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An Outline of International Import Policies

A run-through list of items you can get caught for

Each country has their own set of rules and regulations, when it comes to their import policies. While traveling abroad, we often turn a blind eye towards the guidelines of importing certain products into the country. What follows next is a long and stringent procedure with the immigration and customs department upon arrival.

Here’s an elementary list of certain common items that mustn’t be overlooked while traveling overseas.

1. Food:

A generic term for countless items and ingredients, which could land you in the soup if you’re not careful enough!

Every country enforces strict food import policies and restricts certain foods into their territory or limits their quantities. You will be required to declare any food items that you carry with you to the concerned authorities.

For instance – Germany has an extremely rigid policy on the import of food and animal feed. Items such as potatoes, wild mushrooms, Sturgeon caviar and supplements that fall under the Medicinal Products Act are prohibited.

With respect to imports made when traveling within EU countries, the rules are more relaxed. However, items such as milk and meat imported from non-EU countries are restricted to small quantities or are not permitted at all. This specifically holds true in Switzerland and Norway.

Australia is known to have one of the strictest biosecurity rules for the protection of their citizens and wildlife. Upon arrival, make sure you have truthfully declared all the food, plant material and animal products carried with you. So in a case where a specific item is disallowed, you won’t be penalised.

2. Alcohol:

Alcohol is one of the most commonly imported and exported items. The rules of import differ in terms of quantity and potency of the liquor and the age of the person carrying it. Like food, every bottle of alcohol carried within the country must be declared.

Hong Kong, despite being a free port, levies duties on alcohol. Passengers who are 18 or above are allowed only 1 liter of liquor, with an alcoholic strength of over 30% gain an exemption from the duty fee.

In Switzerland, travelers from the age of 17 are permitted to import 2 litres of alcoholic beverages up to 15% volume and only 1 liter if it exceeds the 15% mark. For any excess quantities, heavy taxes are levied.

Germany on the other hand doesn’t have a specified limit to the amount of alcohol imported into the country from its EU counterparts. But high quantities like 10 liters of liquor that exceeds 22% volume, 90 liters of wine, 110 liters of beer garner suspicion from the authorities and can be confiscated.

However, the rules change when alcoholic beverages and spirits are brought into Germany from non-EU countries.

Since USA doesn’t have a federal limit on the quantity of alcohol imported, the state in which you arrive first has the governing rights and decides whether or not you require a license.

3. Tobacco:

Tobacco is another objectionable item that undergoes strict import rules. This is in the form of cigarettes, cigars and other variants of tobacco.

For instance – Switzerland permits only 200 cigarettes or 250 grams of tobacco or 50 cigars in totality.

Hong Kong allows only 19 cigarettes or 1 cigar or 25 grams of other forms of tobacco.

When it comes to Singapore, there are no duty-free concessions or tax reliefs on the import of tobacco. All such items are imposed with a duty.

4. Animals, Animal Products and Plants:

Here’s where things get a little dicey. In the light of protecting the country’s biodiversity and ensuring that there is no risk of harmful diseases and pests that could damage the environment, countries across the globe enforce strict rules and regulations pertaining to import of animals, animal products and plants.

In this context, Australia is extremely sceptical. In addition to a strict food import policy, it also requires travelers to declare any herbs, spices, herbal medicines, teas, cereal grains, seeds, ferns, potpourri, wooden goods, etc.

Corals, beeswax, any animals, insect or amphibian or aquatic organism needs to be reported to the authorities. Additionally, carrying any animal hides, furs or skins is also subject to inspection.

USA has a Fish and Wildlife Service department that needs to be contacted while importing any birds or mammals, animal parts, namely – tusks, skins, feathers, eggs, bones, etc. Importing or exporting any type of cat or dog fur is illegal in the country.

5. Miscellaneous:

In addition to the above mentioned list, different countries restrict or control the import of specific items and commodities like:

  • Medicines and drugs
  • Biological specimens
  • Pets
  • Soil
  • Sports and camping equipment and other gears
  • Jewellery
  • Currency

Many items listed by several countries may sound absurd, but it is essential to understand that no nation makes compromises when it comes to national security that can be threatened in even a miniscule manner. Breaching of any regulation may lead to penalties and hefty fines. Therefore, we recommend you to make yourselves well-versed with the import policies of the country you plan on visiting.

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