Traveling to the US? Find out which items are prohibited and restricted before crossing

Make sure not to bring anything that’s been prohibited or restricted by CBP on your next visit

If you’re a frequent traveler to the United States, it is important to learn which items are prohibited and restricted when crossing the border. The role of U.S. Customs and Border Protection is to protect the United States from possible threats to health, public security, and animal life.

Among prohibited items there are dangerous toys, cars that cannot protect passengers during an accident, hunted meat, and illegal substances such as absinthe and Rohypnol. Restricted items require special licenses from federal agencies to enter into the United States which include firearms, certain fruits and vegetables, animal products, animal subproducts, and some animals.

If you’re traveling and crossing the world’s busiest border in the world, the Tijuana-San Ysidro port of entry, make sure you know the rules and verify with CBP agents the items that you’re planning on bringing so as to avoid any problems when crossing the border. Enjoy your trip without any delays!


The absinthe content must be “free of thujone” and must not have more than one tenth of a million of thujone. In addition, the “absinthe” brand cannot be by itself on the label, and images regarding hallucinogenic, psychotropic, or mind altering effects are not allowed. Any imported absinthe violating these regulations will be subject to seizure.
Alcoholic drinks: Besides complying with federal law, you must know the laws of the state you’re crossing into the United States. Every state has different regulations regarding the amount of alcohol you can cross and if you need a license to do it. Before leaving, contact the department of alcohol drink control of the appropriate state to make sure you’re complying with their regulations.


Cars imported into the United States must comply with emission rules by the Environmental Protection Agency, and safety, bumper, and theft prevention standards by the US Department of Transportation. Trying to import a car that doesn’t comply with all requirements can be difficult. Almost all vehicles purchased abroad, except recent vehicles from Canada, must be modified to comply with American norms. Passenger vehicles that are imported under the condition that they will be modified must be exported or destroyed if they are not modified correctly.

Biological Items

It is possible that you may need a permit from the US Department of Agriculture and/or a permit from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to import biological specimens including bacterial cultures, culture mediums, excretions, fungi, arthropods, mollusks, livestock tissue, birds, plants, and virus or vectors for research and biological or pharmaceutical use.


Though pottery is not prohibited or restricted, you must know that pottery made abroad can have high levels of lead in its glaze, which could filter into food and drinks.

Cultural artifacts and property

Most countries have laws that protect their own cultural property, including art works, antiques, and archeological and ethnologic materials. These laws include the control of export and/or national ownership of this cultural property.

Classified and non-classified items with military applications

They are considered defensive items and they require a license before being permanently exported, temporarily imported, or temporarily exported abroad. If CBP officials suspect that a regulated or defensive item has been temporarily imported/exported or permanently exported without a license, the individual is subject to arrest and possible seizure for violating International Trafficking of Arms Regulations.

Dog or cat fur

It is illegal to import, export, distribute, transport, manufacture, or sell products with dog or cat fur in the United States. Since November 9, 2000, the Dog and Cat Protection Act of 2000 requires the seizure and confiscation of every item with dog or cat fur.

Drug paraphernalia

It is illegal to bring drug paraphernalia into the United States unless it has been prescribed due to authentic medical conditions such as diabetes. CBP will confiscate any sort of illegal drug paraphernalia. The law prohibits the import, export, manufacturing, sales or transportation of drug paraphernalia. If you are arrested for any of these crimes, you will be subject to penalties and prison.


If you’re planning on bringing weapons or ammunitions to the United States, you must do so through an importer, distributer, or licensed manufacturer.

Fish and wildlife

There are restrictions regarding certain kinds of fish and wildlife, as well as products derived from them. You must get informed about regulations to avoid any sort of problems with immigration authorities.

Food products (raw and prepared)

Most prepared foods are allowed, although there are certain products that require prior notification to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) before being imported. It is important to get informed about these regulations regarding the products you will bring on your trip.

