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Law Office of Joseph C. Grasmick --Business Immigration--
Representing Canadian Businesses and Professionals for over 15 years

Moving Household Goods and Automobiles from Canada to the U.S.-Customs Rules for Your Canadian Employee

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Introduction to This Web Page

Helping an employee move the family household goods is often a key function of international human resource managers. (A complete list of all of the other functions is also at this Web site.) This Web page will allow you to answer your Canadian employee's questions. You can place this page on your Hotlist/Bookmarks to easily retrieve the information on short notice. (Find answers to other immigration-related questions at our FAQ-Frequently Asked Questions. You can also refer to the Canada- U.S. Business Immigration Handbook or contact our office, for business immigration questions.)

You can use our office to outsource your company's immigration functions. This frees you up for other areas in which you excell. When handling the physical move, we suggest you similarly work through a moving company with a high volume of Canada-U.S. experience. This moving company will handle the complicated U.S. Customs rules and forms. (See Joseph C. Grasmick's Rolodex® for names and addresses of experts in other aspects of an employee transfer.)

Atlas Van Lines is one such moving company.

We share our Web site with one of the most experienced Canada/U.S. agents of that company: Lincoln Moving and Storage. Like us, Lincoln operates at one of the busiest Canada/U.S. Ports of Entry---the Peace Bridge. You may direct all of your questions to Lincoln's address below. Please let Lincoln know that you were sent to them from our Web site.

The information on this Web page is provided by:

William T. Palisano
Vice President - Sales
Lincoln Moving and Storage of Buffalo, Inc., an Atlas Van Lines Agent
155 Great Arrow Avenue
Buffalo, NY 14207
Voice: 1.716.874.1380
Toll free: 1.800.344.3915
Fax: 716.874.1583

Atlas Van Lines International is credited with the interpretation of the regulations provided.

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All shipments of household goods and personal effects entering the United States, whether the effects of a Returning U.S. Resident or Non-Residents entering the United States, must be entered utilizing Treasury Department Form No. 3299 (Declaration for Free Entry of Articles Not Accompanying a Resident or Non-Resident.) In addition, a supplemental declaration providing additional information relative to the owner of the property is also required.

As to the definition of Used Household Goods and Personal Effects, the U.S. Government provides the following:

Household Effects and Tools of Trade or Occupation which you take out of the United States are duty free at the time you return if properly declared and entered.

All furniture, carpets, paintings, tableware, linens, and similar household furnishings acquired abroad may be imported free of duty, if:

  • They are not imported for another person or for sale.
  • They have been used abroad by you for not less than one year or were available for use in a household in which you were a resident member for one year. This privilege does not include articles placed in storage outside the home. The year of use need not be continuous nor does it need to be the year immediately preceding the date of importation into the United States. Shipping time may not be included in the computation of the one year in use.

Items such as wearing apparel, jewelry, photographic equipment, tape recorders, stereo components, vehicles, consumable articles, etc., cannot be passed free of duty as household effects.

Non-residents entering the United States are subject to the same basic principles as a returning resident, specifically as applies to the one year of possession of articles prior to entry.

To assist you in complying with U.S. Government requirements, Atlas Van Lines International provides the following instructions and information for completion of the Form 3299, Importer's Declaration, and the Supplemental Declaration. While Atlas Van Lines International tries to maintain the most current information possible to present to you, we cannot guarantee that the specific items mentioned will be the actual items dutiable at the time of entry. Should you have any specific questions concerning an individual item, we recommend that you discuss same with the U.S. Consulate at your point of residence abroad; or, if you are already in the U.S., contact your nearest Customs Office (listed in U.S. telephone directories under U.S. Government Offices, Treasury Department. )

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Completion of the Form 3299

While most items on the Form 3299 are self-explanatory, you should take note of the following items:

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Part I-To Be Completed by All Persons Seeking Free Entry of Articles:

