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Cayman Islands Government

Customs Clearance a Breeze

Finance Minister Marco Archer (2-R) hears from Deputy Collector Customs Jeff Jackson (R) of recent changes to the flow of arriving passengers through the Owen Roberts Airport Customs Arrival Hall.  Senior Assistant Financial Secretary Anne Owens (L) Deputy Collector Customs Marlon Bodden (2-L) and Financial Secretary Kenneth Jefferson were also present for the Minister’s visit.

Since the second week in November 2016 the Customs Department has been operating a new customs clearance system in the Customs Arrival Hall of Owen Roberts International Airport (ORIA).

For persons with nothing to declare this means that they are able to promptly exit the arrivals hall once they have retrieved their bags and handed their customs declaration forms to an officer at the entrance of the nothing to declare zone.

Collector of Customs Charles Clifford says the simplified process, recommended by the World Customs Organisation and commonly known as the “red/green system”, facilitates the flow of arriving passengers and their baggage without reducing the effectiveness of customs control.

At the same time Mr Clifford stresses the importance of making a truthful and accurate declaration. “Entering the green channel will be considered to be a declaration by the traveler that that person has nothing to declare. Any undeclared goods found during checks will result in either penalties being imposed or prosecution which could lead to imprisonment for failure to make a truthful declaration”.

Travelers should also be aware that undeclared goods, which may also include cash or negotiable instruments, may be subject to seizure by Customs, the Collector notes.

Those with items to declare enter a queue on the opposite side of the customs hall.

Some 700 passengers arrive at ORIA on a normal weekday, of these some 60-80 may have goods to declare. The number of arrivals jumps to about 1600 a day on the weekends and increases still further during the holidays.

The new system allows arriving travelers to choose between two types of channel with distinctive markings:

1.Green channel:

A green colored sign in the shape of an octagon, bearing the words “nothing to declare”. This is for travelers having –

• No more than their duty free allowances

• No prohibited or restricted goods

• No more than CI$15,000, or equivalent, in cash

2. Red channel:

A red colored sign in the shape of a square, bearing the words “goods to declare”. This is for travelers having–

• Goods that exceed their duty free allowances

• Goods for business use

• Goods for another person

• Prohibited or restricted goods

• More than CI$15,000, or equivalent, in cash

An officer is assigned to the green channel to vet any baggage deemed suspicious by an officer at the entrance. Another officer is assigned to the goods to declare area with a further officer at the entrance to that area.

To expedite the declaration and clearance process for travelers with goods to declare, they may now pre-pay customs duties before making their formal declaration to an officer at the Red Channel. Once this is done a customs officer will either allow persons who have pre-paid to exit without inspection, or refer them for x-ray screening or a physical inspection to ensure they have made a truthful declaration,.

Signage outlining the descriptions and quantities of goods travelers may have with them now appears throughout the arrival hall and additional information is provided via audio message.

Acting Deputy Collector of Customs Jeff Jackson urges passengers to avoid complications by making truthful declarations, paying careful attention to the signage, and having their receipts readily available, if there are any questions or queries by the officer.

He explains that to ensure compliance officers will continue to make spot checks, and failure to make a truthful declaration will result in fines or penalties imposed or prosecution which could lead to imprisonment.

Customs also encourages passengers, if they are unsure or have any questions or queries, to speak with the officer available for this purpose in the Customs Hall.

Going forward the Customs Department plans to further computerize the clearance process in order to expedite the processing of passengers.

Acting Deputy Collector of Customs Jeff Jackson and Assistant Collector of Customs Gidget Powell who heads up the unit at ORIA worked closely with airport stakeholders and the Public Works Department to set up the new system.

During the month of October and the first week of November, the Department also conducted a series of simulation exercises to familiarise officers with the new process, as well as to identify and address any issues prior to implementation.

Finance Minister Marco Archer praised the Department for their efforts to enhance the experience of arriving passengers and improve the efficiency of the airport collections process.

“Response so far has been extremely positive and accordingly the next step will be to fully implement the process with additional resources in the new Customs Hall when that is completed,” Mr Archer remarks.

He adds that the new systems will be reviewed regularly with an eye to improvement. There are no plans at present to extend the system to Cayman Brac. (GIS)

For further information contact: Suzette Ebanks