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Articles and Resource

Personal Search and What to Expect more Travel Articles »  

The U.S. Customs Service is responsible for protecting the United States against the illegal importation of prohibited items. On a typical day, U.S. Customs seizes nearly 4,000 pounds of narcotics, over $500,000 in merchandise, and over $25,000 in arms and ammunition - contraband that would otherwise have ended up in local communities.

Customs needs your help in carrying out its mission to foster lawful international trade and travel. If you are selected for a Customs examination, it does not mean that you are suspected of unlawful activity. The purpose of the Customs examination is to verify the information on your Customs Declaration.

A small number of passengers are selected for a personal search. Your cooperation and understanding are greatly appreciated during this process.

During a Customs examination ...

  • You will receive an explanation of the examination process as it occurs.
  • You will have the opportunity to speak with a Customs supervisor.
  • You can request that Customs notify someone of your delay if you are detained more than two hours after the personal search has begun, unless probable cause has been developed.
  • You can request a body scan instead of a pat-down search, where body scan option is available.
  • You may not be searched on any discriminatory basis (e.g., race, gender, religion, ethnic background). Consideration of citizenship or a travel itinerary that includes a narcotics source or transit country is not discriminatory.
  • You are to be treated in a courteous, professional, and dignified manner.

Customs will contact the U.S. Attorney's Office if you are detained for eight hours. Customs will assist you with connection fees and meal and lodging expenses if you are inconvenienced as a result of a prolonged Customs detention with negative results.

If you feel that the examination was not conducted in a professional manner, ask to speak with a supervisor immediately. A Customs supervisor is always available at the Customs facility or by telephone. Supervisors are responsible for ensuring that officers treat all persons with dignity and that they behave in a professional manner.

In addition, you may speak with a Customs Passenger Service Representative (PSR). PSRs are specifically trained to handle any concerns or questions you may have.

If you have any additional comments or questions, the Customs Service wants to hear from you. You may write directly to Customs Headquarters at:

Executive Director, Passenger Programs
U.S. Customs Service
1300 Pennsylvania
Avenue, N.W.
Room 5.4D
Washington, D.C. 20229

You will receive a written response in a timely manner. If you provide your daytime phone number, Customs will also contact you directly by telephone.

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Data Source: US Customs Service.