I'm a PhD Student who will come to Toulouse to work on a computer science project. I have one little concern since laptops are especially important to my work, I would like to bring two with me, one is a Macbook Air 13in, while the other is a Macbook Pro 15in, both are mine and used for a year. I have read somewhere that I can only bring less than 500EUR of goods to be exempt from duty tax. Has anyone got the same experience?

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    Where are you coming from? Jul 28, 2020 at 18:37
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    I'm coming from Vietnam Jul 28, 2020 at 18:49
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    How much time are you going to spend in France? Are you registered at an university in Vietnam or are you moving to France to start a PhD? If you want to do everything completely above board, your best bet is some sort of moving or student exemption but it does require some paperwork.
    – Relaxed
    Jul 28, 2020 at 19:27
  • Yes I already had a contract with me before I move there. Jul 29, 2020 at 1:16
  • @HoàngĐìnhThịnh A contract for what with who? What about the duration of your stay? What kind of visa do you have?
    – Relaxed
    Jul 29, 2020 at 11:24

2 Answers 2


The limits mentioned in many regulations mostly apply to the case where a French national buys stuff abroad, and brings it back unused. This they have to declare if they are over a certain value (430,- EURO I believe).

However for visitors to France this is not applicable, as it is assumed that the stuff you bring with you, you also intend to take back with you. Just imagine, that you could not even take a camera with you to France as a tourist, or a laptop as consultant. (As I am, travelling to France quite regularly...)

And in the case of someone moving to France to study the French customs even explicitly state here that anything you bring with your for the purpose of your studies is not subject to import taxes.

In practice you are unlikely to even encounter a customs officer when arriving. After passing immigration you just pick up your luggage, and pass through the green channel, and you are in France....

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    You're not necessarily wrong in this case but there are too many inaccuracies in this answer. These restrictions are not specific to French nationals or new goods. The rules apply to all EU residents, even to something that's old and was bought second hand (laptops lose value but think, e.g., of jewellery). There is also no blanket exception for visitors. In practice, a midrange camera or office-grade laptop might be OK but for really expensive professional equipment even visitors have to fill in some paperwork.
    – Relaxed
    Jul 28, 2020 at 19:24
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    It's also incorrect to imply that everything you bring to France to study is automatically exempt of all taxes or duties. It is only the case if you submit an inventory to the customs, together with proof of your registration at a French institution.
    – Relaxed
    Jul 28, 2020 at 19:30
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    Note that generally, if you pass through the green channel when you were supposed to declare something, that's illegal and you could get a big fine (much bigger than the amount you would've had to pay for importing the thing if you'd declared it). Also note that there's a reasonable chance that the customs officers won't ask you to pay, if it looks like your personal stuff (and this is legal as long as you declared it). I've never been to France - this is general advice.
    – user253751
    Jul 29, 2020 at 13:28

As I understand it in most western countries.

Generally duty and/or tax are due on items that are permanently imported into a country. There is usually an exception for small amounts of items imported for personal use or as gifts.

The reasonable personal effects of a short-term visitor, that enter and leave with the visitor are normally not subject to any duty, tax or customs paperwork.

Other temporary imports are also usually not subject to duty and tax but may be subject to customs paperwork and/or deposits to ensure that they do-in fact leave the country again.

There are often exceptions for people moving thier residence to a country allowing them to bring their personal and household items without paying duty/tax. There may be some paperwork and conditions (such as not immediately selling the items) associated with such exceptions.

If you are just visiting to do some short-term research then you most-likely count as a short term visitor. OTOH if you are doing a whole PHD course in France then that may well count as taking up residence, which may in turn mean that paperwork is needed to bring your belongings in without paying duty/tax.

The reality is that a couple of laptops that look like they are being used (i.e. are in a laptop bag, not in their original boxes) are highly unlikely to raise any concerns on the part of customs. Even if some paperwork should theoretically be done.

  • (+1) That's a good summary of the rules applying to short-term visitors but it's still not 100% clear (to me, at any rate) whether the OP really is one.
    – Relaxed
    Jul 29, 2020 at 11:23
  • You should declare them anyway. Most likely it will go like this: "Anything to declare?" "Yeah I have these laptops for my computer science studies" "Show me" pulls out laptops "When did you buy them?" "answer" "And you're a computer science student?" "Yeah" "You're good, go on through". Small chance they'll ask you to pay tax though. You'll be better off than if you don't declare them, and then get randomly checked...
    – user253751
    Jul 29, 2020 at 13:36

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