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Cruise Travel

Traveler's Standard Duty-Free Exemption

Your duty-free exemption, also called the personal exemption, is the total value of merchandise you may bring back to the United States without having to pay duty. You may bring back more than your exemption, but you will have to pay duty on it. In most cases, the personal exemption is $800, but there are some exceptions to this rule.

The duty-free exemption applies if:

  • The items are for your personal or household use.
  • They are in your possession when you return to the United States. Items to be sent later may not be included in your $800 duty-free exemption.
  • The items are declared to Customs. If you do not declare all items that you obtained during your trip, you risk forfeiting them.
  • You are returning from an overseas stay of at least 48 hours.
  • You have not used your exemption, or any part of it, in the past 30 days. If you use part of your exemption you must wait another 30 days before you are allowed another $800 exemption.
  • The items are not prohibited or restricted.

Family members who live in the same home and return together to the United States may combine their standard personal exemptions. Children and infants are allowed the same exemption as adults, except for alcoholic beverages and tobacco products. Only 1 liter of alcohol and 200 cigarettes or 100 cigars may be included in this exemption. Items purchased in "Duty Free" shops are subject to duty if the value of your total purchases exceeds $800.

Double Your Duty-Free Allowance
If your cruise ship returns directly or indirectly from a U.S. insular possession (on Caribbean cruises that would be one of the U.S. Virgin Islands), you are allowed a $1,600 duty-free exemption.

If you travel to a U.S. Virgin Island and to one or more of the countries in the Caribbean Basin or Andean countries listed on the U.S. Customs web site during your Caribbean cruise, you may bring back $1,600 worth of items without paying duty, but only $800 worth of these items may come from the Caribbean Basin or Andean country/countries. Any amount beyond $800 will be dutiable unless you acquired it in one of the insular possessions. For example, if you were to travel to the U.S. Virgin Islands and Jamaica, you would be allowed to bring back $1,600 worth of merchandise duty free, as long as only $800 worth was acquired in Jamaica.

Also, you may include 1,000 cigarettes as part of the $1600 exemption, but at least 800 of them must have been acquired in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Only 200 cigarettes may have been acquired elsewhere. Similarly, you may include five liters of alcoholic beverages in your duty-free exemption, but one of them must be a product of the U.S. Virgin Island (such as Cruzan Rum and Southern Comfort). Four liters may be products of other countries.

For more information on duty-free exemptions, please read U.S. Customs "Know Before You Go" brochure. This publication is also available on the U.S. Customs Service web site.


Shopping on Your Cruise Vacation, It's Your Duty To Shop, But It Won't Be Free

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