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Argentina Tightens Customs Inspections at Airports

The big news this week was that Argentina has banned the import of books into the country in the name of protecting citizens against “dangerous levels of lead in foreign made inks.” This new book ban means that one will no longer be able to order from Amazon.com without having to make a trip out to Ezeiza to collect the books and pay additional taxes and duties, effectively killing any foreign made books from entering the market overnight.

While this regulation made worldwide news, another new regulation received significantly less press – a regulation to dramatically increase customs inspections at the Ezeiza and Aeroparque airports.

Domestic Trade Secretary Guillermo Moreno announced that additional inspectors and equipment will be brought in to combat the rise in electronics smuggling and resale by foreigners. Moreno said (translated from Spanish):

We are well aware that many foreigners entering the country now sneak in additional electronics with them to resell here. You can look at any of the classified or expat sites and see that there are iPads, iPhones, iPods and countless other electronic items for sale at two to three times the retail price overseas. These foreigners hope to turn a profit because Argentina has such tight import controls that make these products difficult to find here and more costly.

For too long, we have allowed easier access to foreigners through our airport checkpoints than to our own citizens. This must end immediately, so we are announcing new measures to combat this practice.

These new measures are included in Regulation 26/13 and state, in part:

  • those with foreign passports will have all baggage inspected more thoroughly than those with Argentine passports
  • all jackets and outerwear must be removed and sent through the x-ray machine to make sure no one has iPhones in their pockets
  • anyone claiming to not speak Spanish will no longer be waved through customs, but will be sent to a separate line with English speaking customs agents who may conduct pat downs and, in rare cases, body cavity searches if electronics are suspected
  • lack of original boxes or packaging will not be taken as a sign that devices are not new and not intended for resale
  • any discovered electronics will be confiscated and the person carrying such devices may be fined, deported or face jail time

Inspectors will be on the look out for anyone who has items with protective covers still attached or plugs/cables that do not appear to be used. They caution that the best way to avoid excess scrutiny is to declare any items before you leave the country or only carry older models of electronics, such as the iPhone 2, first-generation iPad, etc. as no one will want to buy those anyhow. They will also require foreigners to turn on electronic devices and show that there is use, which may include personal documents and photos, call logs, games, etc. “If we see Angry Birds, Lady Gaga and pictures of your girlfriend, we’ll be more like to believe that your iPhone is not going to be resold,” one customs agent said.

“It is time for us to put an end to this practice and show foreigners that they must abide by the same bureaucratic laws that our citizens do,” Moreno concluded. “Plus, with additional customs agents, we will reduce the amount of time people must wait in line – another problem in Argentina that must be addressed.”

This new regulation goes into effect on April 1, 2012, so be sure and watch out!

Related posts – and please look again at the date of this post – April Fools Day. 🙂