In a situation when a passenger of a scheduled flight leaving USA has something that has to be declared (like submitting FinCEN Form 105 for monetary instruments), what is the proper procedure for submitting the declaration?

As far as I understand, the routine departure procedure in US airports does not involve going through customs. But the instructions for FinCEN 105 state that the form should be filed "with the Customs officer in charge at the time of departure from the United States". So, where does one normally find that "Customs officer in charge" in US airports? Should the passenger simply inform the passport control officer that they need a customs officer? Or maybe passport control officer doubles as customs officer at the same time? Or should the passenger simply make an advance visit to some Customs Office in the airport?

Also, if an international flight out of the US begins with a domestic leg, what would be the proper location for dealing with the customs? Can it be done at the first airport? Or should it be done at the last US airport (immediately before the international leg of the flight)? Or, perhaps, can it be done at any US airport along the route?

In this specific case the route begins at SFO, proceeds to JFK and then out of the country. Both SFO and JFK certainly have Customs Offices. Does the traveller have a choice in this case, or does it have to be JFK specifically?

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    Few countries have customs checkpoints for departing passengers. When you heard that the US has no outbound customs checkpoint, the intended meaning was almost certainly that the US has no outbound passport control checkpoint. – phoog Sep 27 '17 at 17:50
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    @phoog: Yes, but this is what the question is about. There's no doubt that passengers leaving USA have to go through customs when they meet certain criteria. This is definitely rare, but sometimes necessary. The question is: how to do this properly? – AnT Sep 27 '17 at 17:53
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    It's a good question. I was merely addressing the assumption that there is some government-operated passport control (instead, passport control is achieved by airlines passing passport information to the government). In international airports and in some domestic airports there is a customs office available for departing passengers. A passenger flying from an airport without such an office, if there is one, with a tight connection before leaving the US, may be in trouble. – phoog Sep 27 '17 at 18:00
  • Many years ago (2000ish?) I (and several other passengers) got pulled over on the air bridge to the plane and was asked about any US currency I had on me, so don't assume it will never happen or that once you're airside you're safe. – PeterI Sep 28 '17 at 14:34
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    @PeterI - "Many years ago (2000ish?)..." I initially read that as "2000ish years ago..." and was wondering how long your airport delay was! – FreeMan Sep 28 '17 at 18:31

You'll need to visit the Customs office yourself, which is often in some obscure corner of the airport outside the secure area, possibly in a different terminal from the one you're in (allow plenty of time for this). It is your responsibility to go seek this out in advance, and they've seized cash from travelers who didn't do so.

You can use CBP's Locate a Port of Entry website for contact information. For example, at JFK, their main office is off in building #77, somewhere in the cargo area. But more importantly, that page lists phone numbers. Give them a call, tell them you need to make a currency declaration on your way out, and ask where to go. They'll know the local procedures.

Or you should avoid carrying more than $10,000 in cash or other declarable goods. (By which I mean don't carry large amounts of cash at all. Carrying amounts just below the threshold to evade reporting requirements is illegal.) A bank transfer is generally the better option for most travelers.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – JoErNanO Oct 2 '17 at 8:27

Should the passenger simply inform the passport control officer that they need a customs officer? Or maybe passport control officer doubles as customs officer at the same time? Or should the passenger simply make an advance visit to some Customs Office in the airport?

You won't speak to a "passport control officer" on most departures from the USA. Unlike most countries the US does not have passport control for departing passengers.

Also, if an international flight out of US begins with a domestic leg, what would be the proper location for dealing with the customs? Can it be done at the first airport?

You will need to seek out a Customs and Border Protection officer yourself. Your first domestic airport may or may not be an international airport with a CBP presence, so you may need to do this at your final stop in the US.

