I was shooting in Costa Rica just over a year ago. All we needed was an itemized list of gear, with serial numbers. We had it so it could be checked when going into country and again when leaving to make sure we didn't "sell" anything as that would be an import violation.
If I remember right the list was glanced at and we were waved through. No inspection of actual gear took place.
It did help that we were traveling light. C300 and lenses in a travel backpack. Sound bag was a carry on. No thermodyne cases. Boom pole and tripod were in checked luggage which you have with you at the customs area.
No info on the other countries but hope this helps.
4455 19 CFR 10.8
Write your professional gear list on the form, sign it, stamp it at departure or ahead of time and show it on return.
4457 19 CFR 148.1 (a personal effects sub form for ipads, ipods, smart phones, laptops, point and shoot stuff)
Write your list on the form, sign it, stamp it at departure or ahead of time and show it on return.
Travel with gear has changed a lot over the last ten to fifteen years.
Remember...it is not just the country you are going to which will need documentation but the good 'ol USA as well.
Make sure you've done all the paperwork with customs here so when you return...you will have fewer headaches.
Sometimes you won't get "tagged" by the US Customs folk for that "thorough check"...but you will be darn glad you did the paperwork if they decide to really look closely at what you're coming back into the country with.
Here in Miami they ahve gotten much pickier about that paperwork and I have friends here with some real horror stories...and they thought their only issue would be the third-world country they were going to!
I will add...Nicaragua has gotten totally insane about bringing gear in.
They've been confiscating gear at the airport and holding it hostage until you pay the tariffs just to bring it into the country...even though you are only going to be there for a short stay.
The days of traveling around with a nice list of gear and serial numbers to hand out, without having the proper customs stamps from ALL countries, is quickly coming to an end.
Plan on an additional hour or two on top of the requested two hour prior to flight time arrival at the airport to make sure you are all squared away with the US Customs officials before you ever leave the country.
Both of these are Customs and Border Protection forms. The professional gear is a two sided affair. Make the list detailed and include specifics like model, serial number, software versions.
Get it stamped by Customs and Border Protection before you are wheels up and it will smooth out the transition home.
As for horror stories Lensmith describes yes they happen. It's not just Miami registering your gear to come here does however sound very rational.
Just having stuff registered with US customs, and extra copies liberally furnished in you host nation can help a lot. It always comes down to the guy who either smiles and waves you through or yokes you over for "special" scrutiny.
Depending where you get off the plane Customs Official can mean different things. Especially with all that fancy gear. Anywhere you land in The States the forms will make you easier to welcome home.
We generally have a Carnet and the 4455 completed for every offshore trip.