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Old 05-22-02, 03:16 AM   #1
Dan Tastik
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Question American Custom Agents and things they wont like

Can anyone give me a vague idea on the likelyhood of various props being confiscated on entering america? I know that on entering NZ a lot of people have had juggling balls confiscated because of the possibility of seed contamination and are the US restrictions as high as that? I also want to bring a set of machetes and my stilts. I can see the machetes possibly posing a problem so if they are likely to be taken i simply wont bring them. Any help?

Cheers
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Old 05-22-02, 01:45 PM   #2
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Have
A ticket out (within 3 months..You can always have a 6 month or one year ticket and change it once through-eg if your ticket states you are only in the states for a week before going on to europe then you shouldn't have much trouble-you then have a week to change your ticket)
A credit card or a fair bit of cash (not over $10.000)
a minimum of props (post them ahead if you can)
If you have props be prepared to explain them in terms of employment anywhere other than the states.
A reliable contact address inside the states in case they ring to have someone vouch for you.
Don't overstay, you'll only do it once. If you have two passports you will only do it twice.
If you cobble together 6 gigs before you leave you can legitimately get a temp work visa that covers those gigs.
If you have overstayed for any reason the only way out is by car preferrably with a pretty american woman driving to canada.
The odds are stacked against you however and i have never broken any laws or done anything wrong here and still I've had my house searched for bombs and had a police car crash into mine ( at least he didn't shoot the 5 year old in the back seat)
All the best
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Old 05-24-02, 11:00 PM   #3
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Thanks Martin. I figured the world needed another cynical NZ stiltwalker so im heading out...
Surprisingly i actually have a work VISA as i have sold my skills and soul to the American summer school programme and am teaching assorted circus thingys to small impressionable children...
Theoretically actually entering the country shouldnt be that much of a problem, although im sure they'll try their best, it whether all my lovely things will be able to come with me...
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Old 05-25-02, 12:10 AM   #4
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on my way back from london (thru jfk in nyc) my prop trunk was conficscated... i just got it back a month ago. the reason it was suspect (according to us customs) is that it contained 'unregistered pyrotechnics' (read: two empty fuel containers & some dry fire eating torches...) i think they just wanted to play with my straight jacket & manacles...

the advice was given to me to always have an itemized list of props & their specific uses... (i tried to get the cranky customs agent to watch a tape of my show that i'd been carrying in my backpack.) also, have some insurance on your props in the event that customs damages them or 'inadvertantly misplaces' them for several months on end...

the thing that made me wonder was: i am a us citizen - i have a us passport - i was reentering my own country -- no problems were given to me upon EXITING my own country (with the exact same props) or ENTERING the uk (of which i'm not a citizen...)

again: i think they wanted to play w/my straight jacket and manacles...

fuckin' customs. ha.
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Old 05-25-02, 12:13 AM   #5
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also - my friend greggie (a silly aussie boy) SWEARS by the fact that no customs agent will give you a hassel if you are clean shaven, have a nice hair cut and are wearing actual shoes (as opposed to sandles)

but he's a skkevie aussie backpacker - so what the hell does he know?
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Old 05-26-02, 03:14 AM   #6
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Hey Firegirl. have to agree with your aussie friend. i will be looking severely white, male and conservative until i am out of the airport. Hopefully with a bag full of danger props and a self satisfied smile as well...
thanks for the ideas on itemizing stuff too... will apply the learning.
cheers [img]smile.gif[/img]
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Old 05-26-02, 12:59 PM   #7
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Tape a little flag to your little pole, we're very big on that of late.
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Old 05-30-02, 12:14 AM   #8
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Hey there Martin
we are in the states now and would love some more info on this temp working visa. I have asked around and have been told it is called a P2 visa - how do you apply - do the gigs need to be from different sources - does it cost???? cheers for any help - were Kiwis.
D and D
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Old 07-20-02, 06:10 PM   #9
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Hey, Firegirl --

I didn't even leave the country! On a trip to Alaska in May I had to change planes three times on the way up from the lower forty-eight and twice on the way back. Every single time I was separated from the flowing herd and made to take off my shoes as well as empty my pockets and submit to pat-down and electronic scan.

