Customs ditches red tape for passengers under limits

| 18/06/2018 | 33 Comments

(CNS): The Cayman Islands Customs Department has announced that it is ditching the requirement for all passengers to fill in customs forms if they have not exceeded their duty free allowances when flying into Cayman. The department is trusting passengers to be honest and air travellers who are within the legal limits for goods, alcohol and tobacco will no longer need to fill in forms. Collector of Customs Charles Clifford said the majority of passengers arriving on most flights do not warrant the same level of scrutiny as the few who are in breach of the law or intent on committing criminal offences.

“This policy change represents another step in our transition from the traditional gatekeepers approach to the more effective, intelligence-led risk management approach at our borders,” said Clifford. “It is also indicative of our increased focus on the more serious national security threats at our borders.”

The new policy will come into effect on 30 June. It will not apply to cruise passengers, who will continue to be processed under the current system. But passengers arriving by air can skip the red tape if they not exceeded their CI$350 allowance for goods or their booze and tobacco quotas and pass straight through the ‘green channel’ inside the customs arrivals hall.

Officials stressed that this policy change does not apply to passengers who have exceeded their permitted allowances and therefore have goods to declare. Those passengers will still be required to complete the Customs Declaration Form and proceed through the normal and established ‘red channel’ process that Customs currently has in place.

Deputy Collector of Customs Jeff Jackson said the onus is on the passenger to make an honest declaration. “Once this policy change is in effect, if we discover that a passenger has not made an honest declaration then we will strictly enforce our powers under the Customs Law to impose administrative procedural fines and penalties which can amount to three times the amount of duty that a passenger would have paid had they been honest about their declarations,” he said.

Jackson continued, “Furthermore, passengers must understand that failure to make an honest declaration will result in significant delays at our customs controls and they could also face arrest and prosecution for criminal offences, including evading or attempting to evade customs duty.”

Passengers who are bringing with them CI$15,000 or more in cash (or its equivalent) are required under the Customs (Money Declarations and Disclosures) Regulations (as amended) to declare this to Customs.

People bringing agricultural products such as fruits, vegetables, meats, plants, plant products, cut flowers, live animals, animal products, and aggregate materials must also continue to declare these items to Customs as they are subject to inspection by officers from the Department of Agriculture. This policy change cannot and does not affect these legal requirements.

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Comments (33)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Q. How will HM Customs assess a “full and truthful declaration”, if no declarations are actually being filed?

  2. Anonymous says:

    If you wear it first it doesn’t count.

  3. Anonymous says:

    It’s a great idea, but just one small step for man….we need giant leap for caymankind here…please increase the allowance per passenger to $1K, maybe even more, and increase the fines for dishonest declarations by 100% or 500%.
    and make it very clear that you’re carrying, e.g. 3 brand new iphones, you’re trading, therefore show your T&B licence enabling you to import an retail electronics, or lose 2 of the phones…etc, etc
    its not hard t solve this

  4. Anonymous says:

    Cost of living needs to be addressed. $100 can barely buy anything at the supermarkets. CUC and Water Authority are two other crooks. My water bill tripled this month as apposed to last month and I did nothing different. Still the same 4 people in the household. We have no option but to pay or do without water. Salaries aren’t increasing either. I work in the private sector and the last COL we got was in 2014 for a measly $30 more per month. This is what government needs to tackle. Address this now and you will see how it trickles down to less crime.

  5. EH says:

    People don’t have an issue declaring and paying I for sure declare and pay my duties the problem is the wait period just to pay couple dollars they only have 1 or 2 person collecting duties especially when your coming 9-10 pm from MIA you just want to go home.

    another is like a previous comment you have Women Officer who dig through every single piece of clothing take it out the bag lay it all over the counter or hold it up and shake ” panties for example” that’s very embarrassing you can search a bag discretely, on the other hand you have a Male Officer using his discretion and not digging up every single bag. if your going to search well everyone should be searched properly not racial profile someone and dig up everything.

    they need more of the machines where you can run all the bags through it and if anything suspicious well you get further searched.

    its also frustrating that Honduran Cuba and Jamaica flights always get held up due to the negligence of passengers and also Customs over digging.

    Have some dogs like you use to.

  6. Anonymous says:

    I always use receipts and declare my purchases. As I use the port for shipping, i do not want a black mark by my name.

    Sometimes i go away on vacation and bring nothing back, sometimes I am on a full shopping trip. But still, the totals are rarely much more than $1000 so I pay duty on $650.. Not a big deal.

    What is a big deal is when i say i don’t have anything, i am waved through, and when I say i have something and show the receipts I am virtually strip searched as they are looking for more stuff!

    If the process to pay duty was less invasive and time consuming, people would be more willing to be truthful.

  7. Anonymous says:


  8. Anon. says:

    Reasonable move but as with most things we will still have dishonest passengers and some custom officers with no common sense or showing favouritism or some other kind of “ism”.

