A few months back, I wrote a post about how to register photography & video equipment before USA departure. This post attempted to answer most of the questions regarding the forms and the procedures necessary to register your gear prior to an international flight.
On that same post, I wrote what I knew and could gather at that time on the subject, so it could serve other photographers and videographers traveling with their equipment overseas.
I was resolved to do this since, after returning from a photography tour in Argentina with a cornucopia of cameras and lenses, I was prompted to present equipment’s registration to a customs officer at MIA International.
Needless to say, I was totally clueless on the topic but determined to find some definite answers.
After some extra research, and another trip, I’m trying to fill out all the gaps from where we left of at the previous post, and share what I learned so far after several conversations with the Miami Customs office, here, at Miami International Airport (Thank you for all for your patience! And no, I don’t plan to smuggle photo equipment from South America!)
Register Photo & Video Gear
Ideally, you would be taking your personal photo and video equipment to a casual trip or vacation, but we photographers know otherwise. The CBP FORM 4457 is tiny – even the customs officers I talked to agree – yet that’s the one you have to fill out if you’re taking your valuables abroad (tablets, computers, electronics and cameras) This is a one time registration form. This means that you’re the sole owner of the equipment you’re taking, regardless of its use.
It’s of note to say that the form has to be filled out by including item’s description – Ex: Sony A6300 camera Serial #223123 – so be careful filling it out. I suggest only to include lenses and camera bodies, also drones and/or personal computers, and make sure you add them to the list along their model and serial numbers. On this last trip, I did not included any tripods, memory cards, readers or external hard drives.
You, and only you, the owner, are liable for presenting this form at your arrival.
The lack of documentation to support that you’re the rightful owner of this equipment can result in the confiscation of your gear.
Although no electronic versions of the form can be accepted as evidence of ownership, It’s highly advisable to snap a quick photo of your form in case it gets lost of stolen (I specifically asked this and I recommended to do so as valid suggestion)
No electronic versions are kept at the customs office, so your paper copy is the only valid copy that is acceptable for claiming ownership at the time of re-entry – Safeguard it!
Personal vs Commercial
Now, if you have equipment that belongs to a company, or your personal photography and video equipment exceed the value admitted at the registration of CBP Form 4457 (I believe that’s about $1500), you need to fill out CBP Form 4455. This is a much bigger form, reserved for commercial products and equipment taken abroad.
This form is also unique and in contrast to its personal sibling, it has to be filled out every time you travel. It cannot be kept after returning to the US. At least this form has enough space to list multiple items and it’s a better layout in general.
Regardless of where you go, I strongly recommend you also take some equipment insurance for your travels. It does not cost much, and releases the anxiety of any damage to your gear.
I believe it’s a good idea to register photography & video equipment when you travel and remember, that this might change in the near future due to new security measurements.