  • Well, by "passport control officer" I referred to the guy sitting at that little stand and checking the passports (or other identification) before the xray security checkpoint (between the "general" area of the airport and the gates). This iis probably just a TSA employee, not a "passport control officer". The question is basically: is it too late to request customs at that point? – AnT Sep 27 '17 at 17:56
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    @AnT you're right, that's a TSA employee who has nothing to do with immigration or customs. You don't even have to show that officer a passport. On several occasions I've passed that checkpoint with a driver's license when I was flying internationally. But I certainly hope there's a customs office behind the security checkpoint, since otherwise people with tight connections from other US airports will have an even harder time making a customs declaration. – phoog Sep 27 '17 at 18:09
  • Why is this answer upvoted whereas @mzu's answer is downvoted when they are essentially identical? – Eric Sep 29 '17 at 13:00
  • @Eric Who knows, maybe people don’t like duplication. – Calchas Sep 29 '17 at 16:39

Here is how it turned out in my specific case:

  1. I contacted Customs Office at SFO by phone approximately one week in advance and asked them this specific question. I explicitly explained to them that I have a layover at JFK. Nevertheless, they told me that I can submit my customs declaration at SFO.

  2. Just in case, I contacted Customs Office at SFO by phone again two days before departure: to reconfirm and ask about the details. Again, I specifically pointed out that my last stop in USA is JFK, not SFO. They reiterated their original answer (a different person this time). Since my plane was departing rather early in the morning, they told me to come to the International Arrivals area at SFO and call a specific phone number to have a customs official come over and escort me to the office.

  3. Just as they instructed me, on the day of my flight I arrived early, came to the International Arrivals area of SFO and started calling the number they gave me. Originally there was no response. I had to call it repeatedly for quite a while. Time was running out. Eventually someone picked up the phone (a third person, judging by the voice). This time the person on the phone sounded quite surprised about the fact that I wanted to submit my declaration at SFO. They told me that in this situation I had to submit my declaration at JFK, not at SFO.

  4. Luckily, I was able to find the Customs Office at JFK without any problems and submit my declaration there.

  • Out of interest, did this happen during the US Government shutdown? Although CBP are considered 'essential' and thus are still working, it's possible the issue with nobody answering and then changing their story was due to them being short-staffed due to the shutdown. – Doc Jan 7 at 20:58

There is neither passport control officer, nor customs official when leaving the US. If you have some business with the customs(e.g. declaring your new expensive camera, so that you do not have to pay tax when you return ), you will have to find them yourself on your way out of the country.

So, I would suggest to stop by the CBP office at the last airport on the US soil in your itinerary.

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    "So, I would suggest to stop by the CBP office at the last airport on the US soil in your itinerary." Yes but isn't the question, essentially, "How do I do that?" – David Richerby Sep 27 '17 at 21:27

I am surprised by the low quality of these answers. It is absurd to state that there is no passport control when leaving the US. For international flights, passports are always checked when leaving the US. In fact, dual citizen holders are required to show the same passport they will re-use to re-enter the US. In addition, non-citizens are also required to show their passport (as are citizens). To claim that there is not passport control to exit the US is absurd and wrong.

Regarding the question, there is a section on the form (https://www.fincen.gov/sites/default/files/shared/fin105_cmir.pdf) that reads:

Each person who receives currency or other monetary instruments in the United States shall file FinCEN Form 105, within 15 days after receipt of the currency or monetary instruments, with the Customs officer in charge at any port of entry or departure or by mail addressed to: Attn: CMIR, Passenger Systems Directorate #1256, CBP, 7375 Boston Blvd., DHS, VA 20598-1256

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    For leaving by commercial air, the airline does collect passport information and sends it to the government, but that does not help with the customs contact problem. – Patricia Shanahan Sep 28 '17 at 1:18
  • @PatriciaShanahan Thanks for your comment. I added an answer to the question, but I also wanted to correct some statements that I am afraid would completely mislead other people who might read them. – user Sep 28 '17 at 1:31
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    A passport is required, yes, but there is no "passport control" when exiting the US in the sense that you go to a booth and present your passport to someone from CBP before leaving the country, as happens in many other countries. The airline takes care of that. That's relevant to the OP, who needs to file a currency declaration, because they need to find an officer to do that, rather than just encountering one on their way out. – Zach Lipton Sep 28 '17 at 1:46
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    I generally don't show the same passport I'll use to reenter the US. It's never been a problem. Also, most people think of a government official checking one's passport when they speak of passport control, and that certainly doesn't happen when leaving the US. – phoog Sep 28 '17 at 6:06

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