  • Item 1. Importer's Name -- Insert full name of the true importer (owner) of the effects being imported. The social security number of the importer should also be inserted, if the importer has been issued a social security number.
  • Item 3. Importer's Date of Arrival -- Insert the date that the importer last (most recently) entered the United States.
  • Item 4. Importer's U.S. Address -- Insert a permanent address in the United States for the individual named in Item 1. If a true permanent residence address is not available, utilize a business address, the address of a relative (so indicating), or any address at which you are well known and through which you could be traced by the U.S. Government, if deemed necessary.
  • Item 5. Importer's Port of Arrival -- Insert the name of the airport, seaport, or border point where the importer processed U.S. Customs on the date entered in Item 3.
  • Item 6. Name of Arriving Vessel/Carrier and Flight/Train -- Insert the name of airline and flight number, name of vessel and voyage number, train name and number, or insert "private vehicle," indicating by what means the importer entered the United States on the date entered in Item 3.
  • Item 7. Name(s) of Accompanying Household Members -- Insert the full names and relationships of members of the importer's immediate family who accompanied the importer by the means entered in Item 6.
  • Item 8. Do Not enter any information into this section as such will be completed by the designated U.S. Customs Broker at the time the entry is filed with U.S. Customs.

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Part II

  • Item 9. If you are still maintaining a permanent residence overseas, please check the block marked "is." If you are entering the United States to take up permanent residence or to take up residence for an extended period of time (and thus not considered being in the U.S. for a brief stay,) please check the block marked "was."
  • Item 9A and 9B. Please enter the NAME OF COUNTRY in which your last residence is or was maintained and the length of time in which you resided in that country. If you have been residing outside of the United States on a continuous basis in other countries, please enter the names and length of stay for all countries since the last time you entered a shipment of household goods and personal effects into the United States.
  • Item 9C Please enter the RESIDENCY STATUS at the time of your arrival under Item 3 above. Please note that the key word here is RESIDENT. A Returning Resident can be either a United States citizen or a citizen of another country - the latter being an individual who has maintained a residence in the United States while being overseas.

    Comparably, a nonresident may be either a U.S. citizen or a citizen of another country. In case of the former, such would be a U.S. citizen who has maintained a permanent residence overseas for an extended period of time, who may or may not be returning permanently to the United States, and who while residing overseas had deemed themselves to be a nonresident of the United States. This definition is somewhat vague, and to a certain extent is dependent upon how the individual importer defines himself/herself.

  • Item 10. Mark only those statements that correctly apply to the circumstances for the articles being imported. Dependent upon individual circumstances, more than one (1) statement may need to be marked. Please read the statements carefully, taking specific note of the difference between a) household goods and b) personal effects.

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Part III-To Be Completed by U.S. Personnel and Evacuees Only

This section should only be completed if the individual as named in Item 1 above has been residing outside of the United States under official travel orders issued by the Government of the United States and when the return to the United States is being made under official travel orders issued by the Government of the United States. This section may apply to military personnel and their families, personnel of other U.S. Government agencies and their dependents, or civilian personnel under contract to the U.S. Government who are traveling under U.S. Government travel orders.

If this section is applicable enter:

  1. The date on which you last departed from the United States. It is recommended that the point of departure and the means of transportation also be indicated.
  2. Insert the date on which the Government travel orders were issued specifically stating return to the United States. Make certain a copy of the travel orders is attached to the Form 3299.

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Item IV-To Be Completed by All Persons Seeking Free Entry of Articles

Please check all statements that apply to the effects being imported under a single Form 3299 importation. More than one (1) statement can, and normally will, apply. Again, please pay close attention to the difference between a) household goods and b) personal effects. Any items covered by any of the statements marked must be declared on the reverse of the Form 3299, under Item D.

Please note the following comments relative to the various statements under Part IV, Items A, B, and C:

