Customs checks when traveling to the U.S. and back - Germany

Declaring stuff, and proving other items are old


erdbeere
We"re going to the US next week and I want to bring my laptop and cameras with me...am I going to have a hard time coming back into Germany with that stuff? Will I need to prove that I had it with me when I left Germany? Also, most of the stuff was bought in the US (atleast 6 months ago) but we didn't pay customs for some of the stuff, so can they fine me for that now, or is there some kind of statute of limitations for that?

I will be bringing some stuff back with me that I'll need to declare...how does that work really? I just show them the item with receipts and whatnot? Will they search all of our bags for more items? And what about household items (vases, decoration, etc) my mom gives me (she always sends me back with stuff she doesn't need anymore)...will I have to prove its been used?

And how picky are they really? Will they look at EVEYTHING you have, or are they mostly concerned with expensive goods like electronics, jewelry, etc?
kitkat64
Well, if you're flying direct into Munich, it could be an issue. We just flew back through Amsterdam and the Customs Agent asked us (with a smile) 'did you buy anything in the States?' and we said (with a smile) 'no'. The thing is, when you are traveling through another EU country and your bags are checked directly through to Munich, no worries. We could have declared but we didn't.

I have never been stopped by customs and never declared a thing (they get enough of my tax money over here), so I don't exactly know what happens to you if you get asked/caught.
erdbeere
yea, we usually fly through Amsterdam, but we're bringing our dog with us this time, so we wanted to fly direct...I never worried about it before because I've never even actually seen a customs officer, but I know flying directly into Munich, the chances of getting busted will be higher, and I'd rather pay the 19% tax on whatever I buy than get busted and have to pay 10x that...

I'm mostly just worried about having to pay for things I already own and not sure how to prove I didn't just buy it without receipts.
Darkknight
Actually it doesn't matter if you clear customs in another EU country first or if you go thru Munich first. In the end both Direct and interlined
bags come out at the same baggage area, and you still have to pass the same customs control station. So the possibility is there that either way
you can still get checked.

What separates EU/Non-Eu Originating baggage is the bag tag. Trips with-in the EU get a green stripe, while bags from outside the EU do not.
If you travel via AMS to MUC, you will have to clear customs in AMS even if your bags are interlined to MUC. You then drip them off at the baggage
counter, where they are put onto your connecting flight. The tags are not changed (If interlined correctly) so they will not have the green stripe.

If flying direct to MUC from the US, then the tags don't have the stripe, and you clear customs in MUC. Customs clearance is always done
at the first port of entry. Same for the US.

Technically your chances of getting pulled into the customs office is 50/50, but having been to/from the US dozens of times over the last 10 years
I'd say they only pull 1 in every 80-100 people for random inspections. Sometimes when going out of the baggage area there arn't any customs people
even in the offices. So your chances of getting inspected while are technically 50/50, in actuality they are very slim. German customs officiers can pull you
aside and inspect your stuff, whether your coming from an EU country or not. They can inspect anybody from anywhere. Remember your going thru
a German airport.

If you want you could even put the laptop in a backpack, so you don't have to carry a Laptop looking carrying bag threw the airport.
In the end you have nothing to worry about.
KäptnKnitterbart
Take pictures now of Munich with the camera and leave them on there -- they usually accept that as proof you had the camera before the trip. Do something similar with the laptop.

Beyond the camera thing I have no experience with customs but you might as well just come clean with what you have and be honest (beyond the electronics you're taking) and I'd imagine your experience will be better.
lilplatinum
As long as the laptop and camera arent in original packaging and carried on you, you will be fine.. I've been checked by german customs twice when coming back and they never said a word about my laptop bag with me. Not like they are going to hastle the thousands of people who travel with laptops.
erdbeere
@darkknight... actually, I've never had to recheck my luggage when flying through Amsterdam... always go through customs with just my backpack, but then again, thats usually where the valuable stuff is. Then whenever I've gotten to Munich, there has never been anyone int he customs area, and I just figured it was because they weren't epecting any flights originating outside of the EU at that time (in other words, if they know a flight from the US was arrive, the customs stations would be manned).

I had my laptop repaired a few weeks ago, do you think the invoice from that will be ok proof that its not new? And they should be able to tell the camera isn't new, but I'm mostly worried about my lenses...not like they're scratched up or anything
Melia
If you travel via AMS to MUC, you will have to clear customs in AMS even if your bags are interlined to MUC. You then drip them off at the baggage
counter, where they are put onto your connecting flight. The tags are not changed (If interlined correctly) so they will not have the green stripe.
That's not true. There's no pick-up and recheck of bags at AMS when flying from the US to MUC. You pass through immigration at AMS but customs in MUC.

In the US, of course, you must claim your bags at your point of entry, clear customs/agriculture there and subsequently recheck your bags for any connecting flight(s). But this is irrelevant to the OP's question.
Darkknight
Only stating what has happened to me. Your experiences my differ. Have also had to recheck bags in Frankfurt when coming from the US and going to MUC.
kitkat64
If you travel via AMS to MUC, you will have to clear customs in AMS even if your bags are interlined to MUC. You then drip them off at the baggage
counter, where they are put onto your connecting flight.
What Erdbeere said: You do not pick up your bags in AMS and then re-check them, they are sent directly through. When you get to Munich, there are no immigration people and I have never seen any Customs people either (when coming off an inter-EU flight).

I've only ever had to pick up and re-check in one airport - Atlanta - on my way to wherever. But never on a return trip.
galitz
FWIW, I regularly fly through Frankfurt and Heathrow and have never had an issue with customs. In fact, frequently the customs counter in the baggage area of Frankfurt is unattended. If I ever had to actually declare something officially there... I'm not sure how I could! Perhaps they have a schedule and simply decide that certain flights do not need the counter attended.

Of course... passport control is another issue. Your mileage may vary, but I wouldn't worry about it.
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