Updated September 27, 2012
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) preclearance got off to a slow start when it was first introduced in 2010. During this introduction phase, many operators found the process troublesome and time-consuming, but things have changed over the last year. It’s now possible to pre-clear at Shannon (EINN) in about half the ground time that was required previously and without, in most cases, shutting down all aircraft systems. If you’re considering this option, for the most successful results it’s important to pre-plan and coordinate the preclearance procedure with your 3rd-party provider.
1. U.S. Customs Preclearance for GA is possible at one location outside U.S.
Although CBP operates 15 preclearance ports of entry, including Aruba, Bahamas, Bermuda, Canada, and Ireland, for scheduled commercial operators, only one preclearance option is available for general aviation (GA). That location is Shannon, Ireland (EINN). Additional GA preclearance options, including Aruba (TNCA), may be added in the future as Customs and Border Protection (CBP) deems necessary. The process that is familiar to GA operators for flights through the U.S. Virgin Islands is a CBP Preinspection, not a CBP Preclearance.
2. Know preclearance request procedure at EINN
Advance notification is required for U.S. CBP preclearance at EINN – preferably 48 hours for private non-revenue operations and 72 hours for charter (non-scheduled commercial). In all cases, and without exceptions, preclearance must be requested at least 24 hours in advance. Once preclearance is approved, the operator will be given a specific appointment time. If the aircraft is delayed, there is a risk that it would have to wait or postpone clearance in the event the aircraft arrives close to another aircraft’s appointment. There’s an approved list of airports due to U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) requirements regarding disposal of international waste. CBP, at your first landing location in the U.S., must be notified and approve your EINN preclearance. Be aware that only visa waiver program (VWP) signatory carriers are eligible to transport VWP registrants.
3. You’re limited on where you may land in the U.S.
Since EINN preclearance for GA went into effect in March 2010, several airports within the continental U.S. have been added to the approved list of options after pre-clearing CBP. Operators are limited to these arrival options for various reasons – the primary being the availability of USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) – approved facilitators for international refuge disposal. Approved EINN preclearance Airports do not need to have full-time CBP, or even a CBP agricultural inspector, but there must be someone approved to de-cater the aircraft upon landing. Some FBOs and certain individual flight departments have been approved to dispose of international waste, and the relevant airports have been added to CBP’s approved list.
4. Information must be provided in advance in order to set up preclearance
To set up preclearance at EINN, CBP will need to know:
- Your tail number
- Your CBP annual decal number
- Your ETA and ETD at EINN
- Your ETA at U.S. airport point of entry
- All foreign airports your aircraft has visited within the past 24 hours
- Number of crew/passengers, including number of U.S. citizens
- Your first landing airport in the U.S.
APIS filing for departure from EINN to U.S. airport stateside must be complete when requesting preclearance. Without proper notification and lead time, preclearance at EINN cannot be set up unless CBP elects to approve a short-notice request.
5. Know the procedure upon landing at EINN
To pre-clear at EINN, you’ll need to park at the customs ramp, or close to it, to avoid repositioning later. All passengers/crew/luggage must come off the aircraft, and the auxiliary power unit (APU) must be shut down unless the APU exhaust is at least eight feet above the ground. Alternatively, you’ll need to shut down the APU and use a ground power unit (GPU) to maintain power. GPU is available at the customs ramp.
6. Customs clearance is a staggered process
One crew member may stay with the aircraft to supervise fuel uplift, catering, and lav service etc., and to place oceanic clearance on request while passengers, other crew, and luggage are escorted to the terminal building by the ground handler. Crew and passengers are subject to security screening on entering the terminal building where CBP is located (100 ml liquids limitation rule applies), and all baggage must be identified by crew/passengers. The clearance process, within CBP’s EINN facility, normally takes 1-3 minutes per passenger. After a radiation scan of aircraft has been completed (an 8-10 minute process), the crew member remaining with the aircraft may proceed to clear customs. Typically, the remaining crew member will wait until passengers/crew are escorted back to the aircraft by an entourage of two CBP officers, a member of the Irish police force, and ground handler.
7. Preclearance hours of operation are limited
Beginning October 28, 2012, EINN preclearance hours will be reduced to 7 am – 3 pm local daily. The first appointment time available in the morning will be 0730 local, and the last appointment time in the evening is 1400 local. When we refer to ‘appointment time,’ this is the time the first crew member and passengers can be presented to CBP for processing. Overtime is not available for GA operations. It’s important to pre-advise CBP if your operation is going to be outside this window so that a revised appointment time can be considered.
8. Diversion to non-approved airports is restricted
After pre-clearing customs, operators are only authorized to land at the pre-approved airfields in the U.S. unless directed otherwise by CBP. If an aircraft lands at a different airport than designated on APIS filing, the EINN preclearance status is no longer valid. The pilot must schedule arrival in U.S. in the same manner as if the aircraft had not been pre-cleared.
9. Preclearance works better for some operations than others
Preclearance at EINN can be particularly beneficial for operators planning an overnight at EINN when luggage is already deplaned and the pre-clear appointment time can be easily kept — or, in cases of tech stops, where preclearance allows better access to an operator’s desired U.S. airport of entry. EINN preclearance may or may not be the best option for all tech stops due to operating hours and additional time required on the ground. However, this will depend on your mission and individual circumstances.
Preclearance procedure at EINN is better today than it was in the past. It’s worthwhile to take a second look at this option and potential benefits. Ability to keep the APU running makes EINN preclearance a less onerous and time-intensive option that it had been in the past. If your home-base airport has CBP approved international trash disposal capability, this may be another point in favor of EINN pre-clear. Best practice is to talk over all options with your 3rd-party provider and EINN-based ground handler.
Category : Best Practice
About Laura Everington
With more than 20 years’ experience in the aviation services industry, most in the regulations arena, Universal Weather and Aviation, Inc. Sr. Manager, Government and Industry Affairs Laura Everington is recognized as one of the business aviation industry’s preeminent authorities on all U.S. and international regulations. Laura serves as a liaison to all the key regulatory bodies, including Customs and Border Protection, the Transportation Security Administration, and the Federal Aviation Administration, all of which regularly consult her for her opinion on rules creation. A naturally gifted orator, Laura, who joined Universal in 1990, is one of the industry’s most requested and respected speakers. By her own estimate, she has presented at more than 100 industry events around the globe on a variety of regulatory topics. She has also given countless interviews to the most read and respected business aviation trade publications. Laura, who is an acting member of the National Business Aviation Association’s Security Council, can be reached at email@example.com.
About Olivia Thompson
Since joining Universal in 2007, Regulatory Specialist Olivia Thompson has become a resource for clients on a host of complex regulatory issues including: Transportation Security Administration waivers, the European Union’s Emissions Trading Scheme, Safety Management Systems, visa procurement, Customs and Border Protection policies, and more. Olivia has a bachelor’s degree in international management and economics and a master’s degree of business administration in management from Sam Houston State University. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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