Fighting Title 31 Currency Seizures issued by CBP

This article is going to cover a specific subsection of Title 31 currency seizures. These seizures are typically initiated by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to travelers who fail to declare currency they are traveling with in excess of $10,000. Additionally, CBP may seize currency when travelers conspire to defeat reporting requirements by structuring the carrying of funds to fall below the reporting threshold (for example, a group of five individuals carrying money for one person and each person holds $9,000 instead of the single owner of the funds carrying $45,000 total).

For those unfamiliar, CBP is a federal agency within the Department of Homeland Security that was formerly the U.S. Customs Service. CBP is charged with securing the country’s borders and preventing dangerous items and individuals from entering the country. CBP enforces a broad range of laws from agricultural laws, to product safety laws, foreign asset control laws, and classic trade laws and that involve collecting duty on foreign imported merchandise.

Title 31 currency-related violations

Title 31 of the United States Code includes various monetary, banking and financial rules. Covering the entirety of Title 31 far exceeds the scope of this article. Instead, we will focus on the two most common Title 31 violations enforced by CBP. Those violations include: 1) failing to report currency when you travel internationally (entering or leaving the United States) and are carrying more than $10,000, and; 2) structuring, wherein you purposefully structure the amount of money individual(s) are carrying to avoid currency reporting requirements.

31 U.S. Code § 5316 – Reports on exporting and importing monetary instruments

This section of Title 31 covers the first scenario discussed above, wherein an international traveler, when leaving or entering the Unite States, fails to declare that they are carrying currency in excess of $10,000 U.S. Dollars. The core of section 5316 follows:

(a)Except as provided in subsection (c) of this section, a person or an agent or bailee of the person shall file a report under subsection (b) of this section when the person, agent, or bailee knowingly—

(1)transports, is about to transport, or has transported, monetary instruments of more than $10,000 at one time—

(A) from a place in the United States to or through a place outside the United States; or
(B) to a place in the United States from or through a place outside the United States;

31 U.S. Code § 5316(a)

The purpose of this statute is to prevent the transport of large amounts of currency without informing the government. It is important to note that carrying more than $10,000 in currency is not illegal. However, it is a violation of law if you fail to report when you are carrying large amounts of currency (> $10,000) internationally. The government has established these reporting requirements for a number of reasons, the most prominent being that it prevents money laundering. Moreover, it is common for illicit activity, like the drug trade, to be transacted in currency outside of the banking system. This reporting requirement attempts to regulate large currency transfers and prevent them from going undetected outside of regular banking institutions.


31 U.S. Code § 5324 – Structuring transactions to evade reporting requirement prohibited

This section of Title 31 relates to structuring banking transactions or the carrying of currency across U.S. border’s to avoid reporting requirements. The relevant part of section 5324, as it relates to section 5316, is reproduced below:

(c)International Monetary Instrument Transactions.—No person shall, for the purpose of evading the reporting requirements of section 5316—

(1) fail to file a report required by section 5316, or cause or attempt to cause a person to fail to file such a report;

(2) file or cause or attempt to cause a person to file a report required under section 5316 that contains a material omission or misstatement of fact; or

(3) structure or assist in structuring, or attempt to structure or assist in structuring, any importation or exportation of monetary instruments.

31 U.S. Code § 5324(c)

This section tries to minimize the circumstances in which parties may evade the reporting requirements of 31 U.S. Code § 5316(a). As mentioned before, a classic example is where multiple people carry a single entity’s currency so that none of them exceed the reporting requirement. Were a group of individuals to do this, they should expect that all of the group’s currency will be seized for violating 31 U.S. Code § 5324.

A less sophisticated example of structuring would be where an non-married couple transit through customs separately but the boyfriend is actually carrying $9,000 of the girlfriend’s money and she is carrying $9,000 of her own money as well. Technically neither of them trigger the reporting requirement, however, the fact that the money is the girlfriends and the fact that they distributed the currency to avoid the $10,000 reporting requirement suggests the money could be seized for structuring in violation of 31 U.S. Code § 5324(c).

What happens once my money is seized for a Title 31 violation?

