Flying to Brazil: 6 Tips for Navigating Customs, Immigration, and Agriculture
This business aviation blog post is the first part in a series on operating to Brazil.
When operating a business aircraft into Brazil, delays will occasionally be experienced in the customs clearance process. It’s always best practice to work with a 3rd-party provider to confirm required documentation, local customs clearance procedures, and any agriculture or in-flight catering regulations that may impact your flight. Your local ground handler can help expedite the process of entry into and departure from Brazil. Here are 6 tips to help you navigate Customs, