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Old February 9th, 2008, 10:32 PM   #1
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International Travel with gear-customs-taxes-etc

Hey gang,

I'll be headed to France in late May for the Grand Prix and then to Italy for some Lamborghini action. But I just read in last months EventDV where the author talked about checking with customs because one trip by a peer customs tried to charge taxes coming back to the states. Do what? Anyone have international travel headaches to warn me about concerning carrying gear?

I'll have a Panny HVX200 in a carry-on Pelican, and a Glidecam X10 rig, sticks and MacBookPro and other tools of the trade in luggage. If it's a big ordeal I'll just pre ship my gear ahead of time! Share with me boys and girls!

Jim
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Old February 9th, 2008, 11:29 PM   #2
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Hey gang,

I'll be headed to France in late May for the Grand Prix and then to Italy for some Lamborghini action. But I just read in last months EventDV where the author talked about checking with customs because one trip by a peer customs tried to charge taxes coming back to the states. Do what? Anyone have international travel headaches to warn me about concerning carrying gear?

I'll have a Panny HVX200 in a carry-on Pelican, and a Glidecam X10 rig, sticks and MacBookPro and other tools of the trade in luggage. If it's a big ordeal I'll just pre ship my gear ahead of time! Share with me boys and girls!

Jim
Jim:

It's called a Carnet and you need one. Just Google the term Carnet and you will come up with a host of providers, often Marine Insurance and Importing Insurance companies. I took six hard drives, six 16GB P2 cards and an HVX-200 to the U.K. for a few weeks last year and the Carnet cost me about $300.00.

It's worth it although it's a freaking hassle. You have U.S. stamp it on departure, your foreign countries stamp it on arrival, then U.S. Customs will stamp it when you get back. You can risk it by not having it but I wouldn't.

Dan
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Old February 10th, 2008, 12:49 AM   #3
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Yep.
Go to: www.uscib.org

Follow the links to the carnet section. For that amount of gear, it won't be super expensive. What it does do, is let you go in and out of the countries with just a cursory stop at the customs office.

Many countries, if they choose, can make you post a cash bond of up to 40% of the value of the gear for anything you bring in. What they're mostly making sure is that you're not importing stuff to sell on the fly...so if you bring it in, you're supposed to take it all back out.

Here's the workflow: you apply for the carnet as far in advance as you can...it's good for about a year. After you've paid for and received the carnet, you stop by US Customs on the way out of town. I usually do it the day before I leave, and hit the main office at the airport. You get the US Customs folks to stamp your paperwork verifying what you're taking out. They may or may not want to see every piece of gear, but bring it with you.

When you hit the airport in France, visit the customs boys at the office there and have them sign off on the appropriate carnet page. Go do your shoot.

As you fly back out, you have to visit the customs office at the airport again. Here's where it can get sticky. On several occasions on my shoots, the customs office has been closed in the foreign airport. It's not the end of the world. You will just go right to the airline desk, check your equipment, and fly home.

Then, the most important part. Make extra sure the US Customs folks sign off on your return carnet paperwork, whether you went thru foreign customs or not. This is your safety net. If they certify that you brought everything on the list back home, the USCIB will deal with any repercussions from abroad.


This actually happened to me in Germany. The Leipzig customs office was closed on Sunday morning when we flew out, so I checked everything thru to home, and got the US signatures. About 9 months later, I received a letter from a German Customs supervisor saying I had not checked the gear out of the country, and would be charged duty on the gear. The USCIB forwarded the carnet paperwork, and I never heard from Germany again.

Chances are you might well get all that stuff thru with no problem, since it's a smaller camera than my big HDCam and 5 Pelican cases. But it only takes one Customs officer in Italy bucking for a quota to ruin your whole trip!
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Old February 10th, 2008, 06:42 AM   #4
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I know camera people on productions shooting world wide who just take their Mini DV or HDV camera gear as if it's their personal camera rather than professional gear. However, they're taking a very limited amount of kit, basically a carry on camera bag and a tripod.

With amount of gear you're taking a Carnet makes sense. Just allow extra time when departing from airports to get to the customs, who tend to be in the arrivals area and there can be quite a distance between arrivals and departures at some airports.
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Old February 10th, 2008, 04:46 PM   #5
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I think I know the answer but would you say a carnet is needed for the following equipment traveling to China and Singapore packed in a Kata backpack and a 44"x12"x9" SKB case:
Canon XG-A1 w/shotgun
Two Sennheiser SK100 wireless xmit/Recv pairs
Frezzi Micro-fill
Libec TH-M20 tripod
MacBook Pro 15"
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Old February 10th, 2008, 10:55 PM   #6
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Ernest:

That's on the edge. You're probably pretty close to being able to say with a straight face that you shoot as a hobby, and this is for your personal use.

However; I have heard from others that China is very sensitive about pro TV crews coming there. If there is any other paperwork available to them (a visa or other travel documents) showing you are there for professional purposes, and you spin a story otherwise, it could come back to haunt you.

I guess it depends on the shoot, the advance work that's been done, and your willingess to take a risk. What did you say about the trip in your visa application?
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Old February 11th, 2008, 07:26 AM   #7
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In the extra "Do you have anything else you wanna say?" section of my VISA application, I said my business trip includes doing corporate video and photography for my US employer. I figured it would help if anyone questioned why I was shooting. Think I should take the stickers of the SKB case showing the other countries it's been in? :-)
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Old February 13th, 2008, 07:40 PM   #8
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Thanks for all the advice. As I have said over and over- I learn more here than from any other resource!

Jim
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Old February 20th, 2008, 03:40 PM   #9
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OK. So the Carnet is in the works. Question: If the Customs office at the airport is closed when I arrive, what do I do? If I go back when they are open, do I have to haul all my gear back?

Also, my itinerary goes Shanghai to LA via Hong Kong. Do I have to go through customs in HK?
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Old February 20th, 2008, 04:52 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by Ernest House View Post
OK. So the Carnet is in the works. Question: If the Customs office at the airport is closed when I arrive, what do I do? If I go back when they are open, do I have to haul all my gear back?

Also, my itinerary goes Shanghai to LA via Hong Kong. Do I have to go through customs in HK?
You have to make sure all you have the Carnet stamped when you arrive and when you depart a country. The arrivals customs in China will be open for your arrival, the problem might be departure, you'll have to ensure that the customs are open. It's not usually a problem at big international airports, but it's worth checking where you can get the Carnet stamped if the customs in arrivals are closed when you fly back home. It's best to find this out when you get the Carnet stamped when entering the country, or even in advance of the trip. Certainly before you go the airport on the return flight.

As long as both you and the gear is in transit and you stay air side in Hong Hong you should be OK getting your Carnet stamped in Shanghai. It's only an issue if you're actually visiting in Hong Kong. However, if you're changing airlines etc, you may find that you have to get it stamped in Hong Kong. It depends if the gear is just automatically going through the baggage system without you touching it.

Usually customs just want to see the stamps in and out of a country.
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Old February 21st, 2008, 01:42 PM   #11
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OK. I think I'm getting the hang of this. You say that Customs Office will be open when I arrive because they must be open for an international flight arrival. As far as my equipment goes, does that automatically mean I go in the red line or is that dependent on the country?
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Old February 22nd, 2008, 01:56 PM   #12
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Hi, Ernest!
In case of ATA carnet, always walk the red line!!
In my experience, and I make around 5 trips outside the EU 7 year, itīs never worth it to go anywhere on a job without an ATA carnet, the customs and import charges you could get hit with can easily mess your business up big time!!
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Old February 22nd, 2008, 04:03 PM   #13
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Yes, you're going to need to get your Carnet stamped on entry so you always go to the red line.

At the same time, if departing back to the USA by the same airport, check with the customs people where you go to get the carnet stamped again when you leave the country, because departures tend not to have customs offices.
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Old February 23rd, 2008, 06:46 AM   #14
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Jim, I have found that it is also a good idea to carry a copy of the bill of sale with you. It is proof that you actually own the equipment. Also, do stop at customs at the Atlanta airport. I actually did this a couple of days before I left but check on that now, they may have changed the regs. I have traveled throughtout South America with my Canon XL-2 w/20x and 3x lens plus other goodies and never had a problem with customs. Bob
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Old February 23rd, 2008, 07:19 AM   #15
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Just an FYI, I have a domestic flight from Fort Lauderdale to LAX in the first leg of my trip. I spoke at length with the Fort Lauderdale Customs and Border Patrol office. They said that since LA was my last port before leaving the country, that my Carnet had to be processed in LA. So, I can't check my bags in FLL through to my destination.

I went to www.cbp.gov, and tried to call the LAX customs office to find out hours of operation but got disconnected twice after waiting 20 minutes and hit recordings that gave phone numbers that were disconnected.

How anal do these inspections get? When I did my Carnet, I listed "Camcorder and Batteries" and said it was three pieces (I have two batteries). However, when I packed my camcorder, the lens shade and strap came off so technically, it's now 5 pieces. Are they going to get that picky?
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