At a couple of airports I had plenty of time before my plane and stood around for a while to watch. The ONLY people pulled over were long-haired and/or bearded.

Fortunately I didn't have my instruments with me -- god knows what they would have thought of my glass harmonica or (worse) the hurdy gurdy!
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Old 09-26-02, 04:55 AM   #10
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To answer my own question: Shoes, Cigerettes, buttons, pants, watches...

A heads up to anyone coming into NZ - Contact acrylics look just like fruit on X ray (the same density or something) pack them near the top so you can show them easily... dont be unpacking all your stuff like i was..
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Old 09-28-02, 02:42 PM   #11
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Hey...

I just returned from a trip through the U.S. and had no problems at all. But I entered the states by car, in an R.V., together with a bunch of Canadians. And I actually had worked a lot in Canada already and planned a real holiday in the U.S.
The worst hassle I had, was with a national flight from San Francisco to New York, where I was randomly selected for a security check. I had to wait for a long time, together with all the other foreigners and coloured people that were randomly selected.
My whole case was scrutinized, but they didn's have any problems with the many torches in my suitcase, although it took them ages to make their decisions and even longer to pack it all in again...

[ 09-28-2002: Message edited by: Pyromancer ]</p>
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Old 09-28-02, 03:50 PM   #12
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I went up to Ottawa for Canada Day this year. One thing I know they dont like is you admitting to being a street performer. So if they ask you if you are going to be recieving money for your performance. Say NO! Dont think about it dont say mabee just say NO. So we made it in, on the way back to the states they decided to check out whats in the trunk. There were 3 customs agents rummageing through the trunk. Then came a hard belly laugh and 2 of them walked away laughing. The one that was left came back to the window and asked what the big huge knives were for. I told them juggling and they waved us through.
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Old 09-28-02, 03:52 PM   #13
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But I am an American. I dont know what they would have done if they found them on the way up or if I was a Canadian on the way into the states. Oh yeah they dont like live chickens either.
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Old 09-30-02, 08:56 PM   #14
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Some thoughts to add to martins post.
One way to avoid excess charges depending on how and how much gear you have is to organise a CARNET
this is a list of every item contained in a freight shipment.
You can get one also for luggage you take on board the plane with you.
It is authorised usually by your local chamber of commerce costs usually a small fee and is very helpfull when bringing strange especially electronic stuff in and out of the country temporarily.
I have large amounts of freight usually and discovered that they love charging you lots of money if you dont have one.
If you do they may look at it and they may not ,then just let you have your stuff no extra charges like duty etc.
You must reexport all the stuff on the list that goes with the paperwork or you are screwed.
Freightin stuff i found to be wonderful cause by the time you go get it you are in the country. Having had to bring no props with you and not lie to the customs people.
Also dont forget they are trained very well in how to spot body language of people who are nervous etc.
If you are about to tell lies or worried about getting into a country this will produce associated body language and in an airport situation designed to make this easy to spot it is hard to hide.
I have used the technique of a bag of herbal tea with which i approach the first customs officer i see and ask if i need to declare my herbal tea.
Upon doing this the rest of the customs department start looking for someone else to search. Who else but a completely honest and naive health nut would ask such a question.
I have heard of otherpeople using this technique and it working well.
I find a proffesional looking road case works well also as photographers etc use these all the time.
however post 9/11 security is much tighter generally and i advise freighting as it is guarenteed to get there and you get to walk through customs with your underwear and spare clothes which are a lot easier to explain if you are stopped.
Another way is to have duplicat props in countries you visit often.
good luck smugglers
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Old 11-27-02, 09:30 AM   #15
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Ok its not American Customs its Australia. They took 7 bean bags from me since they are filled with seeds. I was told that the seeds could carry diseases. I was more than happy to hand them over. Buy the way Taxi were these balls cursed?
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Old 11-27-02, 01:45 PM   #16
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The only problem I ever had in the USA was when they saw my giraffe uni. They ask what it was, and I started stuttering. I was friggin' exhausted after an 9 hour flight, not to mention the 3 hours of hell getting to the airport and nearly missing the flight.

