Tips on Operating to France – Customs, Immigration & Agriculture

> | April 4, 2013 | 3 Comments
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Tips on Operating to France – Customs, Immigration & Agriculture

This is a post by author Sandrine Jackson. Sandrine is managing director for Universal Aviation France – Paris. Sandrine is an expert on business aircraft operations in France and can be contacted at

This business aviation blog post is part of a series on operating in France and continues from our last article: "Tips on Airport Operations for France – General Information."

International business aviation arrivals in France clear customs and immigration onboard, inside a Fixed Base Operator (FBO) or at main commercial terminal. Work with your 3rd-party provider to confirm clearance processes and options at all intended destinations and fine-tune the clearance process.

1. Know procedures for passengers clearing customs

In most cases, especially when clearing at a commercial terminal, the first to clear customs and immigration will be passengers, followed by crew. When clearing at an FBO at airports like LFPB, crew and passengers typically clear together. Crew and passenger information is provided to customs in advance. Agricultural clearance is no longer required in France for passengers or crew, and the ground handler will take care of international trash. Depending on their nationalities, passengers must have visas or face either deportation or restriction to the airport ramp. Therefore, it’s always recommended to check with your visa or 3rd-party provider regarding visa requirements. Also, when clearing customs at the main terminal, passengers are typically placed in the same line as commercial passengers. If the clearance is done onboard the aircraft or at an FBO, the process only takes a few minutes; however, if the clearance is at the main terminal, it may take over an hour, depending on how long the line is.

2. Crew clear customs at FBO or main terminal

It’s the crew’s responsibility to provide customs with a complete general declaration with all crew and passenger information. Crew members may be required to have visas for France, depending on their nationalities. The clearance process is typically 5-10 minutes at an FBO but up to one hour at a commercial terminal. In some cases, crew may have the option of using the crew clearance lane.

3. Consider all customs restrictions and regulations

At certain airports, customs may not be available at all times, particularly at regional airports, so prior arrangement (48 hours’ notice) should be made. If crew or passengers go into the FBO or terminal during tech stops, they’ll need to clear security before returning to the aircraft. If you have an animal onboard, be sure to have all vaccination documentation up to date to avoid quarantine procedures. Guns or cash above a 10,000-Euro reporting limit may be left onboard the aircraft with no declaration required. No fees are associated with clearing customs or immigration.

4. Confirm that documentation is available

Have valid passports (six-month remaining validity is not an issue in France), visas when applicable, crew IDs and medical certificates available. To avoid cabotage issues, it’s recommended to carry a letter on company letterhead indicating association of any onboard European Union (EU) nationals with your company. Cabotage (which is the transportation of EU nationals unrelated to the owner or company when the aircraft owner is not onboard) is prohibited in France, even if the aircraft has been imported into the EU. Fines have been and continue to be issued for cabotage infringement.

5. Know agricultural restrictions

Be aware of items that may be prohibited in France, including particular fruits and quantities of certain types of caviar. Always declare items that by regulation need to be declared to avoid problems on arrival. Please see the government site for more information on agricultural restrictions in France.

6. Value Added Tax (VAT) may be reclaimed on departure

To reclaim VAT on items purchased in France, and carried with you on departure, stop by a VAT reclaim office in the main terminal. Lines may be long, so it’s recommended to do this much earlier than departure to avoid delays. Passengers must have all receipts, along with the actual items and their passports, with them to reclaim VAT.


From the perspective of airport operations and customs/immigration clearance, the French process is a relatively efficient one. Anticipate limited services and reduced hours of customs operation at smaller regional airports and be aware that services at these more remote locations will differ from what you can expect at larger airports in France.


If you have any questions about this article or need help planning for this event, contact me at

Later, we’ll discuss ground handling considerations for France and their impact on your trip.

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Universal Aviation France – Paris Managing Director Sandrine Jackson has nearly 25 years’ experience with Universal and is an expert on operations in France. Under Sandrine’s leadership, the Universal Aviation France – Paris location at Le Bourget is consistently ranked in industry surveys as one of Europe’s best FBOs. Sandrine, who is based in Paris, first joined Universal in 1989. She can be reached at

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