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I am a 19 year old Dutch person living in the Netherlands and with family in the United States. I have been in the USA often and found that they sell a few special alcoholic beverages that I enjoy which aren't for sale in the Netherlands and that I would like to take with me back home.

In the Netherlands the minimum age to drink alcohol is 18, rather than 21 in the United States. Now I am 19 and wonder whether I am allowed to take some of these drinks in my baggage back home.

  • Am I allowed to carry alcohol with me (without drinking it, leaving the bottle unopened) at age 19?

  • Would this be allowed in my suitcase that goes into the hold?

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In general, it is illegal for an individual under 21 years of age to possess alcohol, whether open or sealed, in a public place in the United States. You would have to consult the laws of the state you are in, as well as any states you transit through, to see if this is the case for you specifically.

A related matter is whether or not it is legal for an individual under 21 years of age to export alcohol for personal use. Although CBP state that it is illegal for individuals under 21 to import alcohol, it makes no comment on the export of alcohol. One might therefore infer that there is no federal issue with exporting.

There is no problem with putting alcohol in checked luggage.

As a practical matter, if the alcohol is contained in your luggage the whole time, it is extremely unlikely that you will face any trouble, especially if you are accompanied by an adult when travelling to the airport through check-in; it is not, for example, the case that your luggage would be tagged with your age, and as the vast majority of travellers are over 21 years old, TSA (who are not law enforcement anyway) are not on the lookout for alcohol in luggage.

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    Don't get too carried away with glee ... anything in your luggage is considered your possessions and once you check that bag, you have legally claimed that it is your possessions. If TSA finds drugs in your bag, you get busted. If they find illegal alcohol, you get busted. Just because mommy carried it in for you, doesn't absolve you of responsibility for it. While TSA is not specifically chartered to enforce local drinking age, they have amazing latitude and can call upon a airport police officer to enforce underage possession charges if desired. – user13044 Dec 9 '16 at 8:59
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    Agree with @Tom, although I think the chances of getting busted are quite low. Consider that you are allowed to bring 1L of liquor into the EU without additional fees. But also regarding this, chances of getting busted are quite low - as a young normal traveller coming from unsuspicious countries chances to get controlled are pretty low. – Gnusper Dec 9 '16 at 12:11
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    @Tom I'll let your mum carry it for me then instead! No but I get it, thanks for the info ;p – Markinson Dec 9 '16 at 12:24
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    "not on the lookout for alcohol in luggage" - the problem is, WaiWai, they are on the lookout for trouble. Extreme example: you're wearing a silly tshirt that has a joke about "terrorists!" That is 100.00000% legal. But you'd instantly be flagged for hours-long searches, interviews etc. Further, the issue at hand is indeed technically illegal as you say in sentence one. While (as you say) they are not authorities looking for that particular illegality as such, any illegal activity is a red flag to them. – Fattie Dec 9 '16 at 12:24
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    @JoeBlow I think Russia and China have words to say about large statist papers-please countries. – Joe Dec 9 '16 at 17:06
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Alcohol is not a federal issue, it's a state issue. So, the TSA is legally completely unconcerned with the presence of a bottle of booze in your luggage. When the TSA searches your luggage, they are concerned with security, not state alcohol regulations. They will not know how old you are. Yea, that's in your traveller data, but they are not going to look at that data unless they find something disturbing, and a bottle of booze is not disturbing.

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    This one should be the correct answer. It really should not be an issue. – axsvl77 Dec 9 '16 at 19:12
  • Alcohol is actually regulated by multiple federal departments, from the ATF to the FDA to the TTB, including production, sale, and especially export (exporting particularly being a federal issue). It's unclear if taking something with you on an international flight is strictly "export" as that usually refers to wholesale, but it's both a state and federal concern: ttb.gov/itd/exporting_alcohol.shtml I don't know if the TSA actually will care about alcohol, but they are free to refer it to local police like drugs: apps.tsa.dhs.gov/mytsa/cib_results.aspx?search=marijuana – BrianH Dec 9 '16 at 19:57
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    Individual possession of small quantities is not anything that the ATF, FDA, or TTB pay attention to, and there is absolutely no export control on single bottles. Sure, the TSA could call the police, and elephants could fall from the sky. – bmargulies Dec 10 '16 at 6:02
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I know you already accepted an answer but the easiest option would be to have your family mail the alcohol to yourself in the Netherlands. This way here you are never in possession of the alcohol while in the States and can claim the package when you are legal to posses the alcohol.

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    Just check postage before you commit as the cheaper options exclude alcohol and the others are very expensive. It might be cheaper to ask your best alcohol shop at home if they do imports from the USA or know others who do. (Relative wanted a $10 bottle of wisky and it would cost $100 to get it send. Just $5 extra when imported through a friendly booze shop.) – Willeke Dec 9 '16 at 17:54
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    Note that, at least related to the USPS, you are prohibited from mailing alcohol internationally. usps.com/ship/shipping-restrictions.htm and same with DHL: dhl-usa.com/en/express/shipping/shipping_advice/… Not that people might get away with it - but it should be clear that it is prohibited, and may be illegal (state and federally). – BrianH Dec 9 '16 at 19:58

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