United States Customs information
IMPORTATION OF HOUSEHOLD GOODS AND VEHICLES
What can I bring/import to the United States while on official duty? Do I have to pay US Customs duties? While on official (NATO) assignment in the United States, international military personnel and NATO international civilians, at the time of their arrival may import their initial household goods shipment, items and articles for personal consumption, and privately owned vehicles free of importation duties provided these items are imported for personal use (see detailed paragraphs regarding each of these items below).
Will my import company know that I am exempt from Customs duties? YES, ordinarily, they will be aware of your exemption from Customs duties.
Why am I exempt from Customs duties? The basis for your exemption is Article XI of the Agreement between the Parties to the North Atlantic Treaty Regarding the Status of Their Forces (NATO SOFA) and the Agreement among the States Parties to the North Atlantic Treaty and the Other States Participating in the Partnership for Peace Regarding the Status of Their Forces (PfP SOFA), by incorporation. This exemption is also memorialized in US law (Title 19 US Code Annotated Section 1202, Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTS)). Representatives in the Legal Assistance Section can provide a certification letter confirming your status if necessary; contact +1 757 747 3228/3640. The following is detailed information regarding your exemptions:
Initial household goods shipment is permitted entry into the United States free of importation duties, pursuant to Paragraph 5, Article XI, NATO SOFA, as memorialized in provision 9806.00.20, Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States, 19 USCA §1202. Most incoming staff members do not experience difficulties importing their household goods and ordinarily do not require documentation from the Office of the Legal Advisor. Please see information addressed later in this Guide regarding the Bioterrorism Act.
Items/articles may be brought into the US for personal consumption and use of the staff member and family free of importation duties, pursuant to 9806.00.45, Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States, 19 USCA §1202. This provision applies to items imported at time of first arrival of the personnel or of any dependent to join him.
Privately-owned vehicles may be imported free of Customs duty (throughout tour), pursuant to Paragraph 6, Article XI, NATO SOFA. If a new vehicle is being imported separately from the household goods shipment, it is important for the NATO staff member to ensure that the import broker is aware of your "NATO" status prior to the arrival of the ship carrying the vehicle (US Customs officials have informed that although there is no guarantee, informing the broker of your NATO status may prevent your vehicle from being held for inspection).
My importer has asked me to sign a power of attorney. What is it, and do I have to do this? A power of attorney is a document wherein you give someone permission to act on your behalf. A specific power of attorney—which is limited to a particular transaction—is very common in these transactions. It allows the importer to handle all the Customs' documentation on your behalf, which greatly expedites the transaction. If you have questions regarding a power of attorney form that has been sent to you, please contact a representative of the Legal Assistance Section at +1 757 747 3228/3640.
Please note that powers of attorney generally require notarization of signature. The Office of the Legal Advisor has two notary publics on staff who can assist and notarize your signature; contact +1 757 747 3228/3640.
How can I prevent my personal information regarding the import of my household goods and vehicle from being disclosed to the public? In accordance with the US privacy statute, 19 CFR 103.31 (d), members of the public (ordinarily companies) are permitted to collect vessel manifest data (i.e., information regarding shipments) at every port of entry. Reporters collect and publish names of importers from vessel manifest data unless the importer/shipper requests confidentiality. The importer or individual can submit a letter to the Privacy Branch, US Customs requesting that their information not be disclosed publicly. This confidential protection, if granted, is valid for two years, after which time you are required to renew your request. A template letter to submit this request is provided in this Guide at Annex C-1, during Legal's orientation session, on Legal's SharePoint site on the NSWAN, Office of the Legal Advisor, or at any time upon request.
Importation of Vehicle:
So can I import my vehicle and drive it in the United States without a problem? YES. (1) If the vehicle has valid license plates from another state or country it can be driven for a period of up to 30 days from the date of the vehicle's US arrival, but then must be registered pursuant to VA Code §46.2-600; and (2) The vehicle must be insured by a policy which is valid in Virginia prior to its operation on US or Virginia highways.
