Things that U.S. photographers who travel internationally need to know…
If you’re in the USA and are planning to go make photographs in another country, you may, no make that really, want to know about Form 4457 — Certificate of Registration for Personal Effects Taken Abroad.
This document allows you to get a record proving that you owned the camera gear before you left the U.S. That way when you return, some over-zealous customs agent doesn’t try to ding you for a duty when you re-enter the country.
I have friends who have been forced to pay hundreds of dollars in duties for gear they had owned for as long as three years. They didn’t fill out this form and therefore, they had no case when Customs & Border Patrol asked for a duty.
The process of filling out the form is simple. Anything with a serial number can be listed on the form.
You must physically take the equipment to the nearest Port of Entry office and a CBP Officer will record the description of the item and its serial number on a Certificate of Registration for Personal Effects Taken Abroad. The Border Patrol or Customs agent will endorse or sign the document and hand it back to you. If you are questioned about the origin of your gear when you return, you present the form and you are good to go without having to pay any duty. As long as the Certificate of Registration is for the same equipment, it can be used more than once. The description of the item(s) and serial number(s) must match. The intent is to prove the item was in the U.S. prior to your travels and not purchased while you were in fore.
You can find the nearest Port of Entry on the CBP website – https://www.cbp.gov/contact/ports.
You can download a copy of the form here – https://www.cbp.gov/sites/default/files/assets/documents/2017-Jun/CBP%20Form%204457_0.pdf
You may want to use this form to register your cell phone, computer or other expensive electronics and if you have nice jewelry — such as a nice watch, as long as it has a serial number on it, you can use this form for that purpose too.
It is not a requirement to fill out Form 4457. You can try just carrying receipts. Or you can gamble that you simply won’t be questioned. I can guarantee you that someone will leave a comment on this story saying they travel often and have never been stopped. Good for them. If you are like me, you’re thinking you aren’t that lucky. Fill out the form(s) and make things easy on yourself. It’s free of charge, and all it will cost you is a little bit of your time.
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