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Going home? Six things to keep in mind before you return to the U.S.

Some things to keep in mind when you return from visiting your native country.

Ask anyone who's left their native country for a job opportunity in the U.S., they'll likely tell you it it wasn't an easy decision. They may be able to send money to them so they can maintain a better standard of living, but feelings of homesickness can be significant.

As a result, it's not uncommon to leave your job for a little while and return to your native country to visit with friends and family. Upon return, some will bring something back with them to the U.S. to serve as a reminder of home.

But as the United States Customs and Border Protection indicates, anything you return with needs to be declared before you can come back. With this in mind, you should be aware of a few things.

1. What needs to be declared? You must declare just about anything you return with that you didn't have before leaving. This includes items that were purchased, things that were given to you or that you inherited, or items you intend to sell once you get back to the States.

2. Border officers are permitted to inspect incoming bags without a warrant. For starters, CBP indicates that border protection officers maintain the right to inspect your belongings without a warrant. This includes luggage, searching your person and your vehicle. Duty-free items – or purchases that aren't subject to a tax – have to be declared as well. You will also likely be asked several questions that pertain to your citizenship and the reason for your trip.

3. Be cautious of street vendors. Just about every country has street vendors that you may consider buying from when you're on vacation. However, these salesmen may sell goods that are counterfeit or unsafe. As a result, you may be forced to surrender them to authorities when you get home. You should be extra careful about making sure the items you're purchasing are authentic and will pass the inspection process.

4. What's "prohibited" and what's "restricted"? One way of determining this is by knowing what things are prohibited and restricted. As a general rule, CBP notes that anything that could potentially injure a person or community's health or public safety may be subject to scrutiny. This may include alcohol, alcoholic beverages, automobiles, ceramic tableware, cultural artifacts, firearms, certain types of animal furs, medications and foods like meat, poultry, vegetables and fruits.

While some of these items may be prohibited from entering the U.S., you should be aware that this is not the same as items that are restricted. For example, "prohibited" indicates that a product is forbidden to enter the U.S. under all circumstances. "Restricted," meanwhile, means that in order for it to come into the U.S., it may be subject to certain permits or licenses. Firearms, for instance, are a restricted item.

5. All Cuban goods are prohibited. For the most part, items can come into the U.S. on a case-by-case basis. But some items that originate from certain countries are forbidden under all circumstances. CBP indicates that this rule applies to any and all products that originated from Cuba.

The CBP offers several other tips to remember that will help make the declaration process as simple as possible. There is also a website you can visit for a list of countries where certain bans may be in place on specific foods due to food-borne diseases.

Helpful links:
USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service
Top 10 Traveler Tips

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