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General Rules on Government/Military Personnel

Difference between Government/Military Personnel and Returning Residents
A special provision allows U.S. Government personnel (military and civilian) to enter their personal and household effects without payment of duty and tax when returning from an extended duty assignment overseas, even if those effects have not been in the household for at least a year before importation into the U.S. – as is required for returning residents.

Duty Exemptions for Household and Personal Effects
The classifications, rates of duty, and exemptions from duty, are governed by the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS). Under item 9805.00.50 of the Tariff Schedules, the personal and household effects of any person (military or civilian) employed by the U.S. Government, and returning members of his family who have resided with him at his post or station, may be entered free of duty unless items are restricted, prohibited, or limited – as in the case of liquor and tobacco.

The following groups of people are not entitled to this exemption:

  • Employees of private business and commercial organizations working under contract for the U.S. Government.
  • Persons under research fellowships granted by the United States Government.
  • Peace Corps Volunteers, employees of UNICEF or the Red Cross.
  • Persons going abroad under the Fulbright Hays Act of 1961, or under the Mutual Educational and Cultural Exchange Act of 1961.

Items sent by mail are eligible for duty free entry if the articles were in the returnee's possession before leaving the duty station. A copy of the Government orders terminating the assignment must accompany the articles in a sealed envelope securely attached to the outer wrapper of the parcel. The parcel should also be marked clearly on the outside "Returned Personal Effects Orders Enclosed."

Traveling by Military Transport
Articles that accompany you upon your return to the United States on PCS orders should be declared on Customs Form (CF) 6059B, "Customs Declaration," if you travel on a commercial carrier. If you travel on a carrier owned or operated by the U.S. Government, including charter aircraft, you will complete either Department of Defense Form (DD) 1854, "Customs Accompanied Baggage Declaration," or CF 6059B, “Customs Declaration.”  Be prepared to show Customs a copy of your travel orders.

Unaccompanied Baggage
If you are a Department of Defense (DoD) civilian or military member returning to the U.S. from extended duty overseas, you should complete DD Form 1252, "U.S. Customs Declaration for Personal Property Shipments," to facilitate the entry of your unaccompanied baggage and/or household goods into the United States. A copy of your PCS orders, terminating your assignment to extended duty abroad, should accompany DD Form 1252. This form is also used by a DoD sponsored or directed individual or employee of a nonappropriated fund agency that is an integral part of the military services. All other Government employees should complete CF 3299, "Declaration for Free Entry of Unaccompanied Articles," and attach a copy to their orders.  The documents are presented to Customs for clearance and are retained with the manifest.

By completing these declarations you certify that the shipment consists of personal and household effects that were in your personal possession while abroad, and that the articles are not imported for another person or intended for sale.

Employees completing CF 3299 must list restricted articles (e.g., trademarked items, firearms), and goods not subject to their exemption (e.g., excess liquor, articles carried for other persons) on the declaration and show the actual prices paid.  All shipments of unaccompanied baggage will be cleared by Customs upon arrival in the United States.

A conforming foreign made automobile may be included as part of your personal effects. However, an automobile purchased abroad and sent home before your Government orders are issued, or a car purchased and not in your possession before you leave (merely ordered but not delivered to you), will not be entitled to free entry as a personal or household effect under 9805.00.50. The vehicle would be subject to customs duty at the following rates:


  • Autos......................................2.5%
  • Trucks....................................25%
  • Motorcycles, mopeds
    • up to 700 cc..................Free
    • 700 to 970 cc...............2.4%
    • over 970 cc.................Free
  • Trailers..................................Free

Duty rates are based on the market value of the vehicle and those rates are subject to change on an annual basis.

Liquor, Tobacco
In addition to the limitations stated on page __, active duty U.S. Government and military personnel who are returning with liquor are exempt from the age requirement. However, family members of the Government or military employee must be 21 years old or older to bring back liquor or tobacco products.

Firearms and Ammunition
Military members returning from active duty outside the United States are no longer entitled to import, without an import permit, up to three rifles or shotguns and 1,000 rounds of ammunition. However, they may follow the normal procedures in acquiring the appropriate firearm import permit from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (see page __). The guns need to be declared and the permit shown to U.S. Customs. Surplus military firearms of any description are prohibited entry.  The government will not ship, or pay for the shipping of ammunition.  The employee will have to arrange and pay for shipping.

The Department of Defense and the U.S. Postal Service prohibit acceptance by military post offices of war trophy firearms, ammunition, and handguns for shipment through an APO or FPO of the military postal system.

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