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I have two questions regarding the US customs declaration form given here:

  1. I will be taking dried packaged foods items with me (tea, cookies, nuts, etc for personal use) in the luggage. Do these count as Fruits, plants, food, or insects? as shown in Q. 11.a, or is it ok not to declare them? I am neither taking any large amount with me, nor are they for sale (only personal use).

  2. I am attending a trade show and will be bringing electronic devices as samples to be displayed at the exhibition. They will not be sold and I will be bring back all of them when I return. Do these need to be declared as commercial merchandise in Q. 14? These won't be sold or left in the US, but I was wondering if they fall under samples used for soliciting orders, or goods that are not considered personal effects. Due to these being delicate products they will not go in the luggage but as hand-carry items. Do these need to be declared on the form, if they are not staying in the US?

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    Always best declaring if you are unsure, at least then you wont get in trouble if you have something you cant take through customs as you declared it. – BritishSam Dec 18 '17 at 11:54
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  1. You should declare these items. Not all tea can be imported, though it helps if it is commercially packaged, and there are rules for nuts:

    -Nuts- All nuts are allowed if they have been boiled, cooked, ground, oven dried, pureed, roasted, or steamed. Other nuts may be allowed if they are free from their husks (the shell remains), such as almonds, betel nuts, Brazil nuts, cashews, coquilla nuts, filberts (hazelnuts), Java olives, kara nuts, gingko nuts, macadamias, pecans, pili nuts, pine nuts (pinon nuts), pistachios, and walnuts. (USDA Miscellaneous and Processed Products Manual, Table 3-105, 3-106)

    From the same page, "bakery items...commercially labeled and presented in final finished packaging are generally admissible." A CBP officer may want to inspect the food items and will tell you what is allowed. There can be substantial fines for failure to declare, so it's best to declare the food if you are in any doubt.

  2. You should review CBP's guide to What Every Member of the Trade Community Should Know About: Importation of Commercial Samples, in particular the sections on "Definition of 'Sample'" and "Special Rules for Travelers," since you are bringing the samples with you. There's also a webpage on Traveling with Samples.

    The form instructs you to check "yes" for "commercial merchandise," "samples used for soliciting orders," and "goods that are not considered personal effects." Electronic devices to be displayed at a trade show do not sound like they meet the common person's definition of "personal effects."

    Depending on the type and value of the samples, they may need to enter the US under a Temporary Importation Under Bond, to ensure they are subsequently exported. You could contact CBP if you have further questions as to what may apply to your particular items.

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Yes, you must declare the food. Must commercially packaged foods will be allowed into the country. You will not have to pay duty unless the value of the goods you're importing exceeds the exemption amount; the amount varies depending on whether you reside in the US. If you do not declare the food, you risk being fined, and the chance that the food will be confiscated will be much greater.

It sounds to me like the samples fit the description quite well: they will be used for soliciting orders and they are not your personal effects. Since you're not leaving them in the US, you should not include their value in the "total value" item at the bottom of the form if you are a visitor, but you should still answer "yes" to the question asking whether you have samples. As with the food, failing to declare them will increase the risk of confiscation.

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    Why the downvotes? – Zach Lipton Dec 18 '17 at 20:08

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