Among the foods that are allowed for personal consumption there are condiments and prepared salsas, vegetables oils, baked and processed goods such as cookies, among others. To learn which foods you can bring, click here.

Fruits and vegetables

Bringing fruits and vegetables can be complicated, as they can be carriers of plagues or diseases that can affect the country’s agriculture. Make sure to know well the regulations and restrictions regarding these products.

If CBP allows an apple to cross or not into the United States, it all depends on where it was obtained and where exactly you are going inside the United States. The same thing would happen with Mediterranean tomatoes.

Hunting trophies

If you’re planning on bringing a hunting trophy, you must know that there are certain designated ports where they can be received. It is important to get informed to avoid any problems with immigration authorities.


Though gold items such as coins, medals, or ingots used to be prohibited, currently their entry is allowed into the United States. However, under regulations by the Office of Foreign Assets Control, gold items from Cuba, Iran, Burma (Myanmar), and most of Sudan are prohibited. Gold coin copies are prohibited if they are not properly labeled by the country who issued them.

Drums of Haitian animals’ skin

Haitian goatskin drums has been previously related to skin anthrax case and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention restrict the entry of skin drums from Haitian animals if they haven’t been processed in a way that makes them non-infectious. Travelers must take into account that untanned skin drums from Africa may present a similar, but low skin anthrax risk.


Narcotics and certain medications with high potential for abuse such as Rohypnol, GHB, and Fen-Phen, among others, cannot be taken into the United States. Severe penalties are given to those who try to do so. The general rule is that you should only bring the medications you will need on your foreign trip, not more or less.

Merchandise from sanctioned countries

Generally speaking, you are not allowed to bring in merchandise from Cuba, Iran, Burma (Myanmar), and most of Sudan. The Office of Foreign Assets Control of the U.S. Treasury Department economically sanctions these countries. To bring merchandise from these countries, you first need a specific license from The Office of Foreign Assets Control. These licenses are rarely given.


If you’re planning on bringing your pet with you or import one, check the CBP guide regarding pets and wildlife. In addition, it is important to verify with local authorities if there are stricter restrictions by the federal government before going to the United States, so as to avoid penalties or being sent back home. This happened to a family which, last October, tried to cross with a pet pig. However, authorities did not allow them through because they did not have the necessary veterinarian permits. You can find more information about this case here.

Plants and seeds

Some plants, seeds, unprocessed products of vegetable origin, and certain near-extinct species are allowed into the United States but require import permits and other documents. There are others that completely prohibited. Threatened or near extinction species that are allowed must have export permits from their native country.

In addition, there are certain types of flowers in Mexico that are not allowed to enter into the United States. Not knowing which ones they are and not declaring them can result in a penalty of up to $300 dollars, which is why it is better to check which flowers are prohibited by clicking on the following link.


Here, soil is considered the loose material from Earth’s surface where plants, trees, and bushes grow. In most cases, soil is made out of disintegrated rocks with a mixture of organic material and soluble salts. Entering with soil is prohibited unless there is an import permit and it is declared in customs.

Fabrics and clothes

Generally speaking, there is no limit to the amount of fabrics and clothing you bring as long as it is for personal use or for gifts. If this personal exemption has been exceeded, it is possible that you will need to pay taxes on these items. However, non-accompanied personal deliveries (packages sent by mail) may be subject to limitations regarding the amount allowed.

Items with copyright and trademarks

CBP complies with laws regarding the protection of brands and copyright. Items that break the law regarding trademarks or copyright federally protected or protected by the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works are subject to arrest and/or seizure. These items can be items that use protected copyright without authorization of the brand or the copyright holder, or items that copy or simulate a protected right.

Remember before traveling that you must carefully review which items you’re bringing and which ones you’re not. If you have any questions, it is better to ask immigration authorities to avoid any problems.

RELATED VIDEO: Video shows how to get a I-94 permit on the CBP One app


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