NOTE: If the registration has expired, or if you had a temporary registration on your vehicle to facilitate its import, you must register the vehicle with Virginia Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) authorities prior to its operation on US or Virginia highways. For a temporary (three day) trip permit refer to the "Vehicle Registration" section. In order to register the vehicle, certain documents endorsed by a US Customs inspector will be required.
My vehicle does not conform to US requirements, will this present a problem? NO. Vehicles imported by NATO and PfP personnel are not required to comply with US Department of Transportation Federal motor vehicle safety and environmental standards, including right-hand drive vehicles, since those vehicles are being imported temporarily in connection with a period of military duty.
Can I sell or transfer ownership of my imported motor vehicle during or upon conclusion of my tour of duty? NO. You should not receive a certificate of title (proof of ownership) from Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) when you register the imported motor vehicle if it was not built to US specifications, and/or imported free of US Customs duties. In a sale, the certificate of title is signed by both the seller and the buyer so by the Virginia DMV not issuing a certificate of title prevents you from selling a non-conforming vehicle. Should you be issued a certificate of title by Virginia DMV authorities in error, this does not provide permission to sell the vehicle as the documentation issued by US authorities upon your duty-free import of the vehicle, requires you to export the vehicle upon conclusion of the tour of duty (see question later in this section). You also expressly agreed to export the vehicle upon the conclusion of the tour of duty as stated/certified on US Department of Transportation Form HS-7.
My imported vehicle is no longer operable (i.e., mechanically sound/running). What can I do? DMV's position is that a non-conforming (imported) vehicle—even unusable—must be exported at the conclusion of your tour or contract. DMV's position is based upon your express agreement that you would export the vehicle upon the conclusion of the tour of duty as stated/certified on US Department of Transportation Form HS-7, which you would have signed and presented to DMV in order to register the vehicle. Please see a representative in the Legal Assistance Section for further details if your imported motor vehicle should become inoperable during your tour of duty.
What US Customs documents are required to register my imported vehicle, and where do I obtain these documents? Your importer should provide the required documents, with original US Customs stamps (usually "red" in colour). In addition to the proof of US address (in compliance with DMV Form 177 – see http://www.dmv.state.va.us, under "Forms and Publications") and proof of ownership for the vehicle—with English translation of any documents in a foreign language, you will be required to present:
- US Customs Form documenting the vehicle's duty-free entry. You will be required to provide one US Customs form documenting vehicle's duty-free entry, which will ordinarily be arranged by the import company. US Customs normally issues CBP Form 3299 ("Declaration for Free Entry of Unaccompanied Articles"). US Customs may however issue CBP Form 7501 ("Entry Summary") or CBP 7523 ("Entry and Manifest of Merchandise Free of Duty, Carrier's Certificate and Release);
- Environmental Protection Agency Form 3520-1; and
- Department of Transportation Form HS-7, "Importation of Motor Vehicles and Motor Vehicle Equipment Subject to Federal Motor Vehicle Safety, Bumper and Theft Prevention Standards". Item 12, Form HS-7, is consistent with the status of NATO personnel posted to this HQ and subordinate commands, and states the following at Item 12:
Item 12. The vehicle does not conform to all applicable Federal Motor Vehicle Safety, Bumper, and Theft Prevention Standards, but I am eligible to import it because all of the following conditions exist:
- I am a member of the armed forces of a foreign country on assignment in the United States;
- I am importing the vehicle on a temporary basis, and for my personal use;
- I will not sell the vehicle to any person in the United States, ... ;
- I will export the vehicle upon departing the United States at the conclusion of my tour of duty [emphasis added]; and
- I have attached a copy of my official orders.
Attachment: Copy of Official Orders.
**Please note item 6 on Form HS-7 does not extend to personnel posted to this HQ, subordinate commands, or NATO agencies, as it requires authorization by US Department of State officials. In the event Item 6 is incorrectly noted on your Form HS-7, please contact a representative of the Office of the Legal Advisor and they will provide instructions on how to obtain a corrected Form HS-7 from local Customs authorities.
For Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) requirements and information please refer to the section on Vehicle Registration. Please see Annex D-3 for "DMV Registration and Documentation Requirements".
Do I have to pay import duties on my vehicle? NO. Pursuant to Article XI, paragraph 6 of the NATO and PfP SOFAs, NATO and PfP personnel may import, temporarily free of duty, their privately owned motor vehicle for the personal use of themselves and their dependents. The imported motor vehicle is exempt from United States safety and environmental motor vehicle laws.
Do I need to keep copies of these documents? YES. It is important to maintain a file of all documents received from the US Customs Service or from your import broker upon importing a vehicle. You will be required to present these documents when you register the vehicle with the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles and also upon exporting the vehicle. Virginia DMV officials require the original US Customs forms, which must contain the Customs stamp. It is recommended that you visit the Office of the Legal Advisor prior to your DMV visit to ensure that you have all documents required to register the vehicle, and the documents have been properly certified by US Customs authorities. Upon request and presentation of these original documents, representatives in the Legal Assistance Section can produce certified true copies for your safekeeping. This will aid you greatly when you export the vehicle at the end of your tour.
My colleague had to arrange for his vehicle to be cleaned prior to shipment. Is this necessary? YES. You should ensure your vehicle is clean, especially the undercarriage, prior to shipment. This should be done by a professional company who should thoroughly steam-spray/clean the vehicle's undercarriage, and any other parts of the vehicle containing visible soil just prior to export. Any evidence of soil or foreign objects will delay your receipt of the vehicle and will require that you arrange for a professional company-authorized for entry by US Customs-to clean the vehicle prior to its release. This is to safeguard against the unintentional 'import' of dangerous pests. Failure to clean your vehicle may result in a lengthy and expensive delay, with fees exceeding $1,000.
Who can I contact if I have difficulty with the importation process, or my exporter or importer has questions about my status? If you experience importation difficulties, please contact representatives in the Legal Assistance Section, Office of the Legal Advisor (+1 757 747 3228/3640) who can provide a letter referencing the legal authority for specific exemptions, and to assist with issues you may be experiencing.
Importation and Use of Child Safety Seats Manufactured Outside the United States:
Is it permissible/legal to use European manufactured child safety seats in the United States? NO. According to US authorities and as supported by US Federal regulations, it is prohibited to import motor vehicle equipment (thus not permitted for use), including European/UK manufactured safety seats:
...a person may not manufacture for sale, sell, offer for sale, introduce or deliver for introduction in interstate commerce, or import into the United States, any motor vehicle or motor vehicle equipment manufactured on or after the date an applicable motor vehicle safety standard prescribed under this chapter takes effect unless the vehicle or equipment complies with the standard and is covered by a certification issued under section 30115 of this title (49 U.S.C. §30112a)
Is a child safety seat defined as "a "motor vehicle equipment item"? YES, according to officials at the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) and pursuant to US Federal regulations:
(7) ''motor vehicle equipment'' meaning (C) any device or an article or apparel (except medicine or eyeglasses prescribed by a licensed practitioner) that is not a system, part, or component of a motor vehicle and is manufactured, sold, delivered, offered, or intended to be used only to safeguard motor vehicles and highway users against risk of accident, injury, or death. (49 U.S.C. §30102)
How do I know if my child safety seat meets US standards? Check with the safety seat manufacturer that it meets US Standards prior to bringing the safety seat to the USA. It is prohibited to use of safety seats that do not meet US motor vehicle safety standards. All safety seats manufactured in the United States must meet Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards. The manufacturer certifies that the equipment complies with applicable motor vehicle safety standards. These standards are different from European/UK manufacturers.
Where can I find additional information regarding the 'labelling' and 'anchoring requirements' for child safety seats? Additional information regarding labeling and certification of any motor vehicle equipment (to include child safety seats) can be obtained from the US NHTSA officials or on the official NHTSA web site www.nhtsa.gov, http://www.nhtsa.gov/Laws+&+Regulations/Child+Passenger+Safety.
