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Information on U.S. Customs

  1. Medicines/narcotics Concerta/Ritalin
  2. Children traveling without parents
  3. Food and agricultural products
    A. Allowed food products
    B. Forbidden food products
    C. Alcoholic beverages
    D. Tobacco
    E. Bulbs
  4. Pets
  5. My child got his/her own passport a couple of years ago, when he/she was a baby. Now he/she looks completely different.  Do we need to apply for a new passport even though it is still valid? 
  6. Money
  7. Travelers with disabilities and medical conditions
  8. Ashes of deceased people
  9. Suitcases
  10. Firearms and ammunition
  11. Tax return
  12. Gifts sent by mail
  13. Motor vehicles
  14. Prohibited Items


1. Medicines/Narcotics

Narcotics and dangerous drugs are prohibited entry. There are severe civil and/or criminal penalties if imported. Concerta and Ritalin are approved medicines. Declare all medications to Customs when entering the United States.

Not all medicines are approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or allowed into the United States. 
More information, including a list of approved medicines, can be found in the FDA Orange Book.

A traveler requiring prescribed medicines (e.g. cough medicine, diuretics, heart drugs, tranquilizers, sleeping pills, antidepressants, stimulants, diabetes medication etc.) should:

- Have all drugs, medicines, and similar products properly identified

- Carry only such quantity as would normally be used by an individual having the health problem requiring the drugs or medicines in your possession.

- Have either a current prescription or written statement in English from your personal physician that the medicine is being used under a doctor's direction and that it is necessary for your physical well-being while traveling. The doctor’s note should state the name and the exact quantity of the medicine you are bringing into the U.S.

- Carry all medication in your hand luggage (including needles for diabetics) also in case of loss of luggage.
It is recommended to ask for a medical passport from your pharmacy/physician.

Medication can be sent by post if the prescription or doctor's letter is included. A notation should be placed on the outside of the parcel stating, for example, "DOCTOR'S LETTER ATTACHED."

3. Food and Agricultural Products

Declare all agricultural products when entering the U.S.

Food Products which can be taken into the U.S.: 

- Stroopwafels and other kinds of baked goods, such as breads, cookies, cakes and bakery items

- Oliebollen

- Hagelslag (chocolate sprinkles)

- Drop (liquorice)

- Pindakaas (Dutch peanut butter)

- Cheese (only vacuum packed and pasteurized, no cheeses made of raw milk). Most Dutch cheeses like Gouda, Edam and Leerdam are allowed.

- Coffee

- Powdered baby formula

- Gluten-free food

-  Fish

- Sweets and chocolate

Food Products which cannot be taken into the U.S.:

- Meat and meat products (also products containing meat, such as soups)

- Fresh fruits or vegetables

- Absinth

- Sweets filled with alcohol

Alcoholic Beverages

Nonresidents who are at least 21 years old may bring in, free of duty and internal revenue tax, up to one liter of alcoholic beverage - beer, jenever, Beerenburg, kruidenlikeur, advocaat, wine, liquor - for personal use. Quantities above the one-liter limitation are subject to duty and internal revenue tax.

In addition to U.S. federal laws, the traveler must also meet state alcoholic beverage laws which may be more restrictive. If the state in which you arrive permits less liquor than you have legally brought into the United States, that State's laws apply to your importation of alcoholic beverages.

The shipment of alcoholic beverages by mail is prohibited by United States postal laws.


You are permitted to bring 100 cigars or 200 cigarettes (one carton) into the U.S. duty free. Cuban cigars are prohibited.

Bulbs (bloembollen)

Bringing bulbs to the U.S.? Look for an official white sticker on the package that says:

  • "To the Plant Protection Service of the United States and Canada"
  • The botanical name
  • The date of issuance of the sticker

If the sticker is not there, the bulbs will be seized. Call Port Operations, Riverdale, Maryland at 001-301-734-8295, for more information.

4. Pets

Always check with your airline before departure.

Cats must be free of evidence of disease communicable to man when examined at the port of entry. If the animal is not in apparent good health, further examination by a licensed veterinarian may be required at the owner's expense.

Dogs must be free of evidence of diseases communicable to man and must be vaccinated against rabies at least 30 days prior to arrival. (This requirement does not apply to puppies less than three months of age; puppies up to three months must be confined at the owner's expense, then immunized and confined for an additional 30 days.)

