Before planning any international flight, even a short trip to Canada, Mexico, the Bahamas, and the Caribbean, make sure you are up to speed on the latest procedures. A requirement to file passenger manifests and flight information online for all international flights goes into effect May 18. Yes, this applies even if you’re flying a Cessna 150 and have only one passenger. The penalty for noncompliance is stiff--$5,000 the first time and $10,000 subsequent instances. To make sure you don’t have to cancel your plans or get hit with a hefty fine, take the AOPA Air Safety Foundation’s new interactive course, Understanding eAPIS: A Pilot’s Guide to Online Customs Reporting .
The course provides a simple overview of Customs and Border Protection’s new electronic Advance Passenger Information System (eAPIS), an online reporting system that allows pilots to submit passenger, crew, and flight information to customs and receive departure and arrival permissions. The course also outlines how to sign up for and activate an eAPIS account, use the online tool to upload manifests, and submit arrival and departure notices. The course also runs through scenarios for seamless flights and flights with a few glitches along the way to help prepare you for using eAPIS in the actual flight environment.
Before you can use Customs and Border Protection’s electronic Advance Passenger Information System (eAPIS), you must register for an account online. While registration is quick, it takes up to one week for your account to be approved. AOPA strongly encourages pilots to register for an account well in advance of the planned international flight.
Members who have questions about using eAPIS can call AOPA’s Pilot Information Center weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern at 800/USA-AOPA.
Flight information must be submitted through eAPIS at least 60 minutes in advance. This is because customs will be checking the manifest against terrorist watch lists as it is required by Congress. Pilots should receive approval or denial of their manifest and flight information within a few minutes of submission.
AOPA successfully removed stipulations from the rule that would have required pilots to file the information online one hour before each leg. Now, the only requirement is the minimum 60-minute notification. This means pilots can file the departure and return manifests as far in advance as they want.
While the flight information must be filed online, certain details can be updated over the telephone, radio, or other existing means, such as flight service. This was an option AOPA strongly advocated for because a survey of members revealed that 63 percent of them do not have Internet access at their point of departure in neighboring countries.