I have money in my American bank account. I send it through Western Union to my Mexican bank account. Then I go buy dollars at an exchange house. I do this to make a couple hundred dollars every time, just as extra money.

I travel to the USA almost every week carrying no more than $4,000 every time. Every time I go into the USA I get asked how much money I have on me, I always tell them with no problem whether I have 2, 3, or 4 thousand.

Yesterday, they asked me a lot of questions and made me fill in FinCEN Form 105 which I read is designed to declare more than 10,000 USD. I filled it in for the amount of $3592. However, the officers never answered my question: How often can I bring $10,000 or less without having to report it? Is it every week? Is it every month? Is it every time I go to the USA even if I go every day?

I felt that they made me fill that form that by law I was not required to do so. Can someone give me an answer?

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    I don't think this question is a duplicate of what Base-64 and @JoeTaxpayer said was already asked and answered. The other question was about a single entry into the US carrying more than $10K in cash; this one is about repeated entries (once a week? once a month? once a day?) carrying less than $10K each time. When does this money mule activity become suspect enough that CBP takes action? And is what CBP forced the OP to do illegal? (The latter is a question for law.SE). Commented Jul 25, 2020 at 15:14
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    This sounds like structuring, you should expect to fill out that form every time, and are certainly going to be watched more closely. That money could also be seized via civil forfeiture. I recommend stopping this practice. Even if it is not illegal per se, you are in for a lot of border scrutiny and might have the money seized one of these days.
    – Rocky
    Commented Jul 25, 2020 at 21:00
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    Sure it could sound as whatever you want. But I have all my bank statements to prove Im ok. One of the officers told me that what I’m doing is perfectly legal. My question was because I felt that they made me fill a form that I thought I didn’t have to because I was only carring $3,592 dlls. I am more than willing to do anything, IF the law says so. Commented Jul 26, 2020 at 19:44
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    @Rocky It doesn't sound like he's structuring here, but rather exploiting some sort of arbitrage situation that allows him to make money sending the same dollars around a loop over and over. That might not stop some overzealous prosecutor, though. Commented Jul 18, 2021 at 15:45
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    Can you explain what the goal of this actually is? It is just not possible you could make any money on a regular basis doing that, quite the opposite: between the Western Union and manual exchange fees/spread you are most likely to be spending quite a lot unless you happen to stumble on a good cycle when the MXN/USD rate increases substantially between the two operations. But you wouldn’t need to bring the money across the border for that to work, all you need is to convert from one currency to the other and back…
    – jcaron
    Commented Jul 18, 2021 at 20:04

2 Answers 2


Probably infinitely often, as there is no legal limit to bring cash in the US anyway.
If you carry more than 10000 US $ in cash, you are required to report it, but it is still legal. So instead of going a hundred times with 4k$, you could just take 400 k$ and tell them when you enter, and you'd be fine.

The limit is really to allow them to monitor very large amounts for legal possession and tax liability - as long as you can show that you legally own the amount, and paid due taxes when you made it, you can bring a billion in cash if you want.

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    I wish I had 400k. Like I said, I do it that way just to get that margin of gain, witch is about $170 for every $1800 dlls that I take into US. They made me think that it was an accumulative thing, for example, if the week before I took $4,000 I am only allowed to enter with $6,000 the next time. But that didn’t make sense to me. Thank you for your answer! Commented Jul 26, 2020 at 19:22
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    I'll note that banks are required to report suspicious transactions, not just those over 10,000. If you transfer money in smaller batches, you might still get hit with requests for more information. The logic and rules for this are in part up to the bank's discretion. In some sense this makes it impossible to know for sure whether your account will be subject to extra scrutiny, since "suspicious activity" is not well-defined. This is intentional; making such scrutiny predictable would make it easier for criminals to evade suspicion.
    – Brian
    Commented Jul 28, 2020 at 15:07

It's complicated. Seek legal advice.

What you are doing is probably legal. However, there is a financial crime known as "structuring," where you deliberately make a series of smaller-than-$10k transactions to avoid hitting the $10k limit on any individual transaction. This prevents those transactions from being reported to the government. It's illegal, because the government wants to know about the overall movement of money regardless of how it is accomplished.

Officially, it's only a crime if you use multiple transactions "for the purpose of evading the reporting requirements of section 5316" (which is the $10k limit). If you have a valid reason to break your transactions up, unrelated to the $10k limit, then in theory you have done nothing wrong. However, the government tends to look very long and hard at large-but-not-quite-$10k transactions, especially when they occur multiple times or on a regular basis. If you intend to continue doing this, I would strongly advise consulting an attorney with experience in US financial law. Otherwise, it is possible that the government will seize your funds (on suspicion of a financial crime), freeze your US bank account (because that's where the money originated), and then you will have to pay for legal representation using whatever assets you have left. Of course, hiring a lawyer will not make this outcome impossible, but they can give you specific advice for your individual situation, and if you have already retained them, then they may be able to represent you in the event that things go wrong.

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