So, what happens if CBP believes you have violated one of the above listed laws? Most likely they will ask you questions about why you were carrying the money, who you were carrying it for, where you got it, and how you planned to spend it. How you answer those questions could be critical to the determination CBP makes about the legality of your actions and whether you are entitled to any leniency later on if they pursue seizure and forfeiture.

If CBP ultimately determines that a violation has occurred, they will initiate a seizure action. Usually this will involve counting the total amount of currency then issuing a “Custody Receipt for Detained or Seized Property” (CBP Form 6051A). This form will include an accounting of the money seized and a chain of custody for the officers to complete. It is important that you provide accurate contact information to the officers because they will send an official seizure notice to the address you provide them that day. Sometimes the officers will not seize all the money you are transporting and will return some back to you for “humanitarian” reasons. The purpose of this money is to allow you to cover small costs and not leave you destitute if you were planning to fund your travels solely with the cash you were carrying. Usually the humanitarian release is a small percentage of the total money seized, so for a $50,000 currency seizure they may release $500 or $1,000 to the traveler for humanitarian reasons.

After you are released and the money is seized, it will be transferred to CBP’s Fines, Penalties & Forfeitures Office for further processing. This is the office that will issue the official seizure notice which is usually titled “NOTICE OF SEIZURE AND INFORMATION TO CLAIMANTS CAFRA FORM.” CAFRA, in this context, stands for the Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act of 2000 which governs the procedure for processing certain seizure and forfeiture actions. It is important that you respond promptly to the seizure notice. Generally, you only have 30 days to file a petition for relief in response to a seizure. See 19 C.F.R. § 171.2(b). The deadline for requesting judicial forfeiture is usually 35-days after mailing of the notice. 18 U.S. Code § 983(a)(2)(B). Every agency and office may vary these deadlines slightly, but the general guidance is that you need to act promptly. Sitting on a seizure notice could lead to you losing the right to challenge the forfeiture of the property, which would result in a total loss of all seized funds.

What is forfeiture?

Seizure is the taking of funds by the government when there is a cognizable theory (probable cause) as to how those funds are connected to some illegal activity. Forfeiture is the next step in the process after seizure, wherein the government initiates the formal process of taking legal title to those funds. This is an important distinction: seized funds, while they may be held by the government they are not legally owned by the government, but once a forfeiture action is completed successfully, title to the forfeited funds formally passes to the federal government. In short, forfeiture transfers title of property from an individual to the government.

31 U.S. Code § 5317 – Search and forfeiture of monetary instruments

The laws we discussed above explain what activity is prohibited and what constitutes a violation of law. This section specifies the actions the government can take to prevent such violations, and what it can do in response to discovered violations. The relevant section follows:

(b)Searches at Border.—
For purposes of ensuring compliance with the requirements of section 5316, a customs officer may stop and search, at the border and without a search warrant, any vehicle, vessel, aircraft, or other conveyance, any envelope or other container, and any person entering or departing from the United States.
(c) Forfeiture.—
(1) Criminal forfeiture.—
(A)In general.—
The court in imposing sentence for any violation of section 5313, 5316, or 5324 of this title, or any conspiracy to commit such violation, shall order the defendant to forfeit all property, real or personal, involved in the offense and any property traceable thereto.
Forfeitures under this paragraph shall be governed by the procedures established in section 413 of the Controlled Substances Act.
(2)Civil forfeiture.—
Any property involved in a violation of section 5313, 5316, or 5324 of this title, or any conspiracy to commit any such violation, and any property traceable to any such violation or conspiracy, may be seized and forfeited to the United States in accordance with the procedures governing civil forfeitures in money laundering cases pursuant to section 981(a)(1)(A) of title 18, United States Code.

31 U.S. Code § 5317 (emphasis added).

As you can see, this law gives CBP the right to search any person entering or departing from the United States. It also allows for the criminal or civil forfeiture of any assets that have been found to violate sections 5316, or 5324.


Hopefully you found this guide helpful. At this time we are not taking on any new clients. All information provided above is for reference purposes and should not be construed as legal advice. You should consult with a licensed attorney before taking any action in your case.

