Why did I have to fill out a Customs form?

| 05/08/2019
Ask Auntie, CNS Local Life, Caymanian status

I was in the queue to check in at Miami International Airport the other weekend, and a Cayman Islands Customs and Border Control uniformed officer standing beside the Cayman Airways desk was handing out Immigration and Customs Declaration forms. As a resident and with nothing to declare, I told him I didn’t need to fill out the customs form if I was below the $500 limit, as per a procedure that has been in place since last year. He insisted that I was required to fill out the form and hand it to a customs officer when I arrived in Cayman, and said it was part of a pre-clearance procedure that’s happening at weekends. So, I took the form and filled it out.

When I arrived in Cayman, I went to the “nothing to declare” queue where a customs officer indeed asked for the form. She noted I hadn’t ticked some box on the form but accepted it anyway and sent me on my way. 

If the legislation was changed last year regarding returning residents not needing to fill out Customs Declaration forms if they have less than $500 worth of goods to bring in, why am I being asked to fill out this form again?

Auntie’s answer: It turns out there is good reason for you having to complete that form, but before I explain I want to thank Customs and Border Control (CBC) yet again for responding so quickly. In fact, based on my experiences with the department over the last months I feel confident in switching them from my “finger-wagging” to my “thumbs-up” list.

When you took the form from the officer in Miami, that put you into the Miami FastTrack programme, which is offered by the CBC out of Miami International Airport and enables you to be “pre-cleared” to Cayman. Part of the process requires you to complete that new Customs Declaration Card, which you can see here (except it would be green to indicate the Miami FastTrack programme), whether or not you have anything to declare, a CBC official explained.

(This is separate from the Immigration Card, which passengers who are not travelling with a valid Cayman Islands passport must fill out, and this is collected by CBC officers at the gates in Miami as part of the “landing control process”).

One other note about the declaration form: some airlines still have the old forms, so that might be what you are given to fill out, rather than the green version.

Upon arrival in Cayman, passengers can then head straight for customs, as you did. CBC requires that form to be completed to help the department identify who used the programme, which is only offered from Miami (and no other airports) on Fridays and Saturdays. The CBC official added that this provides information regarding luggage to customs officers in Cayman.

The initiative was set up “to alleviate the congestion in the arrival hall by pre-clearing these passengers in Miami and those days (Fridays and Saturdays) were identified to be best”, the CBC official said, adding, “This initiative was started during the airport expansion project when space was of concern.” However, it is still to be decided whether this programme will continue to be necessary once the airport expansion is completed.

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Comments (6)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    What they told you now is entirely different from what they said when the program was announced. Then it was for everyone a all airports. I don’t really care but it makes them at best look disorganized (not to mention the portable spirits laugher.)

  2. Nicholas Robson says:

    What are ‘portable spirits’ mentioned on the sample Customs Declaration?

  3. Anonymous says:

    So why does the form at the very top say you do not have to complete the form if you have nothijng to declare

    • Anonymous says:

      Why does it ask if you are a citizen of the Cayman Islands when there is no such citizenship, and citizenship is irrelevant to customs?