I'm travelling to LAX and from some anecdotal horror stories I've seen online and in real life, I worry that customs officers may ask to search my laptop, seize it indefinitely and/or possibly clone the hard drive seeing as I've read that they have power to inspect you and every item when entering/leaving the United States.

I have a significant amount of pornography (all legal) on my laptop which I wonder would I have to declare to the officers as other countries such as Australia make travellers declare on arrival.

  • 3
    These seem to be two different questions. I suggest you remove your second paragraph and make that a separate question. BTW, yes they are allowed, but someone will give a beter answer about that.
    – user40521
    Aug 7, 2017 at 9:59
  • I answered the first question, and agree with @JanDoggen that the second one should be a separate question. Aug 7, 2017 at 10:10
  • First, this is way, way overblown. CBP doesn't randomly search or clone devices. This is a very time consuming and expensive process. Everything crossing the border is subject to inspection and a laptop or phone is no different than a suitcase. However, unless suspected or targeted for some other reason*, 99.999% of travelers are admitted with just the standard interview. *Reasons may include canine alert, interesting travel history, drug mule profile.
    – DTRT
    Aug 7, 2017 at 13:50

1 Answer 1


Yes. The American Civil Liberties Union has a guide on Can Border Agents Search Your Electronic Devices? It’s Complicated that describes current CBP policy and includes some recommendations such as encrypting your devices, and traveling with as little data as possible. They also have a guide called Know Your Rights: What To Do When Encountering Law Enforcement at Airports and Other Ports of Entry into the U.S..

The number of searches of electronic devices has increased, up to 19,000 last year, but it's important to note that this is still less than one-hundredth of one percent of border crossings. So while it can happen, it is quite unlikely.

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