If you require specific US Federal regulations, please contact a representative of the Legal Assistance Section, Office of the Legal Advisor.
What is the Bioterrorism Act? In response to the events of September 11, 2001, the Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002 (Bioterrorism ACT/BTA) was signed into law. The Bioterrorism Act is designed to improve the food safety efforts of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in cooperation with the US Bureau of Customs and Border Protection (CBP). As a result of the Bioterrorism Act, CBP personnel conduct investigations and examinations of foods being imported into the United States.
Does the Bioterrorism Act affect me? YES. The Bioterrorism Act was signed into law in 2002 (with provisions of the Act gradually phased in and enforced). It does apply to and affect NATO and PfP personnel.
What do I need to know? Among other requirements, the Bioterrorism Act requires that prior notice be submitted to US officials for any shipment containing human (or pet) food, including foods and spirits/liquors being imported by incoming NATO/PfP personnel.
Importing Food and Alcohol:
My importer told me I cannot ship any food or alcohol. Is this accurate? Many importers inform incoming personnel that US officials are not permitting the importation of food or alcohol—this statement is not legally accurate. However, some import companies, as a matter of business policy, are not willing to pack or ship items citing the notice requirements of the Bioterrorism Act as too burdensome for individual shipments. The prior notice requirement requires a high level of detail regarding each individual food/beverage product (all products must be in its original sealed container; shipment of partial bottles of alcohol, for example, is not permitted). Obtaining the information that US officials require, such as manufacturer, packing facility, lot number, food product category number, etc., may prove difficult for individuals intending to export the items from their home country with the intention to import to the United States.
Additionally, importers often charge extra documentation fees (to comply with the notice requirements for food/beverage items) ranging from several hundred dollars up to one thousand dollars. These fees are in addition to US Customs duty and Federal excise taxes on alcohol in your shipment, and the potential requirement to obtain a Virginia alcohol import permit. Consult your exporter or US importer for additional information.
Do I have to pay Customs duty on alcohol I import? YES. There is no blanket exemption for US Customs duty and fees on the importation of alcohol for NATO personnel, other than that which is afforded to all persons (age 21 years of older) (e.g., 1 litre duty free when arriving from Europe). Additional information can be found on the CBP webpage at: https://help.cbp.gov/app/answers/detail/a_id/190/~/bringing-alcohol-(including-homemade-wine)-to-the-u.s.-for-personal-use. Please see previous question regarding the prior notice requirements for alcohol packed in household goods shipments. The prior notice requirement ordinarily results in the collection of US Customs duties and fee (e.g., Federal excise taxes), if applicable.
What is a Virginia Alcohol Permit, and how do I obtain it? Individuals importing alcohol into a Virginia port may be required to obtain a Virginia alcohol permit through the Tax Management Authority, Virginia Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC) Board, depending on the quantity of alcohol being imported. Additional information and points of contact are available at the following link: http://www.abc.virginia.gov/tmtax/customs_permit.jsp.
What are the consequences if I fail to declare the food and alcohol in my shipment? Importing items without the appropriate declarations, documentation and permits from US and Virginia authorities and in accordance with US and Virginia requirements, may result seizure and destruction, resulting in significant financial loss to the individual importing, in addition to potential legal action. It is a significant risk to ship the food and alcohol into the United States without completing all the required documentation (e.g., prior notice, permits, etc.), and one which we do not recommend.
Where can I find additional information? You should consult your exporter/importer for information regarding their policies with respect to this requirement. For complete information regarding the Bioterrorism Act, please consult the CBP website at http://www.cbp.gov or the FDA website at http://www.fda.gov.
