I was reading this question and @Mikaveli's answer regarding a list of things not to bring, including money.

So my question is, what if I bring my laptop across borders and its hard drive has a bitcoin wallet file containing more bitcoin (value-wise) than the maximum amount of currency allowed to bring across the border. Am I legally required to declare it?

What if that wallet file isn't on my laptop, but is stored in the cloud somewhere (setting aside the security risks of that)? Then I get to my destination and download the wallet onto my laptop (presumably deleting it before crossing another border) and maybe do some transactions (such as exchanging bitcoin for the local currency, or paying for things). Does that change the legality? If not, am I legally required to declare all bitcoin I own every time I cross a border?

What if I email the wallet file to a friend (highly trusted friend obviously) in the destination country before leaving? Then nothing except my knowledge of the password has crossed the border with me, though the wallet file did cross the border before me.

Finally, for all three cases (and especially the two where the file crosses the border at a different time than me), what if the wallet file is encrypted with a strong password that only I know? Does that change anything?

EDIT - For the purposes of this questions let's say I'm travelling from the US to France (or another Schengen Zone country)

  • 24
    This question is equivalent to asking "I have 1 million dollars in my bank account. Can I cross the border with a credit card tied to that account?"
    – JonathanReez
    Commented Aug 19, 2015 at 20:22
  • 1
    Generally I think it's a great question, but just too broad without naming specific countries. Though, as a general rule I wouldn't declare Bitcoin unless I needed to use it to prove access to funds, and I wouldn't mention it at all if traveling to one of the three or four countries which has gone backward and outlawed it. Commented Aug 19, 2015 at 22:45
  • Bitcoin is no weapon, no food, no drug, no money, no animal, no plant. How the linked question would apply?
    – user45851
    Commented Jan 31, 2017 at 8:15
  • 3
    @JonathanReez It's not equivalent at all. A Bitcoin wallet is stored value, a credit card is not. A Bitcoin wallet is presumptive property of the bearer. A credit card is not. This puts the two things in entirely different categories. Commented Feb 27, 2017 at 2:08
  • 3
    @DavidSchwartz despite what bitcoin enthusiasts would have you believe, a bitcoin wallet is not stored value, and the name "wallet" is a misleading misnomer. To demonstrate this, consider that the so-called wallet is binary data: a string of ones and zeros. You can easily make a copy of that data, but you do not suddenly have twice as many bitcoins. In fact, you can make an arbitrary number of copies of such a "wallet" without increasing the value of your bitcoin holdings whatsoever.
    – phoog
    Commented Jul 10, 2019 at 13:06

1 Answer 1


At the moment, the general consensus is that Bitcoin is not a currency (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bitcoin, under 'Economics').

For the US and Canada, this page is pretty clear on what you need to declare when entering. Though a similar text for the UK explicitly states that the maximum amount refers to 'currencies', the US and Canada page refers to 'cash like instruments', which (though IANAL) could fit as a description of Bitcoin.

However, as a bitcoin wallet doesn't hold any bitcoins itself (but your access details, so to speak) a seemingly sensible interpretation would be that moving wallets across borders is comparable to moving a credit card across borders; your credit card is not the money you can spend on it, it's a tool to get access to the money.

(I Don't see how encrypting your wallet, when moving it across borders, would have any relevance. Neither would it matter, in relation to having to declare the move of the wallet, whether you move the wallet yourself, or you mail it to a friend.)

This would leave actually spending sufficiently large amounts of money abroad. Just like physically taking large amounts into a country needs to be reported, and just like transferring large amounts of money by bank, the implication is that converting bitcoins into sufficiently costly tangible goods would need to be reported.

(IANAL, but this would also imply that converting enough of them in your home country would need to be reported.)

  • 5
    Some Bitcoin clients support regenerating the wallet key from a list of simple keywords, which means you can carry Bitcoins in your head :)
    – JonathanReez
    Commented Aug 19, 2015 at 20:44
  • 1
    ezbordercrossing seems to say if you ship the items then your shipper will calculate duties and taxes. I wonder if emailing a wallet to a friend counts as shipping it. The thing about bitcoin wallets is that they don't actually contain bitcoins - just a cryptographic key that allows you to sign a message stating that you are reassigning ownership of the bitcoins. So if you are so inclined, you could memorize the key and destroy all physical copies. I have to wonder how that would count in general.
    – CPomerantz
    Commented Aug 19, 2015 at 20:47
  • 2
    @A.Human: With international bank transfers, money is often actually not moved, just ledgers adjusted, which to me sounds rather similar. Yet, large transfers need to be reported.
    – MastaBaba
    Commented Aug 19, 2015 at 20:52
  • 1
    @MastaBaba That is exactly how bitcoin works. So what you're implying is the wallet file doesn't matter, but a large transfer must be reported. Is that correct? EDIT to clarify - you can bring the wallet file across the border any number of times as long as you don't actually spend any bitcoin. Then it's governed by money transfer laws and not customs laws. That's what you're saying?
    – CPomerantz
    Commented Aug 19, 2015 at 21:07
  • 1
    The EU regulations (including UK) place a restriction on the amount of cash, more specifically notes and coins, you can bring undeclared when entering and leaving the EU, making it obvious that the physical representation of the money is relevant. Since a bitcoin wallet is only a security token allowing you access to a monetary value, and as Jonathan Reeze pointed out is more similar to a credit or ATM card, I doubt that makes any difference wether the bitcoin wallet is physically moved across the border, if it is encrypted or if it is accessible in a cloud. Commented Aug 19, 2015 at 22:20

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .