CBP issued a new customs declaration form that expands the definition of family members for arriving travelers as “members of a family residing in the same household who are related by blood, marriage, domestic relationship, or adoption.” The recent regulation change allows more returning U.S. citizens, residents, and international visitors to file a joint customs declaration for items acquired abroad, reducing paperwork for people traveling together as a family and increasing efficiency for CBP and airlines.

In addition to clarifying the definition of family members, the final rule also clarified the term domestic relationship, which includes: foster children, stepchildren, half-siblings, legal wards, other dependents, and are not married to, or a partner of, anyone else. “Domestic relationship” does not extend to roommates or other cohabitants not otherwise meeting the above definition. “Members of a family residing in one household” continues to encompass relationships of blood, adoption, and marriage.

Under the new definition of domestic relationship, one combined family declaration can now be presented to the CBP officer upon arrival. As with any joint declaration, verbal or written, the person making and/or signing the declaration will be held accountable for its validity.

For returning U.S. residents, to be considered members of a family and to group exemptions from customs duty and internal revenue tax, the travelers must have lived together in one household at their last permanent residence and intend to live together in one household. Regulations allow U.S. residents to combine the personal duty exemptions of each family member. For example, a family of five members returning directly from France would be entitled to a combined personal duty exemption of $4,000 ($800 x 5 individuals = $4,000). For international visitors, regulations allow international visitors certain exemptions (gifts, tobacco, personal effects, etc.), and they can file a single family declaration.