Customs Guide for Personal Effects Shipping to the USA

Find customs information and essential documentation for international removals to America

When you make your booking with 1st Move International, we will advise you of the documentation that you will need to complete to enable us to export your shipment from the UK, as well as import into The USA. However, here is a quick reference guide of the documentation that you may be required to provide to us.

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Personal Effects – Legal Definition

According to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) website, household effects are furniture, carpets, paintings, tableware, books, libraries, artwork and other usual household furnishings and effects that were used abroad for more than 1 year, and not intended for any other person or for sale.

These items may be allowed entry into the USA free of duty and tax.

What Documents are Required to Import Personal Effects into The USA?

U.S. Customs Form 3299 (Importers Declaration)

We will provide you with a blank copy of this document at the time of booking, and assist you in completing it correctly. This needs to be completed by anyone that is looking to import their personal effects into the USA free of duty and tax.

This gives U.S. CBP all of the details of the importer, when they arrived in the USA and specific details of the goods, as well as confirmation that they are applicable for importing free of duty and tax.

Supplemental Declaration for Unaccompanied Personal and Household Goods

Again, a blank copy will be provided by us at the time of booking and this needs to be completed before we can make the booking with the shipping line.


Whether you have a US, UK or any other passport, a copy of the photo page will be required to clear your household goods into the USA. This is required before we can book with the shipping line, for pre-lodgement with US Customs.

We will also need a copy of the photo page of the passport for anyone else that is travelling with you and mentioned on the CF-3299 Form.

US Visa

If you do not hold a US passport, you will need to have a valid Visa to enable you to import your household goods into the USA. Not all Visas or Work Permits allow you to import household goods free of duty and tax however, so please check with our experts once you have made your booking with us.

Packing Inventory

This is a list and description of the goods you are shipping. We will prepare this list on your behalf for US Customs. As we do not know the contents of any goods you may have packed yourself, we will send you the appropriate packing inventory to complete.

You will be required to give us clear details of any goods you have packed and avoid using the term “Miscellaneous” when describing any goods you have packed as this is not allowable by U.S. Customs.

Bill of Lading

Once your goods have shipped from the UK, the shipping line will confirm the sailing date and estimated arrival date. They will also provide us with the Bill of Lading, which is the transport document specific to your shipment.

This document includes the name of the owner of the goods as well as the addresses in the UK and USA. We will issue an “Express Bill of Lading” which means that an original document isn’t required, and you can claim your shipment with the shipping agent in the USA using a copy only, which we will provide to you.

ISF – Importer Security Filing

All shipments being imported via sea freight into the USA, commercial goods as well as personal effects, requires ISF. This gives the Customs and Border Protection agency details of shipments before they arrive into the USA, meaning that they are able to identify any high-risk shipments, preventing smuggling and maintaining homeland security.

The ISF must be submitted BEFORE goods are loaded on a shipping vessel, and we are only able to arrange a confirmed booking with the shipping line after we have given them all details required for ISF.

We will send you a form for you to give us some details for the ISF, and we will complete the rest. This will be provided to the shipping line when we make the booking with them.

Power of Attorney

To enable the shipping agent to clear your shipment through US Customs, you will need to give them Power of Attorney. This allows them the authority to process your import Customs clearance. We will again provide blank documentation along with instructions in completing it correctly.

This again needs to be in place before we can secure the booking with the shipping line.

Is There Anything Else I should Know?

Please bear in mind that you must arrive in the U.S.A. by the time your shipment arrives, otherwise this may result in Customs clearance delays and potentially additional costs.

Inherited Goods – We would require the relevant extract of the will or death certificate, or a letter of inheritance from the inheritor. If the inheritor confirms that they grew up with the items and that they were in their immediate household, the U.S. Customs will be Duty Free, if not then the shipment will be subject to Duties and fees. However, if the deceased was a U.S. Citizen and the items are moving as part of their estate, they can enter the U.S. as Duty Free.

Antiques – Goods must be at least 100 years old to be considered as antiques and imported duty free. If antiques or works of art are considered as household goods owned by at least one year by the owner and not intended for resale, then these are Duty Free.

Medicines – Prescription medicines are allowed in a shipment of household goods if they are accompanied by a prescription and are no more than a 6 months’ supply. Non-prescription, over-the-counter medicines are allowed in reasonable quantities as part of a shipment of personal effects and household goods.

New Goods, Owned for Less than 12 Months – Any goods shipped that you haven’t owned for more than 12 months will be subject to U.S. Customs duties and fees, and you will need to complete a separate declaration on CBP Form 3299.

Shipping Furniture and Household Effects to the USA

When you make a booking with 1st Move International, we will immediately send you instructions on all of the information and documentation that we require to enable us to collect, pack, ship and clear your shipment through Customs in the UK and the USA.

Our team of international removals experts are on hand to help with any questions that you have, and to help make international removals to the USA stress-free as possible.

If you would like to get the ball rolling, you can ask us for a quotation by completing the form on this page, giving us as much information as possible. Alternatively, you can call us on +44 117 982 8123 / 0800 389 0784 during UK office hours or e-mail on

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We are extremely proud of our unique packing process. We are one of the only international movers in the UK that uses this tried and tested method to ship your treasured personal possessions overseas.

This is our craft - lives packed with care and attention for their journey overseas. Visit our Facebook page to find a snapshot of each shipment captured as the final pallet is wrapped.

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