New executive order on anti-dumping and countervailing duties

In keeping with President Trump’s theme of protecting American industry and tightening potential trade abuses, on March 31, 2017, President Trump issued an executive order titled: “Establishing Enhanced Collection And Enforcement Of Antidumping And Countervailing Duties And Violations Of Trade And Customs Laws.” Here is a link to the full order.

Fine money left on the table, a solution?

That order, notes that “As of May 2015, $2.3 billion in antidumping and countervailing duties owed to the Government remained uncollected, often from importers that lack assets located in the United States.” Having worked at CBP I saw how difficult it was to collect on these penalties, especially actions involving foreign nationals.

Increased AD/CVD Bonds for high-risk importers

To address this issue the new order proposes that DHS increase “bonding requirements, based on risk assessments, on entries of articles subject to antidumping and countervailing duties, when necessary to protect the revenue of the United States.”

The order mandates that within 90 days, so by June 29, 2017, DHS shall develop a risk-based plan related to increased bonds for AD/CVD imports, along with developing other “appropriate enforcement measures.”

New enforcement procedures for inadmissible merchandise?

The order also puts a similar 90-day deadline on DHS to “develop and implement a strategy and plan for combating violations of United States trade and customs laws for goods and for enabling interdiction and disposal, including through methods other than seizure, of inadmissible merchandise entering through any mode of transportation, to the extent authorized by law.” This passage is interesting because seizure is generally the appropriate and lawful way under which merchandise is taken by the government and disposed of. This new approach will have to fit within the due process rights of the importers of seized merchandise.

Improved communications with IP rights holders

The order also addresses Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) and the desire to increase communication with rights holders regarding infringing importations and information regarding importations that have been voluntarily abandoned but would have violated US Trade laws.

Increased federal prosecutorial resources

Most importantly, the order specifies that federal prosecutorial resources will now be devoted to trade cases, which has been missing in the past. In practice, this means that a lot of these customs violations that have gone unenforced in the past may see a large uptick in civil and criminal enforcement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Whats next? Find out on June 29, 2017.

We’ll have to see what June 29, 2017, will hold but for fringe importers this news is unwelcome. It means that more attention and resources will be directed at these trade violations and you can expect increased enforcement and liability. For rights holders, the news should be welcome as CBP has shown a commitment to protecting the rights of domestic IPR holders consistently through its latest actions.

It will be interesting to see the new DHS rules/regulations and enforcement priorities that develop after June 29, 2017.

Global Entry Program, and how to appeal Denials and Revocations

Today we are going to discuss U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP’s) Global Entry program. We will cover the advantages of the program, its cost, and how you can apply. We will also address potential avenues of redress  for travelers that have their membership in Global Entry program denied or revoked, including the various avenues individuals can take related to Global Entry revocation appeals and application-denial appeals.


What is Global Entry?

Global Entry (wiki) is a program administered by U.S. Customs and Border Protection that allows for low-risk travelers to use electronic kiosks and avoid long wait associated with clearing customs when traveling internationally. Global Entry was created by Congress and delegated to CBP for administration. The enacting statute was the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 (IRTPA). The specific section of law that led to the establishment of the Global Entry program as it exists now is 8 U.S.C. § 1365b(k). Relevant to our discussion below regarding appeals is the fact that Congress gave DHS/CBP a great deal of discretion in the administration of this trusted traveler program.

Example of Global Entry Kiosks:

Global Entry Kiosk

U.S. Customs and Border Protection has made a big push to increase enrollment in the Global Entry Program. The program is not only beneficial to travelers but also benefits U.S. Customs and Border Protection by allowing them to pre-screen trusted travelers and focus their resources on screening unknown individuals that could present a more serious threat to national security. Below is a video produced by CBP that explains the benefits of the program in more detail.


What are the benefits  of Global Entry?

