U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is proposing regulatory changes that will require all general aviation aircraft flying internationally to electronically submit a passenger list (manifest) and arrival/departure notification at least 60 minutes prior to leaving or entering the United States. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) believes that passengers on general aviation aircraft should be checked against terrorist watch lists prior to international travel to or from the United States. Portions of the proposed rule are also required by the recently enacted 9/11 Commission law on homeland security.
Under the CBP proposal, general aviation pilots will be required to file passenger manifests and notify Customs of their arrivals and departures via the CBP's electronic Advance Passenger Information System (eAPIS) Web portal or through a CBP-approved electronic data interchange system and to receive confirmation/approval no later then 60 minutes prior to their departure.
Currently, U.S. general aviation pilots arriving in the United States provide Customs 60 minutes' notice of their border crossing on the southern border. There is no requirement for notification of general aviation departing the United States. Notice for arrival into the U.S. is given by phone to Customs or by flight plan through the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA's) flight service system (FSS) and updates to arrival times and locations via the air traffic control system, allowing arrivals from remote locations at which telephone access is not available. Passenger manifest and identification information is provided upon arrival in the United States during a face-to-face meeting with Customs officials.
The proposed requirement to file arrival and departure information and passenger manifests mainly by electronic means (eAPIS) or other CBP-approved electronic system places an unreasonable burden on pilots. Many pilots, especially pilots of small aircraft, operate from remote or undeveloped airports in countries that have no Internet access, and many areas have very limited phone service. As stated in the proposed rule, CBP plans to require pilots leaving these remote areas to land at another airport with electronic service and submit the arrival notification and passenger manifest before departing on a flight entering or leaving the United States.
AOPA opposes electronic filing requirement for small general aviation aircraft and the new requirement for U.S. departure clearances. Small general aviation aircraft should be allowed to continue their Customs notification by phone or radio and to provide their passenger information upon arrival during their face-to-face meetings with Customs as they do today. Allowing small general aviation aircraft to continue to operate as they do today is especially important as it takes into consideration their unique operating environment and provides for last-minute changes to arrival/departure times or locations due to weather or other operational considerations common to general aviation when operating from foreign countries with extremely limited infrastructure and Internet access.
At a minimum, general aviation pilots, especially pilots of small aircraft, should not be required to file the required information solely by electronic means prior to departing or arriving the United States.
October 11, 2007: The comment period closes November 19, 2007. AOPA has formally requested a two-month extension for comments (to January 18, 2008).
September 18, 2007: Notice of Proposed Rule submitted by Customs and Border Protection.
November 9, 2007: CBP grants AOPA's request for an extension. Comment period now closes December 4, 2007.
November 14, 2007: CBP has granted a 15-day extension to the comment period, which now closes on December 4, 2007.
December 4, 2007: AOPA files formal comments to the docket stating that the proposed rule is unduly burdensome.
Updated Friday, January 18, 2008
AOPA thanks our members for their continued support in protecting the freedom to fly.