Customs Currency Seizures
International travelers should remember that there is no limit on the amount of money that can be legally taken out of, or brought into the United States, provided that these funds are properly declared at the border.
If a person physically transports currency (or other monetary instruments) into or out of the United States in an aggregate amount exceeding $10,000, then U.S. law requires that they file a "Report of International Transportation of Currency and Monetary Instruments" FinCEN Form 105.
The report is also required if a person receives currency (or other monetary instruments) in the U.S. in an aggregate amount exceeding $10,000 at one time. This applies when funds have been mailed, or shipped to the person from any place outside the United States.
Some travelers assume the $10,000 limit can be avoided by spreading the currency among a number of family members. CBP defines a “family” as "members of a family residing in the same household who are related by blood, marriage, domestic relationship, or adoption. When making customs declarations, a “family” may be treated as a unit for purposes of Customs application of the $10,000 limit. For example, if a family is traveling together and a husband is carrying $8,000, his wife holds another $8,000, then together they hold a total of $16,000. Since the total is above the $10,000 threshold, it must be reported. To avoid this issue, a family should announce themselves together, and a file joint declaration on a CBP Form 6059-B together with the "Report of International Transportation of Currency and Monetary Instruments" FinCEN Form 105.
If assistance in making the declaration is required, we suggest that travelers clearly ask the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Officer for assistance in filling out the forms correctly, making certain to explain that they are traveling with monetary instruments in excess of $10,000. The FinCEN 105 is best obtained prior to traveling, but if this is forgotten, a traveler should always ask a CBP Officer for the form prior to attempting to pass through the Customs checkpoint.
If proper monetary reporting has not attempted then, such funds in excess of the $10,000 U.S.D. limit discovered will be subject to a currency seizure by U.S. Customs.
If currency is seized, Customs will issue a “Custody receipt” for the funds seized, and the funds placed into a suspense account. The disposition of the matter will then be referred to Customs Fines, Penalties and Forfeitures (FP&F) Division at the service Port of Entry, and FP&F will advise the claimant of his/her right to request remission of the seizure.
If facts implicating attempted "smuggling" or “money laundering” may exist, such as for example, the concealment of monies on a person at the time of entry, then the case may be referred to the Department of Justice (DOJ) for review from the perspective of criminal bulk money smuggling/laundering.
Experienced customs counsel should be sought to assist in obtaining the release of the monies.