Container Search Initiative (CSI):
My colleague's household shipment was delayed and searched. I thought NATO and PfP personnel were exempt from these searches? NO. Pursuant to the Container Search Initiative (CSI), US Customs officials greatly increased the number of shipments that are marked for examination or x-ray (especially when the container holds a vehicle that is not in compliance with US Department of Transportation safety and environmental standards, commonly referred to as "gray market vehicles"). Therefore, you can expect that your container will be marked for inspection or x-ray, thus delaying delivery. A private company, selected by US Customs, performs the inspection and charges an inspection fee to the owner/importer of the item (fees are charged in accordance with container size).
How much is the inspection fee, and am I exempt? Inspection of a 40' container can result in a fee of approximately $700 or more (for which there is no exemption). You should consult your NLR or PNLR office representative regarding your nation's policy with respect to payment of the container search fee; NATO International Civilians should contact the Human Resources office for information and guidance. There are no provisions in international agreements that exempt a NATO staff member's property from inspection; in fact, the NATO Status of Forces Agreement expressly permits such an inspection (Article XI, paragraph 1).
Where can I find additional information? Detailed information regarding CSI is available on the Internet at http://www.cbp.gov.
Airline Restrictions for Carry-On Items:
Can I bring my ... through the security checkpoint? The Transport Security Administration (TSA) website has a wealth of information regarding which items you can carry on your person when going through the security checkpoint, please consult the TSA database at: http://apps.tsa.dhs.gov/mytsa/cib_home.aspx. For more information about specific item categories, please see the questions below.
May I bring baby formula? There are no restrictions on baby formula, but it should be properly labeled and in its original container/packaging. It is preferred that you do not break the seal on any containers that you are not currently using. Additional information regarding baby formula can be obtained on the web site of the US Federal Drug Administration (http://www.fda.gov).
May I carry/bring over-the-counter and prescription medication in my carry-on luggage? Generally, when travelling you should take the type and amount of medications required or prescribed. If you intend to carry over-the-counter or prescription medication on your person, please consult the Transport Security Administration (TSA) website for additional information and instructions on how to declare these items on arrival in the United States: http://apps.tsa.dhs.gov/mytsa/cib_results.aspx?search=medications.
What food items can I bring on the airplane to the United States? Occasionally questions arise regarding which items, and the acceptable quantity of those items, can be carried on the airplane, especially items such as baby formula, cheeses, meats, fruits, vegetables, and dairy products. This information is not considered to be all-inclusive and you are encouraged to consult the web site of the US Customs and Border Protection Service (http://www.cbp.gov) for additional information as the requirements change frequently.
May I bring fruits and vegetables into the United States? Fruits and vegetables must be declared and presented to the US Customs officer at the port of entry.
May I bring meat to the United States? Meats are either very restricted, or prohibited when importing them from certain countries, including canned, cured and dried meats. All pork and pork by-products are prohibited. You should consult the US Customs web site prior to shipping or carrying such items in your luggage (even checked luggage). For additional information please consult US Department of Agriculture, Food Safety and Inspection Service, Regulations and Policy, Import Information: http://www.fsis.usda.gov/regulations_&_Policies/Import_Information/index.asp
What about fish? Fish is generally admissible if it is for personal use.
How about condiments? Items such as olive oils, vinegars, syrups, honey, and similar condiments, are generally permitted.
May I bring dairy items, cheeses, etc.? Certain dairy items, such as milk, yogurt and butter, are permitted. Hard cured cheeses, such as parmesan or cheddar, are permitted; soft cheeses such as brie, soft curd cheeses and cheese in water, such as mozzarella, ricotta, feta, etc. are generally not permitted.
Can I bring chocolate? Homemade or purchased bakery items, candy and chocolate are generally admissible.
What about food for my dog/cat? Pet food with meat by-products is not admissible in traveller's baggage so you should not bring on the airplane. Small quantities can be shipped with your pet as cargo.
Where can I find additional information? The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) is the Federal agency responsible for establishing criteria regarding the admissibility of plant, dairy and meat products and has the final determination when conflicts arise. The USDA web site (http://www.usda.gov) contains detailed information (click on Travel and Recreation). This information frequently changes therefore you should ensure the accuracy prior to travel. In addition, failure to declare all food products can result in US civil penalties.
