's a genuine Movado, but some of the parts are plastic. Not metal. And some parts are machine made, not hand tooled. That's how they can keep prices so low. But they keep good time. At least they did. We haven't worn them in years. We declared them, but no one cared.

On our last cruise we purchased a couple of Phillip Stein watches. The agent glanced at the form, didn't say a word. Personally, I think the customs declaration is a waste of time. Artwork is exempt. So who's to say a high end piece of jewelry isn't art ?

CBP is more interested in catching the bad guys not what you bought unless its worth a lot of money or to many of the same items which could be sold into commerce. Remember CBP protects you and the interests of tbe US. Part of that interest is protecting domestic business for anti dumping law. If you are a true American and care. Then be honest.

Generally, Customs is looking for commercial importation and piracy (brand knock-offs) for commercial purposes.

I have heard the ship will turn in a list of items you bought duty free on board to customs, but I am not sure that is true.

However, Customs can request the list from the ship if they have a need to. Also, they can question your companions and search your luggage for receipts at their discretion.

It is a whole lot easier (and less expensive) to be honest in your declarations.

Customs will randomly search luggage and if they find receipts they get compared to the declaration form. Many merchants ask what ship you are on when you make a purchase and some even ask your stateroom number; it should be for their marketing but the information is out there…

If your wearing a ton of bling they may question you.....but I have worn a new watch and not been questioned.

The questions they are trained to asked, can result in information you may not want to give. It's kinda like to question they ask you on the lie detector " Have you ever done anything you feel guilty about?" Anyone over 30 can say yes to that., So they watch you carefully, Then BAM... they got you.

I don't bring much back and Monique keeps all the receipts with notes on the back. Every time we have come back into Canada, we lay that out and we go straight through.

They like to stare a lot while they do their interrogation and I like to stare back.


One time we declared nothing. The custom agent was surprised and said something like "you mean to say you were on a 7 day cruise and didn't even but a t-shirt?" We explained it was our 22th cruise and we had visited these ports before and the only thing we purchased were drinks at the bar. He smiled, and agreed that was not only possible but likely, and waved us on.

They are also looking to see if any item or items purchased by you is taxable and they are there to collect it from you. And they may even do it with a smile. Wink

Read many OPW angry at Carnival because they purchased high dollar jewery and more than the allowable alcohol and got taxed on it.


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