Global Entry is particularly valuable to regular business travelers and airline employees like pilots and other crew who travel often. Instead of waiting in long inspection lines you can skip the line and “self-process” using an electronic Global Entry kiosk. Depending on the lines and traveler flow at each airport, this can save you hours of time each time you travel. Accordingly, if you travel often this could save tens of hours, if not days, of waiting time. Additionally, some partner countries give you expedited processing if you are a member of Global Entry.
Global Entry Benefits, credit CBP

Here are the list of benefits directly from CBP’s website:

  • No processing lines
  • No paperwork
  • Access to expedited entry benefits in other countries
  • Available at major U.S. airports
  • Reduced wait times
  • TSA Pre✓® Eligibility

Along with Global Entry’s core benefits (skipping the regular CBP inspection lines) the other most attractive benefit is that it qualifies you for TSA precheck which will help you breeze through domestic security lines at US airports. Accordingly, if you engage in regularly international travel it makes sense to apply for Global Entry not solely TSA Pre-Check, since Global Entry qualifies you for both programs if your application is approved.


How do I join Global Entry?

Global Entry is a voluntary program, no one is required to join. If you are interested in joining you have to pay a fee and go through an interview and screening process with a local U.S. Customs and Border Protection official. CBP has created an online portal called GOES “Global Online Enrollment System” (the government sure lacks creativity with its acronyms).

To apply, you create an account with GOES, pay a $100 application fee and then if your application is conditionally approved, you schedule an interview with a local CBP Officer. At this meeting you bring your documents and answer the Officer’s questions, you can also expect to be fingerprinted. If all goes well you should get a positive notification from CBP within a few months and you will be able to start using your Global Entry card.


What is U.S. Customs and Border Protection?

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is a federal agency within the Department of Homeland Security that is charged with securing the nation’s borders. CBP inspects all merchandise and individuals that enter the country from abroad. These officer’s work at all the ports of entry in the United States ensuring that commerce and individuals can flow freely while still ensuring that America is protected from any security threats. More specifically, CBP Officer’s are the ones stamping passports in airports and inspecting cargo at seaports. The U.S. Border Patrol is also a competent of CBP, with its largest presence at the United States’ southern-border with Mexico.


What rules or regulations govern Global Entry membership?

CBP has a great deal of discretion in the administration of the Global Entry program, however, there are some regulations that provide guidance on its administration and the program’s requirements. The core regulations related to Global Entry can be found in the Department of Homeland Security’s regulations at 8 CFR § 235.12.

The regulations define the program as follows:

The Global Entry program is a voluntary international trusted traveler program consisting of an integrated passenger processing system that expedites the movement of low-risk air travelers into the United States by providing an alternate inspection process for pre-approved, pre-screened travelers. In order to participate, a person must meet the eligibility requirements specified in this section, apply in advance, undergo pre-screening by CBP, and be accepted into the program. The Global Entry program allows participants expedited entry into the United States at selected airports identified by CBP at Participants will be processed through the use of CBP-approved technology that will include the use of biometrics to validate identity and to perform enforcement queries.

8 CFR § 235.12(a)(emphasis added).

The regulations make clear that CBP has a great deal of leeway in determining who can and cannot join the program:

An individual is ineligible to participate in Global Entry if CBP, at its sole discretion, determines that the individual presents a potential risk for terrorism, criminality (such as smuggling), or is otherwise not a low-risk traveler. This risk determination will be based in part upon an applicant’s ability to demonstrate past compliance with laws, regulations, and policies.

8 CFR § 235.12(b)(2) (emphasis added).


Are Non-U.S. Citizens eligible for Global Entry membership?

Yes, Global Entry is eligible to lawful permanent residents of the United States, UK citizens, Dutch citizens, South Korean citizens, Panamanian citizens and Mexican nationals. Canadian citizens and residents may enjoy Global Entry benefits through membership in the NEXUS program. However, foreign citizens typically have to go through additional screening and may need to seek prior-approval through their country of citizenship prior to applying through the GOES online portal. For example, UK citizens must first apply, and get an access code from the UK government, prior to applying for Global Entry. You can read more about the special rules for international applicants on CBP’s website.



What can disqualify me when applying for Global Entry?

As mentioned above, CBP has a great deal of discretion in administering the Global Entry program but it specifically cites the following factors as ones that can lead to a denial:

(i) The applicant provides false or incomplete information on the application;
(ii) The applicant has been arrested for, or convicted of, any criminal offense or has pending criminal charges or outstanding warrants in any country;
(iii) The applicant has been found in violation of any customs, immigration, or agriculture regulations, procedures, or laws in any country;
(iv) The applicant is the subject of an investigation by any federal, state, or local law enforcement agency in any country;
(v) The applicant is inadmissible to the United States under applicable immigration laws or has, at any time, been granted a waiver of inadmissibility or parole;
(vi) The applicant is known or suspected of being or having been engaged in conduct constituting, in preparation for, in aid of, or related to terrorism; or
(vii) The applicant cannot satisfy CBP of his or her low-risk status or meet other program requirements.