    I have witnessed custom officers waving through one person with four pieces of luggage, no way they were within the $350 allowance but one person has a mid size suitcase and the officer was digging into every corner, asking for ALL receipts or reasonable estimation of gifts!

    Need to review the $350 limit.
    Previous Finance Minister was opposed to it saying that the Government would lose too much revenue, newsflash, the Government already losing hundreds of thousands from dishonest passengers.

    Stop punishing the law abiding passengers especially because we have to import everything.

    • Anonymous says:

      I think it should be increased to at least CI$700.00. With the cost of living here and how businesses try to rape consumers; is there any wonder why people chose to shop overseas? I don’t buy anything on island except groceries. Even to furnish my house, I purchased my furniture overseas, shipped them in and still ended up paying considerably less than what I saw on island.

    • Jotnar says:

      Ehhmm – if you have more than $350 and you are not declaring it, you are by definition NOT a law abiding passenger. Your view on what the limit should be is not the same as what the law is. What I would agree with is that the inconvenience to law abiding passengers – of having to queue and be checked when they have less than the limit should be minimised, but there is a balance. If you don’t do some random checks unscrupulous people will simply lie (as frankly, many people do already). But that’s not punishment – and fining people who are caught lying seems entirely reasonable.

  9. Jotnar says:

    Sorry to be sceptical, but they didn’t they previously announce a green channel/red channel policy, only to revert to having everyone in the same queue as soon as they opened the new arrivals hall? Only difference is not filling out the form. I’ll reserve judgment until I see this actually in operation.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Good move. A few weeks ago as I passed through customs at ORIA there was a lady customs officer going through every piece of each person who was in her line no matter how small the suitcase. In the next line that was a male officer using discretion waving passengers on if the passenger had a reasonable amount of baggage.

    • Anonymous says:

      That’s what frustrates so many people. The inconsistencies on this island.

    • Anonymous says:

      After years of trial and error, we discovered that it was the declared presence of duty free alcohol or tobacco that levered “the sinner” into an extra scrutiny/hassle category. It’s seemingly the only reason they ask!

    • Anonymous says:

      We all know who you mean. She’s a nightmare.

  11. Anonymous says:

    A much needed change for entering the island. Other destinations have also adopted this move a while ago. Passing through Miami last week, you now also just walk through customs there , having already done your electronic entry and passed immigration counter personnel. Look forward to the airport upgrade project completion, all positive improvements for Owen Roberts Airport. Despite the negative outlook earlier this year with crowding and wait-times, once finished it will be a much improved airport experience for all.

    • Anonymous says:

      Yes, but now following T.Rumps election more of get X’s on the APC machines and end up in normally long lines getting through immigration…so no help

  12. Anonymous says:

    MLA’s please right this way!

    • Anonymous says:

      Yea. A week or two ago I saw an MLA returning from Miami swept through Customs without as much as a question. Why is that, he should be subjected to the same scrutiny as everyone else?

      • Anonymous says:

        Becausn’t…go sit down!

      • Anonymous says:

        They are almost as bad as the so called “honorary Cousel” from certain territories. I once watched one walk through with what looked like half a plane load of baggage without any questioning at all. How does that happen?

  13. Anonymous says:

    Finally! It’s such a hassle and I always feel like I filled it out wrong!

  14. West Bay Premier says:

    Looks like some part of the government is going to be teaching HONESTY , if you don’t believe that , fill out that Custom form dishonestly . I am very happy to see the Customs taking such a broad step .

  15. Anonymous says:

    Next , let’s look at the CI$350 exemption which has been in place now for over 25 years. Needs to move to CI$500. Also, need to look at kiosks to pay duty while waiting for bags so you can avoid the painful duty payment process currently in place.

    • Anonymous says:

      Agreed!! $350.00 in 2000 had the same buying power as $512.68 in 2018

    • Anonymous says:

      Yea I don’t mind paying duty if I go over the allowance, but the wait to actually pay is excruciating.

      • Anonymous says:

        How about setting up a simple system where people can pay import duty online before they travel? That way they just show the receipt to customs and walk through.

        • Anonymous says:

          Trust me you’ll end up paying double duty because they won’t believe that you paid online or something will have gone wrong to where they won’t except it….. or you overpay and you will never get your money back. I paid online for a police clearance and they never gave my money back or put it towards when I had to go in to that terrible place just because my passport stamp was not approved. Idiots will never be able to use an online service properly.

    • Anonymous says:

      Actually it should go down. Why incentivize residents to buy things off island AND allow frequent travelers to pay less duty in a year than those that can’t afford to travel? No one likes paying taxes but if the govt is going to get its pound of flesh one way or another, it should be fair to everyone, rich and poor alike.

    • Anonymous says:

      It would help if the staff at the payment counter were even vaguely numerate. Even with a calculator they struggle with simple maths.

  16. Anonymous says:

    welcome to the 21st century cayman.


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