U.S. authorities maintain strict rules with regards to carrying medicines on your trip. Certain medicines can only be taken into the country with a special license. Furthermore, an ESTA visa must always be applied for. Here you can read what you need to keep in mind when taking medicines into the USA.
Rule of thumb: only take necessary medicines
U.S. border control advises travellers to only carry necessary medicines on their trip, no more and no less. Travellers may only carry the usual amount for personal use. Medicines must be transported in their original packaging with labels, so it is immediately clear what medication it concerns.
Regulations of the American authorities
The U.S. Department of Justice has set up the following requirements for carrying medicines:
- All medicines must be declared at customs
- The traveller must carry a valid prescription for the medicines
- The traveller must be able to present the original prescription at customs
- The medicines must be transported in their original packaging
- Additional requirements apply for inhabitants of the USA. They cannot carry more than 50 doses of one medicine without a prescription from their doctor, unless they have a prescription from the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration).
Aside from the rules with regards to carrying medicines, the American authorities have also made applying for an ESTA or U.S. visa mandatory. ESTA applications are generally processed within 3 days, though the granting of an ESTA can take longer in exceptional cases. Travellers should therefore apply for their ESTA several weeks before departure.
For medicines prescribed by a doctor or specialist, it might be necessary to carry a note from your doctor. Certain medicines in the United Kingdom that can only be acquired with a prescription, are available in the USA without a prescription. However, as it is unclear exactly which medicines this concerns, it is always recommended to carry a doctor’s note.
For travellers carrying medicines into the USA which contain a controlled drug, a note from a doctor or specialist is not enough, and an official medicine license must be applied for. This can, for example, concern heavy painkillers, Ritalin, cannabis, sedatives and tranquilizers. For these types of controlled substances, a personal license has to be applied for via the government website. Fill in the required information and mail the form to the Home Office, Drugs and Firearms Licensing Unit. They will then assess the filled in license, sign it and return it by mail. Keep in mind that it can take several weeks before the medicine license is returned to you. So start your application on time. More information about this can be found on the website of the NHS.
Contact the U.S. embassy or consulate if you are unsure whether your medicine can be carried into the USA, and if you need a license to do so.
Medicine passport can be useful
Furthermore, it can be useful to carry a medicine passport on your trip, also known as a health passport or European Medical Passport. This passport states, among other things, which medicines you are on, which medicines you are hypersensitive or allergic to, and who can be contacted during emergencies. This passport might come in handy if you lose your medicines, or if you have complaints while travelling in the USA and need to see a doctor. A medicine passport can be acquired on the website of the NHS. Keep in mind, however, that a medicine passport is not an official travel document. To travel with medicine which contains a controlled drug, an official license has to be applied for. To carry prescription medicine, a doctor’s note may also be necessary.