8 CFR § 235.12(b)(2) (emphasis added).

The last item listed, subpart vii, is very broad and could be interpreted to cover a large range of potential conduct. Ultimately, CBP is looking for travelers that do no present any suggestion that they could be a security risk. Each application is addressed individually and based on the “totality of the circumstances” in each individual’s past.


Why would CBP revoke my Global Entry Membership?

The regulations further provide that an existing membership can be cancelled or revoked when any of the following occurr:

(2) A Global Entry participant may be suspended or removed from the program for any of the following reasons:

(i) CBP, at its sole discretion, determines that the participant has engaged in any disqualifying activities under the Global Entry program as outlined in § 235.12(b)(2);

(ii) CBP, at its sole discretion, determines that the participant provided false information in the application and/or during the application process;

(iii) CBP, at its sole discretion, determines that the participant failed to follow the terms, conditions and requirements of the program;

(iv) CBP, at its sole discretion, determines that the participant has been arrested or convicted of a crime or otherwise no longer meets the program eligibility criteria; or

(v) CBP, at its sole discretion, determines that such action is otherwise necessary.

8 CFR § 235.12(j) (emphasis added).

Again, you’ll note that these regulations leave CBP open to exercise its discretion as it sees fit. Further, you’ll note that these rules incorporate all the criteria that would disqualify an individual as being criteria that could lead to revocation as well.


What can I do if my Global Entry Membership application is denied or revoked?

If your application is denied you can seek redress through three different potential avenues. The regulations provide that you can:

(k) Redress. An individual whose application is denied or whose participation is suspended or terminated has three possible methods for redress. These processes do not create or confer any legal right, privilege or benefit on the applicant or participant, and are wholly discretionary on the part of CBP. The methods of redress are:

(l) Enrollment center. The applicant/participant may contest his or her denial, suspension or removal by writing to the enrollment center where that individual’s interview was conducted. The enrollment center addresses are available at The letter must be received by CBP within 30 calendar days of the date provided as the date of suspension or removal. The individual should write on the envelope “Redress Request RE: Global Entry.” The letter should address any facts or conduct listed in the notification from CBP as contributing to the denial, suspension or removal and why the applicant/participant believes the reason for the action is invalid. If the applicant/participant believes that the denial, suspension or revocation was based upon inaccurate information, the individual should also include any reasonably available supporting documentation with the letter. After review, CBP will inform the individual of its redress decision. If the individual’s request for redress is successful, the individual’s eligibility to participate in Global Entry will resume immediately.

(2) DHS Traveler Redress Inquiry Program (DHS TRIP). The applicant/participant may choose to initiate the redress process through DHS TRIP. An applicant/participant seeking redress may obtain the necessary forms and information to initiate the process on the DHS TRIP Web site at, or by contacting DHS TRIP by mail at the address on this Web site.

(3) Ombudsman. Applicants (including applicants who were not scheduled for an interview at an enrollment center) and participants may contest a denial, suspension or removal by writing to the CBP Trusted Traveler Ombudsman at the address listed on the Web site

8 CFR § 235.12(k) (emphasis added)

In plain English this means that you can challenge your revocation or denial with one of the three listed authorities: either by 1) writing the local office that conducted your initial interview; 2) using the DHS traveler redress inquiry program and; 3) contacting the CBP Trusted Traveler Ombudsman. No result is guaranteed if you appeal a denial or revocation, and the regulations make clear that no right or privilege in conferred by providing these methods of redress. Nonetheless, CBP has provided these avenues of redress to individuals in the event a revocation or denial occurs in error.

One avenue of redress is not necessarily better than the other. Ultimately, where you should seek redress will depend on the circumstances of your case and the evidence you have available to support your appeal.


What is the standard by which CBP adjudicates my redress (appeal) claim?

