Moving forward in our series of separating fact from fiction, we address the question whether Customs and Border Protection (CBP) plays any role when a passenger, even a United States citizen departs the United States.
It is widely known that if an individual brings into the United States currency or negotiable monetary instruments, they must fill out a “Report of International Transportation of Currency and Monetary Instruments”, FinCEN105. CBP agents inspect individuals upon entry into the United States, review their visa eligibility, and confirm full compliance with U.S. customs requirements.
If you were to assume, however, that when departing the United States, there are no limitations or obligation to report currency, you would be wrong!
When departing on an international flight from within the United States, you do not go through an immigration or customs inspection, and you probably could not find a CBP inspector if you looked for him or her. TSA agents inspecting you before you enter the departure area may make you take off your shoes and belt, but they are looking for bombs and dangerous items, not currency or negotiable instruments. There are no signs or notices, but if you fail to fill out a FinCEN105 and submit it to CBP, you are in violation of the law, and your currency is subject to confiscation.
In fact, CBP agents recently did enter into the departure area at Newark Liberty Airport, and stopped and questioned individuals as to whether they were traveling with currency or negotiable instruments.
On what basis did they select specific travelers to query, and did they have a legal basis to do so, perhaps, unclear, but they did.
So, if you are traveling with currency in excess of $10,000 be prepared to file FinCEN105. Note that persons traveling together do not get a higher limit, i.e. a married couple does not get a $20,000 limit.
Although reporting the currency is a legal requirement, CBP does not make the task easy. You may have to do some hunting to locate a CBP agent. In most airports you will find a CBP officer in the international arrival area, but seek and ye shall find.
In this day and age of heightened enforcement, can we expect additional initiatives by CBP to do inspections or make their presence known in departure areas at international airports. Perhaps they will. There is even one confirmed report of CBP agents checking customers on a domestic flight, also a context where it is unclear whether CBP agents have the authority to inspect without actual cause.