Beginning in May, pilots who fly internationally will have to provide passenger information to Customs and Border Protection (CBP) using a new electronic reporting system. But CBP’s Electronic Advance Passenger Information System, better known as eAPIS, is available now, and pilots may begin using it on a voluntary basis to file passenger manifests before launching on any international flight.
In order to use the system, pilots must register for an online account. Once the account is approved—a process that CBP officials say will take about one week—the pilot will be able to use the system to file passenger manifests electronically. Under the new rule, those manifests must be filed at least one hour before departing or arriving the United States, but the new system allows pilots to file as far in advance as they wish, giving them the freedom to provide information for their return trip before leaving home, where they have Internet access.
“We were pleased that security officials acted on many of the concerns we raised about this rule, including the fact that Internet access isn’t always available, especially at remote destinations in other countries,” said Craig Spence, AOPA vice president of security. “Now we will be working closely with CBP during the implementation process to ensure that no undue burden is placed on GA and the process becomes transparent to the user.”
From Dec. 18 through May 17, 2009, pilots may choose to use either the existing Form 178 or the eAPIS system. Pilots should note that, while using eAPIS is voluntary for now, those who choose to use it should treat it with the same gravity as filing a Form 178. The system is active and passenger information filed through it must be accurate. More detailed information about how the system works is available online.
Beginning May 18, 2009, use of eAPIS will become mandatory.
For more information about the new CBP rules and how they will affect general aviation, see AOPA’s issue brief or call the experts in AOPA’s Pilot Information Center at 800/USA-AOPA.