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I'm a student traveling to the US and I wish to carry my old bike with me as checked-in luggage on my flight to the US. I want to know in what capacity can I bring it with me such that it is exempt from duty as my personal item (and whether that's even possible).

I tried to look at various sources online to figure out in what capacity I could bring such an item into the US. The customs and border protection website guidelines and FAQs are quite ambiguous and confusing, and I didn't find a single answer that differentiated between residents and nonresident visitors. Apparently residents are be able to return with a bike without having to pay duty if they used it for more than a year. However, there was no clear mention about nonresidents bringing in a bike. There was a mention about visitors bringing motor vehicles temporarily, for one year, but certainly a bicycle isn't a motor vehicle, and nor do I plan to bring out of the US with me every time I exit the US (which would be an unnecessary hassle and waste of luggage space).

There was an article about people moving to the US being able to bring personal effects, but I'm not sure I qualify as moving since I am not going to be a resident, but only a temporary nonresident student.

The harmonized tax system suggests an 11% duty on value for bikes, but my bike is several years old (not recently purchased) and I don't plan to sell or gift it to anyone - it will be my personal belonging throughout.

At this point I am confused about whether or not I can bring my bike to the US as a nonresident student, and whether it qualifies duty-free.

  • Your answer may be here – Jan Doggen Jul 30 '18 at 7:33
  • @JanDoggen unfortunately, after a quick look, I don't believe so – Aalok Jul 30 '18 at 8:30
  • It's unclear from your question what exactly your status in the US will be. Are you going there to study? For how long? What visa do you have? If you're planning to stay there for a year or more, I think you'll be considered as resident (even if you go back "home" for holidays or the like). – jcaron Jul 30 '18 at 15:17
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    @jcaron yes, I'll be there to study for about two to three more years. I'm on an F1 student visa. – Aalok Jul 30 '18 at 15:47
  • If wanting to pack your bike for travel, do so properly and advise the airline as soon as possible (when booking your flight); – Max Jul 30 '18 at 20:22
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You can bring in very large amounts of goods as your personal effects. People moving to the US can and do bring hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of things such as furniture, art etc. The main restriction is "the articles must have ... been available for your use ... for one year".

Bringing in items for personal use is allowed even if you are coming in temporarily. This happens frequently when people bring jewellery or expensive clothes with them for vacation. The only thing you need to do is to convince customs that the item is for your personal use and you will take it with you when you leave.

For something as cheap as a bicycle that is clearly used you are unlikely to be asked questions. If you have a receipt, consumer registration, credit card bill etc. that should serve as evidence if you are asked.

There is no need for you to take the goods with you every time you leave the US temporarily, but it should be your intention to take it with you when you finally leave.

  • Thanks, but my main question is, I'm not technically "moving" to the States, I'll still be a "temporary nonresident". Otherwise, all else you clarify makes sense – Aalok Jul 30 '18 at 13:39
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    Added some extra info. – DJClayworth Jul 30 '18 at 15:13
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I'm a student traveling to the US and I wish to carry my old bike with me as checked-in luggage on my flight to the US. I want to know in what capacity can I bring it with me such that it is exempt from duty as my personal item (and whether that's even possible).

Given that the initial part of your question was about bringing a bike as "checked in luggage", I'd answer that you actually should not bring it as a checked item on a flight. Depending on the airline, it may be quite costly, and could even be considered too large to fit in the plane. (I'm assuming you've already checked one suitcase with your clothing and books, since you're studying in the US, and this is your second or third checked item.)

A simpler, more reliable, and very likely cheaper option is to ship the taken-apart bicycle directly to your destination/school. Your home town and destination most likely each has a bicycle shop or bicycle enthusiast group that could help you. I've only shipped a bike once, but the bike shop near where I was leaving gave me a correct-size bike box for free! The timing of sending it before I traveled was convenient, and it arrived a few days after I did.

Once you figure out a shipping service, you should be able to find which duties/taxes, if any, you're obliged to pay.

  • P.s. If you care to share the destination region or city, I may have recommendations for bike shops as well. – Josh B Jul 30 '18 at 20:07
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    As I understand it, many airlines will take a disassembled and boxed bicycle as sports equipment. On some tickets, they'll even do this without additional charge. – phoog Jul 30 '18 at 22:58
  • Uh, you've clearly never visited Amsterdam Schiphol. There's a constant stream of bicycles being checked in and later retrieved. Yes, they're oversized luggage meaning a different stream from your suitcase, but it's certainly not unusual or so expensive it's not worth doing. – jwenting Jul 31 '18 at 5:44
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    P.p.s. A cyclist friend who's traveled with bike mentioned that some airlines do this really cheaply, and others will charge steeply! Compare your options well before shipping. – Josh B Aug 8 '18 at 19:03

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