They sent me over to the part of the airport reserved for Haitians, and Arabs not sensible enough to wear western clothes.

I started chatting with the customs guy (who was black) about how the electoral process is racist and a modern form of reconstruction-era Jim Crow laws (I was making this shit up) and he waved me through without even unzippering my bag.

Poor bastard missed out on confiscating 8 undeclared bottles of premium french wine, 5 pounds of cheese, goose-liver pate and a can of snails.

I got stopped by swiss police on a train from Italy to France-- I was unshaven with spiky hair and wearing an "Ecole Nationale du Cirque" t-shirt. They asked me to empty my bag. I always put all my juggling stuff on the bottom and it is semi concealed. I started pulling out articles of clothing and normal stuff one at a time. I slowly unrolled and showed them the insides of each pair of underwear. They quickly became bored with my meticulousness and said they saw enough and let me go. The idiots missed out on 6 bottles of undeclared premium italian wine, marinated vegetables, cheeses-- not to mention three machetes, 6 torches, a can of coleman fuel and a propane stove with fuel.

The giraffe uni caused me some problems in England, too. They took me to a back room and interogated me. They would ask me a tricky question then ask 3 or four banal questions and then asked the tricky question again, to see if I would change my answer or slip up somehow. The third time he did this I started laughing and the customs agent asked me what was so funny. I told him that this was like being in a low budget Bond film with a cockney cast and he stormed out of the room. He came back with my passport and told me to be on my way. I think I got lucky this time, 'cause in London they don't mess about.

etienne
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Old 11-27-02, 08:38 PM   #17
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I just returned to New Orleans after 3 weeks in Vancouver, Canada.
I got my small carryon searched 3 times on the way up. First search at New Orleans they took my manicure scissors, which are 3 inches long total. Next search at Dallas they took my nail file. At Salt Lake City - no search. I was so pleased I went out and had to rush back 'cos I forgot my carry on. As I went back out to get on the plane they stopped me. I explained I had forgotten the bag, so random search. Spread eagled standing up, and hand held geiger back and front, up and down. Then off with the shoes for a bomb search. I was wearing a pair of Mexican Huaraches which are flat, woven leather sandals. I can't imagine how a paperclip, let alone a bomb could be hidden there. On the way back, there were no searches, so I guess you'll never know when it's your turn.
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Old 12-22-02, 03:15 PM   #18
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Well happy to say arrived into Toronto via Pittsburgh with all my props intact. No problem with machettes, torches, knife staff thingy, etc.. Decided to leave the fake IRA style bomb behind though. They did detain my cap gun (looks real), and strangely enough my spud gun (because its capable of shooting pieces of potato). Got both of these back after a couple of weeks, several long distance phone calls, and trips to the airport.

Security has increased, but I cant say its anymore effective. Was stripped of my boots, frisked repeatedly, rader checked everything. 3 security checks in total from Germany, excluding spot check of which I had several. Security in each place checked my practise clubs to determine wether I could beat anyone to death with them. Just offered them to hit me over the head repeatly untill they were satisfied. (Gave both of us a smile, while they concidered it) They were alittle confused by the shaker cups as well.

Funny thing was when about to get on the last plane in Pittsburgh I reached into my jacket pocket and pulled out a 5 inch flat head screwdriver I didnt realise was in there. Probally the only thing useful for as a weapon. Attempted to hand it over to the women at the counter and she told me I could keep it. (since I had managed to get it so far) Was past the last security check already, anyways. I left it with her anyways, determined to be a good passenger.

Now except for a cancelled flight, and putting my back out it was no worse then walking through certain cities looking for the pitch.

Travel well folks, but keep that sence of humor. Its the only thing that keeps ya going sometimes. Might explain why I decided to come back to Canada in December. Yeesh!

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[ 12-22-2002: Message edited by: stickman ]</p>
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