A valid rabies vaccination certificate must accompany the animal. This certificate should identify the animal, the dates of vaccination and expiration, and bear the signature of a licensed veterinarian. If no expiration date is specified, the certificate is acceptable if the date of vaccination is no more than 12 months prior to arrival in the United States.  At the same time, pick up a "gezondheidsverklaring" from your veterinarian.

U.S. Customs has published a useful website called "Bringing an Animal into the United States". Different rules may apply to Hawaii and Guam.

Further information on importing pets can be found at:

5. My child got his/her own passport a couple of years ago, when he/she was a baby. Now he/she looks completely different.  Do we need to apply for a new passport even though it is still valid? 

Dutch (and also American) passports are valid for five years and do not become invalid just because the passport holder grows older. So, no, a new passport is not required.

6. Money

There is no limit on the total amount of monetary instruments (U.S. or foreign coin, travelers check, money orders and securities etc.), that may be brought into or taken out of the United States.

However, if you transport or cause to be transported (including by mail or other means), more than $10,000 in monetary instruments on any occasion into or out of the United States, or if you receive more than that amount, you must file FinCen Form 105 (PDF 222 KB) (formerly Customs Form 4790) with U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

8. Ashes of Deceased People

You can legally transport ashes of a deceased person into the U.S., if you meet the following conditions:

- The ashes should be transported in a non-metallic urn

- One should bring an International Death Certificate

- One should bring an International Cremation Certificate

- The ashes should be carried with your hand luggage

The urn can be subject to inspection, and it is recommended to come early to the airport.

9. Suitcases

Suitcases should be transported unlocked. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) opens suitcases at random. Possible costs of breaking open the suitcases are for the owner. Suitcases with approved locks may be locked. There is a list of approved locks on the TSA website.

Schiphol Airport has a special website regarding luggage & hand-luggage.

10. Fireams and Ammunition

It is prohibited for nonimmigrant aliens to import firearms and ammunition.

However, if your travel to the U.S. is primarily for the purpose of hunting or lawful sporting activities, your firearms and ammunition may be brought into the United States, provided you take the firearms and any remaining unfired ammunition out of the United States when you depart.

For complete information and to obtain the necessary permits to import firearms, contact the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, Department of the Treasury, Firearms and Explosives Import Branch.

11. Tax Return: can I get a refund of the tax paid on merchandise and services purchased in the United States?

The United States does not have a VAT (BTW). More on refund of sales tax...

12. What is the duty-free allowance for sending gifts?

Gifts Sent By Mail

Persons in the U.S. may receive, free of duty, a gift mailed from a foreign country if the shipment does not exceed $100 based upon its retail value, You may send as many gifts as you wish, but the U.S. addressee will be required to pay duty if the gift parcels received in one day total more than $100. Gifts that exceed these amounts will be subject to customs duty based on the entire value. There is no $100 deduction.

Packages should be marked with the following clearly written on the outside wrapping:

- "Unsolicited Gift"

- The name of the donor

- Nature of the gift

- Fair retail value

- Alcoholic beverages, cigars, cigarettes, and perfumes containing alcohol may not be included within this gift privilege.

Gifts intended for more than one person may be consolidated in the same package provided they are individually wrapped and labeled with the name of the recipient.

Be sure that the outer wrapping of the package is marked:

- “Unsolicited Gift”

- “Consolidated Gift”

- The name of the donor

- Nature of the gift

- Its fair retail value

- Names of the recipients listed and the value of each gift  

This will facilitate Customs clearance of your package.

13. Motor Vehicles

You may temporarily import an automobile, trailer, airplane, motorcycle, boat, or similar vehicle for the transportation of yourself, your family, and your guests.

Motor vehicles and motor vehicles equipment for personal use may be imported for a period of one year or less. The vehicle must be imported in connection with your arrival and be owned by you or on order prior to your departure.

A vehicle not complying with all applicable Federal laws (Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of Transportation (DOT)) cannot be sold in the United States. 
14. Prohibited Items

Some items, which are permitted in the Netherlands, are not allowed in the U.S. and will be confiscated by Customs. Such items include ivory ornaments, sealskin and certain other coats, certain exotic animals, tortoiseshell and feathers. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection has a list of Prohibited and Restricted Items on their website. 

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