  1. Articles for the account of other persons. This would also include gifts that you are bringing into the U.S. for other individuals.
  2. Articles for sale or commercial use. If this item is checked, an additional Customs entry will be required for those items being imported for sale or commercial use.
  3. Firearms and/or ammunition. If these articles are included in the shipment, additional forms from the U.S. Government, Department of the Treasury, Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Division, must be completed. If the additional forms, which include an Import Permit, are not available at the time the shipment is available for customs clearance, additional expenses will be incurred for removal of the firearm from the shipment and the firearm will be retained in Customs custody until the appropriate documentation is in order. Please note that there will always be an additional labor charge relative to the customs clearance of firearms, as even with the permit, customs must physically inspect the article to verify make, model and serial number. To obtain specific instructions and forms, please contact the nearest U.S. Consulate or correspond directly with: Director, Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms Division; Internal Revenue Service; Washington, D.C. 20224.
  4. Alcoholic articles of all types or tobacco products. Articles of this nature will always be dutiable. Also, many of the individual States prohibit the importation of such articles into their respective States. Therefore, do not include these articles in your shipment unless you have verified that the State in which you will be taking delivery of the shipment will permit entry. If entry is permissible, the individual State will have additional documentation to be completed and will require payment of excise taxes. Payment of the State excise taxes must be proven to U.S. Customs before the shipment will be released at the port of entry. Assistance may be obtained through your International forwarder or directly from the State offices (normally the Alcoholic Beverage Commission or Board) of the State to which you are relocating.
  5. Fruits, plants, seeds, meats, or birds. Regardless of the nature in which these products exist at time of importation, inspection by the Food and Drug administration will be specified by U.S. Customs. Inclusion of these articles will result in delay of the customs clearance process and will result in additional labor expenses -- FDA will require physical inspection of such articles.
  6. Fish, wildlife, animal products thereof. The same comments that applied to "(5)" above, will apply to this category. In addition, the United States is signatory to several international treaties relative to the protection of endangered species. Should a shipment contain any article composed entirely or in part of any part of any animal on any endangered species listing, the article will be confiscated by authorities of the U.S. Customs Service and the importer of the property (the owner) will be subject to possible additional fines and penalties. Do not include such articles in a shipment unless you have consulted with the U.S. Consulate at point of origin or other appropriate U.S. Government agency.
  7. Foreign household effects acquired abroad and used less than one year. Any articles under this classification will be dutiable and must be declared.
  8. Foreign household effects acquired abroad and used more than one year. Articles declared under this category may not be subject to duty. However, remember that electronic components, personal computers, parts, and accessories purchased outside of the United States, are not considered household goods and will be subject to duty, regardless of how long they have been in your possession.
  9. Personal effects acquired abroad. Personal effects acquired abroad are dutiable, regardless of how long they have been in your possession. Remember, clothing is considered personal effects.
  10. Foreign made articles acquired in the United States and taken abroad on this trip or acquired abroad on another trip that was previously declared to U.S. Customs. U.S. Customs will reserve the right for proof to be offered that the article had previously been in the United States. Copies of receipts showing duty had been paid or certificates of registration issued by U.S. Customs at point in the United States, will normally suffice.
  11. Articles taken abroad for which alterations or repairs were performed abroad. Any expenditures declared under this category must be supported with receipts, showing when and where the alterations or repairs were made and the value/cost of the alterations or repairs. Note: If repairs made were the result of loss or damage incurred as a result of your relocation to the overseas point, the repairs must be declared under Part IV, D, with notation such is result of your initial relocation.

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Part IV, D-List of Articles

When declaring articles under Item D, please be certain to provide a complete description of each article. Descriptions should, depending upon the article, include the following:

  • Quantity.
  • Material composition, ex: polyester, wool, silk, etc.; solid oak wood, cherry wood veneer, particle board, etc; plastic; alcohol content (for wines and other alcoholic beverages.)
  • Country of manufacture - not country in which purchased.
  • Value (purchase price) of the article or the cost of the repairs.
  • Date of purchase, acquisition, or repairs.

Part V-Carrier's Certificate and Release Order

Do not make any entry in this section. All appropriate information will be completed by the appropriate U.S. Customs Broker.

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Part VI-Certification to Be Completed by All Persons Seeking Free Entry

It is recommended that the Form 3299 be signed and dated by the true owner of the property and that item "1.B - Importer" be duly marked.

An "Authorized Agent" may also complete and sign the form. However, this requires specific authorization by the property owner in the form of a Power of Attorney for Customs Purposes.

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Completion of the Supplemental Declaraion for Unaccompanied Personal and Household Effects

While most of the items on the Supplemental Declaration are self-explanatory, you should take note of the following items.

  1. The Name (last name, first and middle name - not initial) should be the same as that entered on the CF3299.
  2. Enter the Date of Birth of the individual named in Item 1.
  3. Enter the Citizenship of the individual named in Item 1.
  4. Enter the Passport Information (Country, number and date of issue) relative to the individual named in Item 1.
  5. ---
  6. Enter the U.S. Social Security Number and/or the Resident Alien Identification Number held by the individual named in Item 1. For some individuals, entry in both sections may be applicable.
  7. Insert the same address or information as contained in Part I, Item 4, of the CF3299.
  8. Enter the last Foreign Address at which the individual named in Item 1 resided. This should be the last permanent address, not temporary (hotel or comparable) address.
  9. Enter a brief statement as to the Reason for Moving to the United States. If you wish to provide more information than that which would be allowed in the small space provided, you can use additional sheets as Addenda to the Declaration, provided each page of the Addenda is numbered, signed, and dated as such.

