Airport Security and Customs Survival Guide
For many travelers, going through airport security and customs is the most dreaded and anxiety-producing part of their trip. At Anticipation, we pride ourselves on providing a tranquil environment where your every need is met and you can relax in luxury. While we can’t control what happens at the airport, we can help you best prepare for your trip. Statistically, most of our guests come from US or Canada, so we looked at the airport security regulations for both countries, as well as the security in Jamaica. Here are some tips and resources to help you get through customs stress-free.
U.S. Airport Security
Going through airport security screenings in the U.S. can be a confusing and stressful process for even the most experienced traveler. Knowing about the process can make your experience a little easier.
First, it is important to review the list of prohibited items before you arrive at the airport. If you wish to carry liquids in your carry-on bag, you must follow the 3-1-1 Liquids Rule, which states that you may only carry 3.4 ounce (100 ml) small containers which fit in a 1 quart-sized bag, limited to one bag per person. You may carry as much liquid as you wish in your checked luggage, but be mindful of weight restrictions to avoid fees. Liquids include cosmetics, liquid food, beverages, etc.[i]
Medications and baby food are provided special exemptions. Travelers are permitted to carry only the amount of baby food or liquid medication required for the duration of their travels. Medical documentation is recommended, if possible. Be sure to inform the TSA agent of that you are bringing more liquid medication or baby food allowed by the liquids rule.[ii]
Currently, there are two types of screenings process in the U.S.: Standard Screening and TSA Pre✓® Screening.
Standard screening processes require that travelers remove their jacket, belt, shoes, and, any items in their pockets and deposit them into a bin which goes through a separate metal detector. Travelers must also remove any electronics, such as laptops and tablets, and the quart-size bag of liquids from their carry-on bag and deposit them into another bin which is also sent through the metal detector. Travelers’ carry-on luggage is sent through the separate metal detector. Then the traveler must either pass through a metal detector or through the explosives trace-detection portal machine (“puffer” machine). If you have an external medical device, such as an insulin pump, you should inform the TSA agent prior to stepping through the puffer machine or metal detector.[iii]
After passing inspection, travelers must recollect their belongings and then are free to find their gate. Travelers who do not pass the initial inspection may be subject to a non-invasive and brief pat down.[iv]
If there is something suspicious in your luggage, your bag will be taken aside and the contents will be briefly inspected while you are present. Any prohibited items will be confiscated and you’ll be allowed to board your flight. This process is usually quick. Be patient and try not to worry – remember that worst that could happen is that your makeup might be thrown away. To view a full, alphabetical list of prohibited items before you travel, please visit the TSA webpage, "What Can I Bring".[v]
Some travelers opt to use TSA Pre✓® instead of the standard screening. The process for using TSA Pre✓® begins months before departure. Travelers must fill out an application, pay a $85 application fee, and complete a background check which includes a 10 minute, in person appointment where you will be interviewed and fingerprinted. Travelers with TSA Pre✓® can keep their shoes, belt, and jacket on, and do not have to remove their laptop and liquids in their carryon bag. Reportedly, TSA Pre✓® users wait less than five minutes to get through security. You can use TSA Pre✓® on international and domestic flights. Getting TSA Pre✓® is certainly not required or necessary, but frequent travelers may enjoy the convenience. Note that not all U.S. airports have TSA Pre✓®. Travelers should review the list of airports with TSA Pre✓® before they depart.[vi] Follow this link to learn more about TSA Pre✓®.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection
When you return from Jamaica, you will need to pass through the U.S. Customs and Boarder Protection (CBP) to reenter the U.S.
All returning U.S. citizens must complete a CBP Declaration Form 6059B which details all merchandise and agricultural products purchased while abroad. A paper form can be obtained and filled out on all returning flights. Alternatively, online forms can be filled out and printed at an Automated Passport Control kiosk after getting off your flight. CBP recommends keeping all purchase receipts handy in case the TSA Officer requests to review them, especially if you purchased a large amount of merchandise.[vii]
Form 6059B requires that travelers estimate the monetary value of the goods they are bringing back to the states. The U.S. allows for a $800 USD exemption for travelers from the Caribbean. This means that if the monetary value of the goods you are bringing back to the states is less than $800 USD, you will not have to pay duty. This exemption only applies to gifts and goods which you don’t plan to resell. Items which will be resold are subject to a duty. You may include up to 2 liters of alcohol in this exemption, but only if at least one liter of alcohol was produced in a Caribbean country.[viii]
An explanation of the Form 6059B can be found here.
Your completed Form 6059B, your Passport, and other relevant travel documents will be reviewed by a customs officer before you can reenter the U.S. The customs officer is permitted to ask you questions about:
Your length of stay;
Your reason for travel;
Any items which you are bringing back to the states with you.