Can I bring my pets to the United States? YES, subject to certain restrictions.
Where can I find information on importing my pet(s)? The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) regulates the entry of all animals, including domesticated household "pets", into the United States. The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) is also involved in this process. The USDA web site is located at: http://www.aphis.usda.gov/import_export/index.shtml (go to "Import and Export" and then "Animal and Animal Product Import Information"). Below is an excerpt from this web site:
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) regulate importation of certain animal species and have specific regulations regarding pets (including cats and dogs). CDC requires that pet dogs and cats appear healthy upon visual inspection at the port of entry unless originating or located for 6 months or more in areas designated by the US Public Health Service as being rabies free. Cats may be imported without further restriction. Dogs coming from a country that is not free of rabies must be accompanied by proof that rabies vaccination is current and was administered at least 30 days before arrival in the United States. Young puppies may be imported without proof of rabies vaccination but must be confined (quarantined) at a place of the owner's choice until they are 3 months of age and then vaccinated.
However, individual states also have their own requirements regarding animal health, quarantine and licensing requirements. The information in this section pertains to the Commonwealth of Virginia. For additional information regarding the importation of cats, dogs, other pets, and wildlife, refer to the CDC web site: http://www.cdc.gov/animalimportation/index.html.
The Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) section of the CDC web site contains a wealth of information regarding importing pets: http://www.cdc.gov/animalimportation/animalimportationfaq.html.
Although these web sites inform of the general requirements, they are not particularly helpful in the practical sense; therefore, we recommend that you speak to colleagues, NLR/PNLR office representatives, or contact representatives in the Legal Assistance Section (+1 757 747 3228/3640). Some staff members have recommended (no endorsement by Office of the Legal Advisor) International Pet & Animal Transportation Association (IPATA), a pet relocation specialist (http://www.ipata.org/).
What documentation is required to bring my pet? Many staff members bring their family pets with them during their tours of duty so they are the best source of information—ask your sponsor! Staff members suggest obtaining an "international veterinary document" for your pet. This document should state that the pet is sound and healthy, and is free of rabies and should be carried during the entire trip as it may be requested during connecting flights.
Do I only need an international veterinary document? Ordinarily, YES. You should check with the airline you are travelling with for their regulations and requirements.
Are there any restrictions or specific requirements of which I should be aware? If you want your pet to accompany you on each leg of the journey to the United States—ensure you have requested space on each flight/airline so that the pet is on the same plane. If it is a large animal and must be "checked", you should ensure the temperature conditions at the departing, connecting and arrival cities. If the temperature is too hot or too cold, the airline will not allow the animal to accompany you due to health concerns. This is of particular importance since many staff members arrive during the hotter summer months.
Earlier I read that I can't bring pet food, is this true? Pet food containing meat by-products is not admissible to the United States as part of personal baggage, but a small quantity can be placed in the animal's kennel. Check with the airline to ensure you are complying with their requirements.
Will my dog or cat be quarantined when he/she arrives in the United States? Ordinarily, dogs and cats are not quarantined in Virginia, unless there are extenuating health circumstances of your pet, such as recent visit or residence in a country with an indigenous issue with rabies. Note: if your dog is too young to be vaccinated (e.g., less than 3 months of age), it must be kept in confinement until it is old enough to be vaccinated and then it will be confined for at least 30 days after the date of vaccination.
Are there special requirements in the United States for my pet? You should take your pet to a veterinarian within 30 days of arrival to obtain a rabies vaccination since there are different strains of rabies in the United States than in Europe. In addition, the veterinarian will advise you of other health concerns for your pet in the United States such as heartworms, parvo virus, etc.
For additional information regarding your pet, please see section entitled "Pets" later in this Guide.
IMPORTATION OF WILDLIFE OR WILDLIFE PRODUCTS
Can I bring my exotic pet? Probably not! The regulations governing wildlife imports are complex as there are several US laws and an international treaty that must be followed if you are considering importing or purchasing a live animal.
