Moving to the USA

Moving to the USA – restricted and dutiable items

Many clients have doubts about the goods they can include when they’re moving to the USA. As a general rule, you can include normal household goods in your move (clothes, books, kitchenware, ornaments, bed linen, used furniture, toys, files etc.). Below you can find a detailed list of the goods that are restricted, prohibited or dutiable. Note that Customs regulations can change at any time without notice, and that the list is only intented as a guide and for information we hope you’ll find useful when you’re moving to the USA.

Restricted/Dutiable Items for moving to the USA:

  • Plants and seeds (an Import Permit and Plant and Plant Product Declaration Form are required)
  • Soil (an Import Permit is required)
  • Meats and meat byproducts (e.g., bouillon soups)
  • Medications
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Game and hunting trophies
  • Gold
  • Merchandise from embargoed countries (a license from the Office of Foreign Assets Control is required)
  • Certain animal species (contact the destination agent for information)
  • Plants and seeds (an Import Permit and a PPQ Form 505 – Plant and Plant Product Declaration are required) (Hawaii)
  • Biological materials of public health or veterinary importance (an Import Permit is required) (Hawaii)
  • Wood packing materials (materials from China must be fumigated, verified by documentation) (Hawaii)



  • The importation of alcohol is governed by both Federal and state laws. In general the Federal Government allows a reasonable amount of alcohol to be imported in a household goods shipment. If Customs feels the amount is excessive they will require the importer to hire a licensed alcohol importer to file a commercial entry.
  • Domestic importers should comply with the residence state laws which vary from state to state. Some states allow no alcohol imports while others require the importer to obtain a permit and pay a fee and still others allow a reasonable amount. Each state has regulations and must be consulted before making a shipment.
  • A detailed inventory must be made at the time of packing in order for food and drug filings to be performed and proper duties and taxes to be paid on the shipment.
  • For imports into Hawaii as part of the household goods shipment, the shipper is required to apply for a Liquor Permit with the City and County of Honolulu Liquor Commission on Oahu.  The importer must appear in person to apply for the permit and provide the permit for the liquor to clear U.S. Customs.
  • A Permit C – Household Goods Permit form is required for the import of alcohol (Hawaii).

Inherited Goods (Imports to Hawaii)

  • Inherited goods can be imported duty free if the following conditions are met:
    • The items are over 100 years old and can be proven through documentation.
    • Were available for use in the shipper’s place of residence for 1 year prior to entry into the United States.  It does not have to be the year prior to the inheritance (e.g., the items were in the shipper’s parent’s house during the shipper’s childhood).


Food Items

  • The importation of food items is strongly discouraged.
  • Food products also require a detailed inventory for food and drug filings and duty payment.
  • A Food Questionnaire form must be completed if importing food items (Hawaii).


Fish / Wildlife

  • Ivory items, skins, feathers and shells are regulated by Fish and Wildlife.
  • Many of these items require special CITES Permits or may be prohibited from being imported.
  • It is critical for the origin agent to consult with the U.S. agent to determine if an item requires a permit or can be legally imported. The permits cannot be issued once the shipment has left the origin country.
  • The destination agent will need to know the common, scientific names and country of origin to determine if a permit is required.



  • Guns (ammunition should not be shipped as it is a hazardous good) previously owned and shipped from the U.S. can normally be imported if military, government personnel can establish to the satisfaction of Customs that the items were sent from the U.S..
  • The best method is for the owner to register the weapons with Customs prior to export from the U.S. If the importer does not have a registration then a copy of sales receipts, the export OBL, inventory and a Declaration will sometimes satisfy Customs.
  • Weapons purchased overseas are normally required to be imported using a Federal Firearms permit holder but some exceptions do apply to allow non-resident individuals to apply for a permit directly with Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF).
  • The ATF Permit filing should be applied for at least 6 weeks in advance of the arrival of the shipment. The application requires that the Customs broker who will handle the entry be named on the ATF application, so it is important that the application is filed properly
    from the start to avoid delays on arrival.
  • The importer should consult with the U.S. agent when considering shipping any weapons and provide all the facts regarding how and where the weapons were acquired. It should be noted that not all types of weapons can be imported.

Prohibited Items when moving to the USA

  • Tuna
  • Drug paraphernalia
  • Haitian animal hide drums
  • Cuban cigars
  • Blank tapes and CDs from Iran
  • Absinthe
  • Counterfeit items or items inappropriately using a federally registered trademark
  • Products made from dog and cat fur
  • Flavored cigarettes, including cloves

Useful links for moving to the USA

To organise your move: Wisse Moving

The International Association of Movers: IAM

US Department of State:

US Customs and Border Patrol:

Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau:

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