The U.S. Customs and Border Patrol issued a new customs declaration form allowing filing joint family declarations. The recent regulation change expanded the definition of family members of arriving U.S. travelers to include “members of a family residing in the same household who are related by blood, marriage, domestic relationship, or adoption.”
The new rule also clarified the term “domestic relationship” to include: foster children, stepchildren, half-siblings, legal wards, other dependents, who are not married to, or a partner of, anyone else. The definition does not extend to roommates or other cohabitants. “Members of a family residing in one household” will continue to encompass relationships of blood, adoption, and marriage only.
Under the new definition of domestic relationship, one combined family declaration can now be presented to the CBP officer upon arrival. As with any joint declaration, verbal or written, the person making and/or signing the declaration will be held accountable for its validity.
The new change allows more returning U.S. Citizens, Lawful Permanent Residents, temporary workers, and visitors to file a joint customs declaration for items acquired abroad. It reduces paperwork for families traveling together and increases efficiency for CBP, airline personnel, and the traveling public. Travelers may also complete the declaration form online, print it, and bring it with them on their trip to present to CBP officers upon arrival to the U.S.
For returning U.S. residents, to be considered members of a family and to group exemptions from customs duty and internal revenue tax, travelers must have lived together in one household at their last place of permanent residence and intend to continue to live together in one household. Regulations allow U.S. residents to combine the personal duty exemptions of each family member. For example, a family of five members returning directly from Spain would be entitled to a combined personal duty exemption of $4,000 ($800 x 5 individuals = $4,000). The regulations also allow certain exemptions to foreign visitors on gifts, tobacco, personal effects, etc., and they can file a single family declaration as well.