OK, I realize that was contradictory, but it’s true. The U.S. Customs form 3299, Declaration For Free Entry Of Unaccompanied Articles, is used to import your used, personal goods into the U.S. duty-free. There are many applications for form 3299, but they are specific. If you are traveling abroad, the 3299 form can be a real time saver, and really, you don’t want to pay Custom duties on your dirty socks!
Let’s look at some examples of when the 3299 form is applicable and then we’ll walk through completing one. First and foremost, the 3299 is for used, personal belongings. Keep that in mind and you won’t run afoul of Customs regulations regarding the importation of those kinds of goods. If you are shipping home your personal belongings because you are going from a colder climate to a warmer one while you are traveling abroad, that’s a great time to use the 3299 form. If you are moving back to the States after a period of working or living in a foreign country, that’s another example of when to use it. Even if you’re a foreign national who is coming to the U.S. for an extended visit, to study or work, or are emigrating, those are all perfect example of when to use that form.
The U.S. Customs form for free entry should not be used to import new goods returned from abroad. Let me say that again-it should not be used to import goods you obtained abroad and are returning to the States because you can’t carry all that stuff! Ok, point made.
Don’t mix your new and used, personal stuff either. You’ll really end up with a headache should Customs randomly pull it for inspection, because then you’ll find yourself with two different sets of Customs requirements being asked of you, and then you get to try to remember just what you packed in those 7 boxes you sent from Papua New Guinea!
Now let’s quickly walk through completing the 3299 form. It’s really easy, folks, but I do want to urge you to consider that you are completing a governmental form. Legible hand-writing, attention to detail, and fully completing each required section will go a long way to insuring the documentation does its job of seeing your stuff safely home!
Section 1 is your generic personal information. Even though the receiver of your package may be someone other than yourself, complete this part with your information. It’s ok to have someone else be the consignee, that is, the receiver of the goods, but you want to complete part one as if you were going to be receiving the goods. It won’t affect delivery of your shipment. Also, even if you are going to be continuing your travels, provide a way for your carrier to contact you directly. Trust me, it will be a great help if the carrier does need any additional information. If you are unsure of parts of section 1, like you don’t have a firm return date, say so! Undetermined is a better answer for your return details than blank spaces. Same goes for the rest of section 1. It may be of value to actually look at the form as we go through this, so go ahead and pull up a pdf of the form here.
Section 2 is just as easy, but don’t let it confuse you. Your residency is determined by where you are right now. Even if you’re leaving the country from which you are shipping the goods, use a “real-time” mentality to answer that one. If you are a U.S. citizen, obviously you will choose returning resident. Otherwise, note your status as it is appropriate to you. Number 10 in Section 2 is also self-explanatory and you might need to check more than one box, depending on your circumstance.
Unless you are U.S. personnel, or an evacuee from a country that just went haywire, skip section 3.
Likewise section 4 can be bypassed, unless there are goods being included in the shipment that fall into one of the categories listed. For example, if you took a bunch of extra suits with you on your business trip to Bangkok with the express purpose of having them tailored, section 4 would be a great place to make note of that.
Congratulations, you’ve done the hard part! Let’s finish up with page 2. On the second page of the 3299 you will find a wide-open place for you to list the goods you are returning to the States. Here is where you will list all your items that you shipped. I strongly advise you to complete this form as you are packing your goods. Really, it will just save you time in the long run, should Customs come along and ask for a more substantial detail of the shipped goods. So, just go ahead and complete that part. One thing, don’t get fooled by that middle column asking you for values. Notice at the top that it says-Value Of Repairs. That would be for your Thai suit makeovers! If you need more page space, for example, if you were moving a household, it is acceptable to add additional pages to the 3299.
Once you’ve completed this part, sign and date the 3299 form at the bottom of page 2 and you are done, my friend!
One last thing I would like to mention is that it has been my experience that Customs has asked for a good, clean copy of the picture page of your passport to accompany the 3299. While I don’t know that that is an across the board requirement from Customs, it won’t hurt to include it with the paperwork you provide to the freight company. Just be sure that the freight company includes it with the documentation they generate to be sent with your shipment! Good luck with your travels, and good luck for a safe and easy import experience!