U.S. Customs and Border Protection, responding to an inquiry from AOPA, has assured pilots conducting international flights from McAllen Miller International Airport in Texas that contrary to what the port had been advising, they are not required to obtain verbal permission to depart the country after receiving customs’ outbound electronic Advance Passenger Information System (eAPIS) message clearing the pilot to depart.
AOPA inquired into procedures being followed locally at McAllen after pilots using eAPIS reported that they had been instructed to contact the McAllen customs office by telephone prior to departure—even after being cleared for departure by email. Failure to comply would result in a $5,000 fine, they told AOPA. Pilots are still required to coordinate their inbound arrangements by calling the customs port of entry at least one hour and no more than 23 hours before their planned U.S. arrival time.
Rick Gardner, AOPA’s representative for the Bahamas, Caribbean, Mexico, and Central America, contacted the McAllen airport’s customs office, where he said officials acknowledged that they had been requiring the added phone calls.
Gardner then contacted customs headquarters, where on June 16 officials notified him that no such additional step was required for aircraft that have filed eAPIS documentation and received the “cleared for departure” email.
“Having to make a phone call requesting verbal approval from customs prior to departure would add to the already burdensome requirement pilots must fulfill prior to flying out of the country,” said Tom Zecha, AOPA manager of aviation security.
Zecha asked that any AOPA member who experiences problems or what appears to be nonstandard procedures at customs ports of entry should contact AOPA.