New rules for traveling abroad with firearms — U.S. Customs clarifies regulations, web-based applications


Written by Craig Nyhus, Lone Star Outdoor News

Recent indications of changes to requirements when traveling internationally with firearms an is causing a stir for those about to head abroad as the hunting seasons begin in Africa and other countries in the Southern Hemisphere. The solution, though, appears simpler than anticipated.

Safari Club International sent an alert to its members, as did the National Rifle Association, advising of potential new regulations applying to hunters traveling with firearms and/or ammunition.

Until now, hunters traveling with firearms follow a pretty simple process. If traveling with fewer than three non-automatic firearms and 1,000 or fewer cartridges, the owner of the firearms/ammunition would bring the firearms/ammunition to a CBP office at some point before the trip and would complete a Customs Form 4457 — a form that can be completed for any personal property and that is normally used to prove that the traveler owned the property before going abroad.  The form protects a traveler from paying import duties on items already owned.  The owner of the firearms/ammunition would retain the form and present it upon reentry if needed.

AFRICA HUNT 2011 TXI 67500 (1) copy

Photo by Lili Sams, LSON.

The alerts came out after information that changes may be in the works. The website of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement ( outlines regulations established two years ago, but not yet enforced for hunters traveling with firearms. It appears that hunters are now required to obtain an International Transaction Number from the submission of the Electronic Export Information in the Commerce Department’s Automatic Export System (AES) and present this number with the firearm(s) when declaring the articles with a U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer. The regulation may be found at 22 C.F.R. 123.17. The website states as follows:

If a hunter wishes to temporarily export three or fewer non-automatic firearms from the United States and 1000 or fewer cartridges — at the time of his/her departure from the U.S., he or she must declare the articles to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer, present the Internal Transaction Number (ITN) obtained from the submission of the Electronic Export Information in the Automated Export System (AES) and present the firearms and/or cartridges for a visual inspection to the CBP officer at the port of departure from the United States.

The firearms and ammunition to be exported must be with the individual’s accompanied or unaccompanied (checked) baggage or effects.

The owner must declare that the firearms and/or ammunition to be exported are for his/her exclusive use and not for re-export or other transfer of ownership.  The owner must state that it is his/her intent to return with the firearms/ammunition on his/her return to the United States.

Lone Star Outdoor News contacted CBP, who issued the following statement this morning.

“U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is responsible for the enforcement of Department of Commerce and Department of State regulations for the export of certain controlled commodities, which include the export of firearms for personal use abroad.   

Travelers seeking to permanently or temporarily export firearms in checked baggage are expected to comply with federal export licensing regulations.

These regulations include the traveler declaring their firearms to CBP using the Automated Export System (AES).  AES has a free web-based internet application known as AESDirect that allows the traveling public to make their declarations electronically.  The submission of the information is known as the Electronic Export Information.  The travelers must file their declarations for controlled commodities, including rifles, handguns, and associated ammunition, at least eight hours prior to their departure from the United States.  The export of shotguns can be made up to two hours prior to departure from the United States.   For easier identification, it is recommended that the serial, make, model, and caliber information be placed into the commodity description field.

More information about using AESDirect can be found at

Upon returning to the United States, the traveler will make a regular declaration regarding the personal effects and goods that they are carrying and ensure that they declare any firearms and ammunition.

Previously issued CBP Forms 4455 and CBP 4457 can only be used as supporting documentation upon re-entry into the United States, to show that duties, taxes and fees on foreign made products have been previously paid.  These forms are not sufficient for the export declaration of firearms or other controlled commodities.”  

Although the web-based applications don’t appear difficult, travelers should be reminded to comply before heading to the customs office to save time and avoid a return trip after completing the application process.


2 Responses

  1. Mitch

    …For easier identification, it is recommended that the serial, make, model, and caliber information be placed into the commodity description field….

    This appears to be a form of firearm registration. The old method was simply a form that was filled out and stamped. The government did not keep this information. You retained it, as it was only proof that you owned the guns/property before you left the country. Upon re-entry into the USA you presented the form or otherwise they could tax you on the firearm/property. The previous forms could be used for anything of value (not just guns). Imagine traveling with
    expensive binocs (you owned before leaving the country). With out the forms, some customs agent might say you bought them abroad and charge you as duty on upon re-entry. This is now a whole different thing…we now have the census department involved ( and they want us to give them the serial, make, model, and caliber information of our firearms???

  2. John

    The web based applications are not at all simple to use. The exam to register might as well be written in Greek. I am leaving for Namibia in 2 weeks for my 10th safari so I felt obligated to go through with it. Contact your congressman or US Senator about this.