May I bring my exotic plants? Probably not! Plants are also strictly regulated.
May I bring souvenirs that are made of turtle shell, horn or other animal body parts? Generally NO.
What are the relevant US laws/treaties?
Endangered Species Act—prohibits the import and export of species listed as endangered, and the majority of species listed as threatened.
Lacey Act—prohibits the import of animal species that have been taken, possessed, transported, or sold in violation of foreign law. Many countries ban or strictly limit wildlife trade.
Cities—a comprehensive wildlife treaty signed by over 130 countries, including the United States, that regulates and, in many cases, prohibits imports and exports of wild animal and plant species that are threatened by trade.
Marine Mammal Protection Act—prohibits the import of marine mammals and their parts and products. These species include whales, walruses, narwhals, seals, sea lions, sea otters, and polar bears.
African Elephant Conservation Act—prohibits imports of ivory products from any country, and only permits noncommercial import of whole tusks from elephants that have been legally hunted in certain African countries.
Wild Bird Conservation Act—regulates or prohibits the import of many exotic bird species.
What are some of the prohibited animals? Some prohibited animals can be found in the FWS booklet available at http://www.fws.gov/le/pdf/FactsWildlifeLaws.pdf.
Where can I find additional information to ensure I am not violating US laws? Contact local authorities, the US Embassy or the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) at http://www.fws.gov.
IMPORTATION OF FIREARMS
Can I bring my pistol/rifle/firearm? Generally NO. Article VI of the NATO Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) permits "members of a force [to] possess and carry arms [if] authorized to do so by orders." If you are not authorized under orders to possess a firearm, United States Federal law generally does not permit the possession, sale, importation, shipment or receipt of firearms to or by "aliens" (individuals who are not citizens or lawful permanent residents [LPRs] of the United States). There are a few limited exceptions for aliens present in the United States pursuant to a non-immigrant visa, which does include the visa categories of "NATO" and "A." HOWEVER, the process is difficult, time consuming, can be expensive, and most personnel do not qualify.
Will representatives in the Office of the Legal Advisor assist with the import or purchase of a firearm while I am posted in the United States? NO. If you are authorized under national orders to possess a firearm, representatives in the Office of the Legal Advisor will only provide limited assistance and guidance via your NLR or PNLR. If it is a private matter, assistance will not be provided.
Where can I find additional information? Consult the brochure (http://www.atf.gov/publications/download/p/atf-p-5300-18.pdf) published by the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), which specifically addresses the firearms and non-immigrant issue. As you will note from the brochure, non-immigrants are not ordinarily permitted to purchase (or import) a firearm.
For additional information please consult the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives web site at: http://www.atf.gov.
PACKAGES MAILED TO THE UNITED STATES
Are there limitations on what can be mailed to the United States? Prior to mailing items to the United States, you should ensure that those items can be sent from the country in which you are currently living through the International Postal System, and also determine whether the items can legally be sent through the US Postal System (USPS).
Are there special declarations required? If the value of items being sent exceeds $2,000, the shipment will require formal entry. This process goes through a Customs mail branch facility where the shipment will be held until the addressee can go to the facility and formally accept the item. This will likely require posting a Customs bond and includes many other technicalities which may require an importer.
Do I have to pay Customs duty on packages I receive? YES. Packages sent to the United States that are valued at more than $200 will be subject to Customs duty unless your exemption from US Customs duties is asserted by the sender, and then accepted by the mail facility through which the package is processed as well as postage and handling fees.
If I believe that I have been charged an incorrect amount of Customs duty on a package received from abroad through the USPS, what can I do? You may file a protest with US Customs and Border Protection (CBP)—the agency that levies the duty. See the link from the USPS web site for additional information: http://pe.usps.com/text/imm/immc7_002.htm.
If National authorities permit, it is recommended that you send/receive packages through your National postal service, embassy, or other national authority.
Where can I find additional information? Consult the USPS website at: http://www.usps.com for further information on shipping items through international mail.