Guidance for international GA flights

December 1, 2008

International FlyingNew flight and passenger information requirements for international general aviation flights are scheduled to go into effect on May 19, 2009 as part of the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) final rule issued in November. AOPA is offering guidance on how to comply with the new procedures.

“While AOPA helped to mitigate the impact this rule will have on pilots, there are some new procedures that pilots need to be aware of before flying internationally,” said Craig Spence, AOPA vice president of security. “We are continuing our work with the CBP to streamline the process, but in the meantime, we’ve developed this guide.”

The rule requires that flight information and passenger manifests for aircraft arriving and departing the United States be filed via the electronic Advance Passenger Information System (eAPIS). Both legs can be filed at the same time, as long as it is done 60 minutes prior to departure. However, pilots in remote areas where Internet access is not available can file the information using the telephone, flight service, or other existing means on a case-by-case basis. Pilots also can update their plan in flight because of changing weather or other conditions.

Pilots will need to sign up for eAPIS online starting Dec. 18.

AOPA had requested that aircraft weighing less than 12,500 pounds be exempt from the rule. Even though that request was denied, the association was able to work with the CBP to make it less burdensome for pilots to comply.

The original proposal would have required pilots to file their flight and passenger information via the Internet, without the option of using the telephone or FSS. Pilots also would have needed to file the information within one hour of departure for each leg. AOPA and its members pointed out to the CBP that those requirements just weren’t feasible for general aviation operations.

Also, AOPA has developed an online guide, Understanding eAPIS: A Pilot’s Guide to Online Customs Reporting and a list of Frequently Asked Questions and Tips.