One of the things which are common to all international airports round the world is the bifurcation of the incoming passenger traffic in to two channels – the red and the green channel. What do these channels mean to you and what do you need to know about them? Knowledge about these channels is important as it is related to your knowledge about customs regulations too.
When you arrive in a particular country, whether by air or by road, you will have to go through either the Red or the Green Channel. When you are carrying goods and items which you have to ‘declare’ that is, goods which go beyond the permitted limits of customs of that country or any prohibited item, you have to go through the Red Channel. Whereas when you do not carry any item which needs to be ‘declared’ to the customs authorities, that is all the items carried by you do not go beyond the customs limits and none of the items are prohibited in that country, you can go through the Green Channel. In the Green Channel, you might just be checked casually, and make it through the entire process of customs very easily and quickly. If however, any item is found in your baggage or on your person, which is prohibited by the customs of that country and you have not declared so, you stand a chance of being prosecuted for giving false declaration. Remember, making a false declaration to the customs authority in any country is a punishable offence by law.
All countries which fall under European Union, also have a Blue Channel, through which, passengers arriving from countries belonging to the EU can pass through, as they do not have to pay any customs duties, so long as the goods they brought in are meant for personal use and not for re-sale. You will notice that all checked-in luggage of passengers arriving from other EU countries will carry tickets with green edges for easy identification.
Thus it is important for you to know beforehand what the customs formalities are before you arrive in any country to avoid getting your luggage checked and paying customs duties. Remember, you have to go through the Red Channel if you have to declare goods which fall under three categories: Dutiable, Controlled and Prohibited. It is not possible to list them down, as it varies from one country to another. Even when you are in doubt, you should go to the Red Channel and seek proper advice from the relevant authorities. It is perfectly normal for your luggage to be checked by officers at various checkpoints and they can do this, irrespective of whether you go through the Red or the Green Channel.