The U.S. Customs Service has outlined plans to make the GATE (General Aviation Telephonic Entry) program permanent. The program, which AOPA has advocated since 1992, allows approved pilots and passengers flying from Canada to the United States to give Customs advance notice by calling a toll-free number (800/98CLEAR) and obtaining a "telephonic entry number." With that, the pilot may fly directly to the approved U.S. airport of entry (frequently the pilot's home field) and avoid long delays for Customs inspections. In most cases, no inspection at all will be required.
AOPA first approached Customs officials in 1992 with the idea of an international toll-free number to reach a single Customs clearinghouse to make it easier for pilots to clear Customs. Customs officials were invited to AOPA Expo in Las Vegas that year to discuss border-crossing problems directly with pilots.
The association supplied Customs with additional research in 1993 to facilitate the design of a new system. In 1995, AOPA finally appealed to then U.S. Representative James Lightfoot (R-Iowa) to help push the new system forward.
GATE was implemented as a pilot program in 1996. In 1998, the program was improved and expanded, following input from AOPA and AOPA members who completed surveys on AOPA Online.
Customs is now proposing to make the pilot program permanent. The agency will accept comments on the proposal through October 2. [See also the notice of proposed rulemaking.]
See the AOPA/COPA Guide to Cross-Border Operations for more information on GATE and CANPASS, Canada's telephonic entry system.