Travel Restrictions in America for Visitors

Ever since 9/11, security forces of the United States of America have been very careful about who enters the country and with they bring along with them. So much so that in March 2017, some Middle Eastern America-bound flights were banned from carrying laptops in the cabin, said an article in The New York Times.

With baggage and carry on restrictions being so extreme and fluctuating so often, it is best to stay updated and read about the latest regulations. According to the US Customs and Border Protection, the products that are banned from being brought into the United States are those that have the potential to “injure community health, public safety, American workers, children, or domestic plant and animal life, or those that would defeat our national interests.”

Some of these items need a special license or permit, issued by a federal agency, to enter the US, while other items are simply prohibited, i.e., forbidden by law to be brought into the country.

Prohibited and Restricted Items on a USA-bound Flight

Food Products

  • Bush meat made from African wildlife and food preparations containing meat products are not admissible.
  • Rice can be a carrier of insects and should thus be avoided.
  • Condiments, tea, coffee, oils, etc., are allowed while certain cheeses are not.
  • Fresh fruits and vegetables are also restricted, depending on where you bought them and how many you are carrying.
  • Some imported foods are also subject to approval of the US Food and Drug Administration. You can check their website for rules regarding any particular food item that you wish to bring to America.


  • Drugs that have a high potential for abuse, such as narcotics, Rohypnol, GHB and Fen-Phen, etc., may not be allowed.
  • If you are carrying medication with potentially addictive drugs in it, you may be allowed to take it with you if it is in its original packaging and is accompanied by a valid prescription from a physician.
  • Find more information about carrying medicines and drugs to the United States, read here.

Alcoholic Beverages

  • Carrying alcohol to the Unites States is illegal if you are below 21 years of age.
  • Usually one litre of alcohol per person is allowed to enter the country duty free, and only for travelers who are 21 years or older.
  • If you wish to carry more for personal use, you may be allowed but will have to pay duty and federal excise taxes at the Port of Entry.


  • Cats can be subject to inspection at the Port of Entry. If evidence of infections transferable to humans is found, they may be denied entry to the United States.
  • Dogs must have a certificate that proves that they have been vaccinated against rabies at least 30 days prior to their entry into America.
  • For more information on bringing pets into the United States, read this brochure.

The US Customs and Border Protection has very specific guidelines for many other items, such as soil, plants and seeds, gold, firearms, automobiles and more. You can learn more about these here. Read as much as you can about the prohibitions and restrictions and pack accordingly to avoid any hassles in a foreign land.

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Mani Karthik

About the Author

Mani Karthik

Ex “NRI” and Founder of the “Back to India” movement. I share my experience about immigrating to USA here.

  1. Kusuma Venkatesh

    Hi, does US customs allow Tamrind from india?

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