Did you know that U.S. law allows an international traveler to enter or leave the United States with more than $10,000 in monetary instruments (i.e., cash, checks, etc.), as long as the money is properly declared? Many international travelers misunderstand this law and believe that $10,000 is the limit one can carry. The currency reporting laws are also confusing as it applies to families traveling together. Does the amount declared apply just to yourself or to your family as well? This misunderstanding and confusion cause travelers every day to misdeclare the actual amount carried, resulting in seizure of all the traveler’s money by U.S. Customs at international airports and border crossings across the United States.
The following are basic tips to follow to aid in your fight against Customs’ seizure.
Write down everything you remember about the seizure. Right now.
Memory is by its nature unreliable, especially when an event takes you by surprise such as an embarrassing Customs inspection that results in an interrogation, search of your belongings, and all your money being seized. That being said, one of your greatest defenses against Customs in a seizure case is remembering facts about the events before and during the Customs seizure. Some facts to consider include:
- Where was the currency located at the time of seizure? Was it in your pocket, your luggage, or some other place?
- Did you put anything in writing stating the amount of currency you were carrying?
- Were you traveling with family members or friends and was currency seized from them?
- Were you carrying currency on behalf of someone else who was not traveling?
- What were the names of the Customs officers who interrogated you and inspected your belongings?
- What questions did the Customs officer ask you and how did you respond to them? For instance, did you tell them the purpose of your trip and the intended use of your funds?
Start gathering documents to show the source of your money.
It is important to gather supporting documentation to show that your money came from a legal and legitimate source. The type of documents you need will depend upon your specific situation, but some important ones include:
- Bank statements
- Tax returns
- Pay stubs
Other documents such as legal affidavits signed by family members or friends may also be effective in support of your case. Speak with an attorney first before drafting an affidavit.
Consider your legal options.
Contact an experienced customs attorney to determine the best course of legal action. Currency seizure and forfeiture proceedings offer several legal options, such as the filing of an administrative Petition with Customs or filing a Claim to get into court. Each option offers certain risks and benefits, and you should be aware of all of them. If you would like to learn more about how our customs attorneys can assist in your case, call us at (713) 932-1540 or send us a message on our Contact Us page.
Be careful to ensure all factual statements are accurate.
Our attorneys understand that your money is your business, and the details about the source and intended use of your money are a very private matter. That being said, it is crucial that you explain facts to your attorney as accurately as possible, or if you decide to represent yourself pro se (not recommended), be careful in making any material statements or admissions regarding the seizure. The last thing you want is for any inaccurate statements in your Petition to trigger further investigation (criminal, immigration, tax or otherwise) by the government, which is why obtaining legal counsel is always recommended in currency seizure proceedings.
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Givens & Johnston PLLC is a customs & international trade law firm located in Houston, Texas.