Original copies of the completed, signed, and dated Customs form 3299 and Supplemental Declaration will be required at the port of entry for each shipment into the United States. Therefore, if you are making a sea freight and a separate air freight shipment, separate forms and declarations will be required for each. Therefore, the forms and declarations should be completed prior to the departure of your effects from your origin residence and should preferably be surrendered to the agent that has packed and containerized the effects. The Origin Agent will follow the standing instructions of the International forwarder involved for transmission of the documents to the appropriate seaports or airports in the United States.

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Informal Entry of Dutiable Articles

If dutiable items are contained in your shipment, a licensed Customs House Broker will be engaged to prepare an Informal Entry (Form 5119-A) as specified in the Rules and Regulations of the U.S. Customs Service. The form requires identification of each dutiable item in accordance with the Harmonized Tariff of the United States, reflecting the specific number of the item (the Tariff contains more than 300,000 classifications) and the specified units or quantities involved. Due to the time involved in preparing such Informal Entries, Customs House Brokers throughout the United States will assess a fee for the basic Informal Entry preparation plus an additional fee for each "line item" (i.e. different classification) that is entered on the Entry. The fee per line item is approximately US$ 3.00 each, with the fee varying from broker to broker and city to city. These line item charges and the actual duty assessed by Customs will be collected on a C.O.D. basis at the time of delivery to your destination residence, unless such charges are authorized in advance by a recognized Corporate customer. A copy of the Informal Entry will be provided to you to support any duty collections, and a copy of the Broker's invoice will be provided to support line item collections.

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Special Comments Relative to Importation of Automobiles

The U.S. Customs Service has been charged with monitoring of all automobiles entering the United States to assure that they comply with all rules and regulations of the United States Environmental Protection Agency and with all rules and regulations of the Highway Safety Act. Unless the vehicle you plan on shipping to the United States has been manufactured to full U.S. standards, do not attempt to ship the automobile.

If you plan on shipping a non-compliant vehicle, the vehicle must be consigned to a designated firm (ICI - Independent Commercial Importer) that has been specifically licensed by the U.S. Government to handle testing, and conversion if applicable, of specific makes and models of foreign manufactured vehicles. You will be responsible for all charges assessed by the licensed firm for the inspection, testing, and modifications that are required. Based on the expense involved to bring a vehicle into full compliance, it is recommended that no non-compliant vehicles be shipped to the United States.

If you are returning an automobile to the United States and the vehicle was purchased within the United States, the vehicle can be cleared without too many problems. You must be prepared to show proof that the vehicle had been previously licensed and registered in the United States. Also, an automobile dealer located at the U.S. port of entry will have to be contracted to install a new catalytic converter on the vehicle before it will be released by U.S. Customs. Again, any charges incurred for bringing the car into compliance will be for your personal account.

If a non-compliant vehicle is imported into the United States, there are only three (3) options:

  1. The vehicle must be brought into full compliance, regardless of the expense; or
  2. the vehicle must be exported from the United States; or
  3. the vehicle must be destroyed.

If you are uncertain as to whether a vehicle is compliant with all U.S. Regulations, the following Government offices will be able to offer invaluable assistance to you.

Manufacturers Operations Division
U.S. Environment Protection Agency
401 "M" Street, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20460

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Rates of Duty

While duty is basically assessed as a percentage rate of duty against the value of an article, duty rates can also be expressed as dollar amounts against a quantity or volume (ex: gallon, dozen, each, etc.) The Customs House Broker and the U.S. Customs Inspector handling the clearance and release of the consignment, will determine the applicable rate of duty which will apply at the time of entry.

The above information is provided to the best of Atlas Van Lines International's belief and knowledge. We assume no responsibility for changes, additions, or interpretations which the customs authority may impose.

© 1996 Atlas Van Lines

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Law Office of Joseph C. Grasmick, Business Immigration
Olympic Towers 300 Pearl Street Suite 200
Buffalo, New York 14202 USA
Tel: 716/842-3100 Fax: 716/842-3105 jgrasmick@grasmick.com

This Internet Web page is http://www.grasmick.com/moving.htm