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Determining your Customs Status?


Returning Resident

A returning resident is a citizen of the United States, or a person who has formerly resided in the United States, (including American citizens who are residents of Guam, American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, or the U.S. Virgin Islands) who is returning from abroad.  In order to be classified as a returning resident, it must be understood that your time out of the country was for a temporary period.  If your intent was to move abroad permanently (you married a nonresident), and after a time, your plans unexpectedly changed (you became divorced), your return to the U.S. may be classified as a nonresident move.

If you have lived abroad for more than three years you may enter as a nonresident.


Government/Military Employees

U.S. Government personnel are individuals employed by the U.S. Government.  They must receive a paycheck from the U.S. Government.  The person in the service of the United States must be returning under Government orders at the end of an extended duty assignment outside the Customs territory of the United States

An extended duty assignment abroad must be longer than 140 days, except as noted for Navy personnel. Military and civilian personnel are entitled to free entry privileges if:

  • They are returning, at any time, after an assignment of extended duty.
  • They are returning to the United States on permanent change of station (PCS) orders regardless of the duration of assignment overseas.
  • They are under permanent change of station (PCS) orders to another post or station abroad, requiring return of their personal and household effects to the United States.

Navy personnel serving aboard a United States naval vessel, or a supporting naval vessel when it leaves the United States on an intended deployment of 120 days or more outside the country, and who continue to serve on the vessel until it returns to the United States are entitled to the extended duty exemption.

Returning in Advance of Permanent Change of Station (PCS) Orders

Family members who have lived overseas with the employee, but return to the United States with their possessions before the employee receives his/her orders ending the extended duty assignment, cannot claim the duty-free exemption granted to military or Government personnel; for example, a spouse who returns to the United States to look for housing or a student who returns to the U.S. to enter college.
 

Emergency Evacuees

Any person living abroad who is ordered by the United States Government to leave a specific foreign country and return to the United States because of civil unrest or war is given the same exemption granted under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule to U.S. Military and Government Personnel. This may include government personnel, tourists, persons employed in private business – in short, anyone covered by an evacuation order.
 

Nonresident/First-Time Immigrants

First-time immigrants to the United States are considered to be nonresidents the first time they enter the United States.  Every time thereafter they are considered to be returning residents as long as they have their Immigration and Naturalization Service form I-551, residency visa, a.k.a. “green card.”
 

Part-Time Residents

A part-time resident may maintain two households, one in the United States and one in another country. They may be in the United States for business, for pleasure, or for educational purposes.  The visit can be for a few weeks or for several years. A part-time resident may be classified, for Customs purposes, as either a returning resident or a nonresident.  The status of either returning resident or nonresident is dependent upon several things and is usually decided on a case-by-case basis.  Deciding factors include citizenship, where the traveler pays taxes, where he/she is employed, what country or state drivers license he/she possess, etc.   A U.S. citizen is presumed to be a resident unless they can show that they are a resident of another country (e.g., possess a residency visa for another country, a round-trip ticket to return to another country, etc.)  A citizen of another country residing in the U.S. must have an Immigration and Naturalization Service form I-551, residency visa, a.k.a. “green card,” to be considered a returning resident.
 


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