I've traveled in the past with a laptop in its bag as the sole carry on. There were usually other "small" electronic parts, like a mouse, charger, phone charger, etc.

The laptop and its accessories are the property of the company I work for and on whose behalf I'm going on the business trip. However, I have no official document that states the ownership of the device(s), such is the company policy (I can't change that, nor include it somewhere), but I do have a written travel order. Customs never made any issue about that, just as for a mobile phone, even in the case of two laptops or external hard drives. (I guess that that falls under some kind of "personal items" category.) They typically look through my stuff and just confirm that those are business things and don't look twice at them (once they asked me to power on the laptop, but that is for security reasons).

What is about to change is that I'm going to be required to travel, again on business, with a graphic card. Those are also company-issued and definitely not high-end (perhaps ca. 300 euro). However, these are graphic cards that are used for PCs normally, i.e. as such they can't be plugged in into a laptop. The interface for the laptop wouldn't look as such to the layman and can't be found on the internet, as it is internally built.

My main concern is that a customs officer will think that I'm trying to smuggle a graphic card and that I'm going to be either forced to pay taxes/duties or worse get penalized. I haven't been able to find any rules regarding electronic devices as to what is allowed that would match my situation - not even for just the laptop. The question is whether there are such rules and subsequently whether my concern is justified?

I tagged the question with europe, but to further narrow down, focus on entering and leaving the EU.

And to give a bit of substance to my concern, I've observed that non-technical people are often biased when it comes to electronic devices. For example, no one would accuse a man with a leather briefcase that he traveled to London without it, purchased there a 2000 euro briefcase and is now attempting to avoid paying due customs.


I don't think Am I allowed to take a graphics card in my carry-on luggage? is a duplicate for two reasons. First, it focuses on security rather than customs. Second, OP says explicitly that he is going to buy a graphic card abroad and consequently has all the required documentation and/or packaging and the duty and intent to pay any occurring taxes/duties, which is not my case. I have neither the packaging, nor the receipts, nor should I be obliged to pay duties and taxes.

  • You have customs "typically" looking through your stuff? Travelling mostly in Europe? Are you sure you're not confusing customs (on arrival, after baggage claim, only if you enter the EU coming from a non-EU country or vice-versa, with red/green and sometimes blue channels?) and security checks (on departure, before boarding, only for your carry-on)? – jcaron Jul 10 '19 at 16:20
  • @jcaron I see the confusion, the wording is a bit weird. What I meant is that I mostly don't get bothered by customs, but occasionally, I am. And when that was the case, that typically looks like I described. Given that the question focuses only on that scenario, I didn't cover the other. As for you other concern, I really meant customs and not security, I edited the question accordingly. – user3209815 Jul 11 '19 at 7:36

As long as you travel within the EU (which for now still includes the UK), customs are not involved, the only thing they may check (and that's very very rare) are things that are actually illegal (drugs...) or where there are significant tax differences (cigarettes for instance). They will definitely not care about a laptop, accessories, or a graphics card.

If you enter or exit the EU (or travel between non-EU countries), in theory, they could force you to pay tax and duty on everything you carry beyond your personal allowance (usually around a few hundred euros), and you could then reclaim those when exiting again. In theory, you should use an ATA Carnet to avoid paying tax and duty.

In practice, in most countries (there are exceptions), they really don't care about all the stuff they know you'll bring back home when you leave. What is an issue to them is anything that will remain in the country. If your laptop, accessories, graphics card and whatnot look like you actually use them, they probably won't bat an eyelid. It would be different if you had a brand new laptop still in original shrinkwrapped packaging.

I think you confused security checks and customs in your question, but if it was indeed customs and not security that asked you to turn your laptop on, it was more probably to check that it was actually used (i.e. not waking up to the initial setup screens, but with an account created, applications installed, files present...).

As long as you can show them what you use the card for, I don't quite anticipate an issue.

If you really want to be on the safe side, get an ATA Carnet. But that's a bit cumbersome as it needs to have details of each trip, you often need to show the hardware to customs in your own country before and/or after leaving, you need lots of stamps, it's only valid for specific types of activities, etc. This is usually done only for hardware with prices in the thousands and more.

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