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U.S. Customs - Registering Equipment Taken Abroad - CF-4457

John McCormack , Apr 02, 1998; 10:49 a.m.

I will be departing Miami on a cruise on 4/5/98 and assume I will need to register my camera equipment with the Customs Service so I don't have problem upon reentry to the US. I don't have receipts for most of the stuff. Customs doesn't provide the form online or by fax.

Does anyone know if this can be done at the docks or at the cruise line's reception area when departing? Would appreciate any info. or experiences. Thanks.


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Peter Bick , Apr 02, 1998; 11:39 a.m.

The easiest way to do this is to go to any local customs office with all the equipment you intend to register (whether you take it on this trip or not). You will fill out a form indicating the brand, model and serial number if available (sometimes hard to find). An officer will then check your equipment against the list (some or all depending on their mood) and stamp the form. You do not need a sales receipt for any of the equipment. This form is what you take with you to show customs officials on re-entry that you owned the equipment before you left. I have never been asked to provide it but there is always a first time and you sure do not want to pay tax or duty on the stuff. I have no experience on the dock's ( wish I did). A little planning will reduce your stress and you will get better service if you do not rush the customs agent. Good luck

Russell Brooks , Apr 02, 1998; 12:09 p.m.

I did this for my gear. The way it works is you are not put into a database anywhere, you just get a stamped piece of paper where you list your gear. You only have to do this once in the lifetime of your gear as long as you don't lose the paper and take it with you. Also when you pay customs duty at the airport on cameras bought abroad you get a receipt but nowhere does it say what goods the duty was paid for, so you must then "register" the camera at the customs office as well to prove that it is now considered legally in the US. Otherwise if they pull you over next time you might have to pay again.

John Lehman , Apr 02, 1998; 02:59 p.m.

For what it's worth, in 30 years of regular travel abroad with cameras (Rolleis, Nikons, etc.), I have never been asked for proof of US purchase on any of my cameras. I filled out the appropriate forms the first time I went overseas in 1969, but have not bothered since. Your mileage may vary of course.

Don Baccus , Apr 02, 1998; 05:43 p.m.

Well, John Lehman's right when he says "your milage may vary". I HAVE been hassled by customs bringing camera gear back in when I hadn't bothered getting the stamped form before leaving the country.

It was back when I used to travel to Europe once or twice a year for 3-4 weeks on business, and owned a Minolta MD system. My gear was obviously used, so I didn't bother registering.

I got nailed on my way back in through Seattle customs by a rabidly overeager young probably newly out of "hassle 'em" school customs inspector. She and I went at it for about 1/2 hour. I started politely, but after a 10 hour flight lost my polite demeanor when she continued to threaten confiscate the gear if I chose not to pay duty. In that case, I'd have to come up with proof of purchase and reclaim the stuff in person (I live in Portland, OR).

After a long and loud argument, she gave me the final threat, "I'M GOING TO MAKE YOU TALK TO MY SUPERVISOR!!!!". So she got the kindly old black gent she worked for, who took my bags and I off to the side. Told me to let him see the camera stuff, looked at me, and said, "you're not stupid enough to buy Japanese camera gear in Germany, are you?". And I said, naw, of course not. We both laughed, I went on my way.

Didn't even miss my connection.

However, before leaving the next time I went to the customs office at my airport here in Portland and did the paperwork.

I highly recommend you take care of this before going home. On a later trip, with some different gear, I decided to wait until I got to Seattle, where I had a 2-hour layover, to get the certificate. Turned out the only customs officers on duty were running passport control because there were no incoming flights! Fortunately, I eventually found a customs officer who opened the office and did the deed for me, and of course if I'd left without it I probably wouldn't've been hassled (the incident I mention was the only time I was hassled in dozens of entries).

Missing a connection after a long overseas flight is not fun and getting the certificate is easy. so just do it...

James -- , Apr 03, 1998; 01:40 a.m.

Don, Why was it necessary to mention the race of the womans surervisor?...Just curious. "So she got the kindly old black gent she worked for, who took my bags and I off to the side."

Sean Hester , Apr 03, 1998; 11:59 a.m.

it used to be that good story teller was praised for including all the details. the way the light shines off his slightly curly brown hair, the way the trickling of the creek brought back memories of the day he cought a shiny green frog when he was five.

it seems odd to me that someone would purposefully leaving out the race of a person, while describing in fine detail lots of other things. "kindly, old" for the supervisor. "rabidly overeager young probably newly out of "hassle 'em" school"" for the other woman.

despite current PC trends, the race of a person is something that adds to the complete description of a person. and i like to see it in a good story.

Henry Stanley , Apr 03, 1998; 02:31 p.m.

Well said! ..I just signed back on to include the exact same thought. Lots of us are not only photographers, but artists and writers -- in the business of adding or illuminating character and situations. What a cold world it is becoming. PC: Give me a break.

John McCormack , Apr 14, 1998; 09:25 a.m.

Okay, I'm back from vacation and here's the outcome of this affair. I finally contacted a helpful Customs Service Officer, who assured me prior to departure that camera/video equipment taken abroad for personal use would rarely be questioned ("we know you can buy that stuff cheaper in Brooklyn anway"), but that Customs would be happy to register the gear to avoid any problems. The 4457 form is not available online or by fax, by the way.

I typed up a reasonable facsimile of the the 4457 and included all of my equipment, even that which I was not planning to take on this trip. When I arrived at Miami International airport, I went to the Customs window (not easy to find on the lower level), knocked on the "ticket window" enclosure and asked to register my gear using my inventory. I was asked to fill out their form with my name and address and write "see attached inventory" on the form. They stapled my list to their form, signed and stamped it, and I was on my way in two minutes. They didn't compare my list to the equipment I had with me.

Upon entering the country from abroad, no one asked to see any of my equipment or the form, but at least I have it for the future. If you were to go to Tokyo, Hong Kong, Taipei, KL, or Singapore you might well be questioned upon return, so much equipment originates there.

John Lehman , Apr 14, 1998; 02:44 p.m.

With regard to the "Hongkong, Tokyo, Taipei ..." mentioned above, this may be true, but in several dozen trips back from these three, no one has ever asked about my cameras. But then, I may not fit the profile (and if they did ask, my cameras are probably older than most of the customs officers :->)

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