Most of our guest should say that they were in Jamaica for tourism and only brought back a few hundred dollars’ worth of souvenirs. Usually, this process is surprisingly brief, although you may need to wait in a long line first. Please be patient and remember that the worst that could happen is that one of your souvenirs might be seized by the customs officer.[ix]
Once you have passed inspection, you will be able to move to baggage claim to collect your bags. After passing through a secondary check point, where a TSA Officer will review your travel documents once more, you will be able to complete your journey home.
Canada Airport Security
Passing through Canadian airport security can sometimes be confusing and stressful. Learning more about the process can help you breeze through security and continue to paradise.
First, you will need to remove any items from your pockets and outerwear and deposit them in a bin which will be sent through the X-ray machine. Next you will need to remove any liquids and laptop computers from your carry-on bag and place them in a bin to be scanned, before sending your carry-on bin through the X-ray machine as well. Like the US, Canada follows the 3-1-1 Liquids Rule, where each traveler is permitted to bring one one-quart size clear bag filled with bottles of liquids which are 3.4 ounces (100 ML) or less. Finally, you will be asked to pass through the walk-through metal detector.[x]
Occasionally, addition screening may be required if you or your bag triggers an alarm. A Canadian Air Transport Security Authority Officer may use a hand-wand device to detect metal objects. A CATSA officer may conduct a physical search (pat down) of your person or your bags. You might also have a full body scan. CATSA officers may also swab for explosives using explosive trace detection (ETD). The CATSA randomly selects travelers for additional screening in hopes of increasing security.[xi]
Check out this link to the CATSA website to find out more about what you can bring, create a personalized packing list, view current wait times, and more.
Canadian travelers should be aware that CATSA is currently working to update and improve security to make air travel safer. CATSA Plus is currently being tested at Calgary International airport and involves news procedures which allow for faster and more thorough security screening. If our Canadian guests plan to fly out of Calgary International Airport, they can learn more about CATSA Plus here.[xii]
Canada Customs and Border Protection
When you return to Canada, you will be asked to complete a CBSA Declaration Card. The Canada Border Service Agency (CBSA) recommends that you fill out this card before your arrival and suggests that all travelers ensure that they carry a pen in their carry-on luggage. The CBSA Declaration Card includes an instruction sheet to help you accurately complete the form. The CBSA allows for up to four people who live at the same residence to complete one card together.[xiii] If your stay is longer than 48 hours, you are entitled to a $800CAN duty exemption. Additionally, the CBSA doesn’t require duties to be paid on goods marked made in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. If the origin of a good is not identifiable, the CBSA will not require a duty to be paid.[xiv]
Once your flight has landed, you will be directed to the Primary Inspection, where a CBSA officer will inspect your identification, Declaration Card, and other travel documents if need be. Make sure to inform the Officer of any goods you have to declare.[xv]
After passing through the first check point, you will arrive at baggage claim. At most Canadian airports, you can pay any necessary duties or tariffs while waiting for your luggage. Most of our guests will not have to pay any duties or tariffs if they purchased less than $800CAN of souvenirs.[xvi]
Once you have collected your luggage, you will proceed to a Secondary Checkpoint where a CBSA Officer will review your documents, including any paid duty receipts. Sometimes, the CBSA Office may refer you for a secondary inspection, where you can expect to answer some more detailed questions about your travels and goods. You may be referred for several reasons:
You may be randomly selected;
The CBSA may need to verify your declaration or documentation ask more in-depth questions about yourself, inspect your goods, or determine the admissibility of yourself or your goods to Canada;
You may still need to pay duty and taxes or complete or process paperwork to support your entry or the entry of your goods to Canada.
The CBSA emphasizes that being selected for a secondary inspection is a normal part of the process. Travelers referred to secondary inspection shouldn’t be concerned. [xvii]
Once approved, you may leave the airport and continue your travels in Canada.
Montego Bay Customs and Border Protection
When you arrive at Montego Bay Airport, you will have go through Customs before being admitted to the country. During your flight, you will receive a Form C5 to complete to pass through customs. We recommend that all travelers bring a pen in their carry-on luggage so they can complete the form before deboarding. The Jamaica Customs Agency (JCA) requires that all travelers use blue or black ink pens. Forms completed using pens of other colors or pencils will not be accepted. Completing your Form C5 on the plane will save you time and simplify the process.
The Form C5 will ask you a few questions, such as:
The address and phone number of the place you are staying;
Whether you are bringing any items for which you must pay duty;
How long and for what reason you are stay in Jamaica;
Your flight number, which can be found on your boarding pass.
Prohibited items include:
Books, films, artwork, etc. which is obscene, offensive or indecent;
Counterfeit coins from any country;
Publications from de Lawrence Scott and Company, Chicago, IL, or Red Star Publishing Company, Chicago IL.[xviii]
We suggest that our guests consider purchasing entrance to the Club Mobay VIP Airport Lounge. With your purchase, you will be escorted through customs in a preferential fast track line by a Club Mobay representative, who will assist you with every part of the process. While waiting for your airport transfer to Anticipation, you can wait in the Lounge with Wi-Fi, complimentary refreshments, arcade games, and more.[xix]
Montego Bay Airport Security
After your stay with us, you will need to go through security once more when you arrive at the Montego Bay airport. Luckily, Jamaican airport security procedures are not very different from security procedures in the U.S. or Canada. Jamaica follows the same security screening procedure which requires that travelers remove their laptops from their bags, and take of their shoes, belts with metal buckles, bulky jackets, and metal jewelry or accessories. The 3-1-1 Liquids Rule also applies in Jamaica.[xx]
Should you trigger an alarm or if you are randomly selected, you need to undergo a pat down to resolve the alarm. Pat downs are not very common, so travelers shouldn’t worry too much.[xxi]
Club Mobay offers similar services for guests when they depart. A Club Mobay representative will escort you through a preferential, expedited security line. Once through security, you can wait in the lounge before boarding your flight. When booking, ask us about booking Club Mobay for when you arrive and depart.[xxii]
Airport security is often confusing and stressful but once you know what you’re doing, it becomes much easier. We hope that this post has served to answer your questions and ease your worries. We are always more than happy to assist our guest with getting through the airport. A stay at Anticipation is a stay in paradise and we strive to make every part of your vacation luxurious – including airport travel.
To book your stay at Anticipation, contact us here.
Please view our availability calendar here.
Have any questions or concerns? Contact us here.
Are you from a country that isn’t addressed here? Contact us for help!
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[i] “Liquids Rule.” www.tsa.gov. https://www.tsa.gov/travel/security-screening/liquids-rule
[ii] “Liquids Rule.” www.tsa.gov. https://www.tsa.gov/travel/security-screening/liquids-rule
[iii] “Security Screening.” www.tsa.gov. https://www.tsa.gov/travel/security-screening
[iv] “Security Screening.” www.tsa.gov. https://www.tsa.gov/travel/security-screening
[v] “Security Screening.” www.tsa.gov. https://www.tsa.gov/travel/security-screening
[vi] “TSA Pre✓®.” www.tsa.gov. https://www.tsa.gov/precheck.
[vii] “What to Expect When You Return.” www.cbp.gov. https://www.cbp.gov/travel/us-citizens/know-before-you-go/what-expect-when-you-return
[viii] “Types of Exemptions.” www.cbp.gov. https://www.cbp.gov/travel/international-visitors/kbyg/types-exemptions
[ix] “What to Expect When You Return.” www.cbp.gov. https://www.cbp.gov/travel/us-citizens/know-before-you-go/what-expect-when-you-return
[x] “Security Screening.” www.catsa.gc.ca http://www.catsa.gc.ca/breezethrough
[xi] “Security Screening.” www.catsa.gc.ca http://www.catsa.gc.ca/breezethrough
[xii] “CATSA Plus.” www.catsa.gc.ca http://www.catsa.gc.ca/catsa-plus
[xiii] “Residents Returning to Canada.” http://www.cbsa-asfc.gc.ca http://www.cbsa-asfc.gc.ca/travel-voyage/ifcrc-rpcrc-eng.html#card
[xiv] “I Declare: A guide for residents returning to Canada.” http://www.cbsa-asfc.gc.ca http://www.cbsa-asfc.gc.ca/travel-voyage/declare-eng.html#_s16a
[xv] “Residents Returning to Canada.” http://www.cbsa-asfc.gc.ca http://www.cbsa-asfc.gc.ca/travel-voyage/ifcrc-rpcrc-eng.html#card
[xvi] “Residents Returning to Canada.” http://www.cbsa-asfc.gc.ca http://www.cbsa-asfc.gc.ca/travel-voyage/ifcrc-rpcrc-eng.html#card
[xvii] “I Declare: A guide for residents returning to Canada.” http://www.cbsa-asfc.gc.ca http://www.cbsa-asfc.gc.ca/travel-voyage/declare-eng.html#_s16a
[xviii] “Prohibited Items.” www.jacustoms.gov https://www.jacustoms.gov.jm/tags/Prohibited-Items
[xix] “Club Mobay Departure Lounge.”www.visitjamaica.com http://www.visitjamaica.com/club-mobay-departure-lounge
[xx] “Security 101.” www.mbjairport.com http://www.mbjairport.com/security101
[xxi] “Security 101.” www.mbjairport.com http://www.mbjairport.com/security101
[xxii] “Club Mobay Departure Lounge.”www.visitjamaica.com http://www.visitjamaica.com/club-mobay-departure-lounge