Will I have any problems with CBP after a cash seizure?
U.S. Customs & Border Protection is the law enforcement agency that polices the border and ports of the United States. As it’s name suggests, an airport is a “port” and thus, CBP polices them.
After you have money seized by CBP for a violation of the reporting laws (structuring, bulk cash smuggling, failure to report), CBP will consider you a higher risk than other travelers because you have previously violated the laws.
The criminal statute of limitations for a failure to report cash is 5 years from the date of the violation. If you are not arrested at the time the money was seized by CBP and the U.S. Attorney was notified and declined to prosecute you, in our experience, you probably will not face criminal charges unless customs uncovers additional evidence that the money is derived from illegal sources or had an illegal intended use (but, unfortunately, arrests have occurred even if no other connection to illegal activity was present).
When a seizure or other events occur, CBP creates a record on the computer system (likely IBIS, or others); it remains there forever. CBP can access this information when you present yourself at the border or airport for re-entry into the United States.
What can I expect when I travel internationally again?
Because you are a high risk, CBP believes that you are more likely to violate the law again. Because of that, you should expect to be sent to a “secondary” baggage inspection, which is more intense and invasive than the typical inspection process when you encounter a CBP officer. In addition to undergoing a secondary inspection, you might also be detained and questioned. The constitution affords you the right to remain silent and not answer questions, but CBP does have the authority to conduct a basically unlimited search of your person and baggage. If you were a “trusted traveler” and were enrolled in programs like Global Entry, you can expect that to be revoked.
How long will I be flagged?
CBP will flag you, but for how long, is unknown. You can expect to undergo searches for a long time, to my knowledge, there is no hard and fast rule that CBP must follow.
As long as CBP considers you to be a likely violator, you will continue to be a target. Therefore, if you frequently encounter CBP (because you travel a lot) and you do not have any additional violations, after a while, CBP may lose interest. If you do have additional violations as time passes, then you the searches, detentions, or questioning will continue.
CBP is not treating me fairly. What can I do?
People want to know what they can do if they are not being treated fairly by CBP, and often ask if they can amend their record so they don’t experience any problems in the future.
One way to possibly correct the record or do something about unfair treatment by CBP is to use the Department of Homeland Security’s Traveler Redress Inquiry Program (TRIP).