The regulations provide that when you submit your redress request you

should address any facts or conduct listed in the notification from CBP as contributing to the denial, suspension or removal and why the applicant/participant believes the reason for the action is invalid. If the applicant/participant believes that the denial, suspension or revocation was based upon inaccurate information, the individual should also include any reasonably available supporting documentation with the letter. After review, CBP will inform the individual of its redress decision. If the individual’s request for redress is successful, the individual’s eligibility to participate in Global Entry will resume immediately.

8 CFR § 235.12(l) (emphasis added).

Essentially, this paragraph can be summarized to say, any appeal needs to state clearly why the decision was made in error and provide any and all evidence showing how this decision was based on innacurate information. Specifically this means that appeals that are supported by concrete evidence will have a better chance of success that appeals that provide a conclusory statement like ‘I don’t think CBP should have denied by Global Entry application.’


How do I appeal a Global Entry application denial or revocation?

To appeal a denial, first you need to choose which method of redress you will seek a response from: the enrollment center, DHS TRIP, or the Ombudsman. After that you should prepare a clear statement (in the event you present it orally to the enrollment center) or written statement (for DHS TRIP/Ombudsman) outlining why the decision was reached in error. You should support any argument with evidence as to why the decision was made in error or based on inaccurate information.


What is the contact information for the CBP Trusted Traveler Ombudsman?

CBP Trusted Traveler Ombudsman

US Customs and Border Protection

P.O. Box 946

Williston, VT 05495




If my appeal is unsuccessful can I sue the government or file a court case to get Global Entry membership reinstated or granted?

For your typical Global Entry denial or revocation, the quick answer is no. As discussed above DHS and CBP have a great deal of discretion in administering the Global Entry program. This is because Congress specifically granted  the Secretary of Homeland Security with the authority to determine the criteria which disqualifies an applicant or member of the program. See 8 U.S.C. § 1365b(k)(3)(E)(iii).

To illustrate how difficult a challenge to DHS’s authority is, an individual filed a federal district court case in 2011 seeking to have a federal judge order DHS to grant him program membership. The district court judge, reviewed the various allegations made by the plaintiff and ultimately concluded that given the discretionary grant to DHS it was within its rights for denying the plaintiffs membership in that case. You can view that case here if you like. Your typical bread and butter argument for an agency action, the Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. § 501 et seq., completely failed because of the nearly unlimited discretion that was delegated to Homeland Security.

Most Global Entry denials will likely fit into the above category, in that they are based on some concrete and justifiable exclusionary criteria and any challenge is unlikely to succeed. If you have clearly violated the terms of membership or are ineligible based on past actions, like a disqualifying criminal conviction, any court challenge is likely to fail. This is not to say all challenges would be unsuccessful, certainly there could be some instances where a plaintiff could prevail, however the scenarios are limited. It is beyond the scope of this article to predict all scenarios where a court action could be successful, but a few potential examples include DHS denying membership to individuals based on their religious affiliation or some other constitutionally-protected criteria which would violate the due process or equal protection clauses of the Constitution.


Hopefully you found this guide helpful. At this time we are not taking on any new clients. All information provided above is for reference purposes and should not be construed as legal advice. You should consult with a licensed attorney before taking any action in your case.

Other information and updates

Update, April 13, 2017: CBP has posted a helpful FAQ related to Global Entry. If you have a question, odds are you should be able to find an answer in this article or on CBP’s FAQ.


Update as of February 2, 2017. The President issued an executive order on January 27, 2017, titled “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States.” That EO limited the ability of foreign nationals from certain countries to acquire visas and enter the United States. Additionally, we have been informed that some individuals may have had their Global Entry membership revoked as a result of this EO. The legality of the EO is currently being litigated and until that issue is resolved the likelihood of successfully appealing a revocation based on your country of residence is low. Moreover, the federal agency charged with administering the Global Entry program has wide latitude and discretion. If you feel you have been wrongly targeted based on religious beliefs or other protected affiliation you may want to consider contacting the ACLU.


Update as of March 21, 2017. The above travel ban has been replaced by new travel restrictions. This new order is now being challenged by various plaintiffs and the outcome of that litigation will likely be pending for the coming months.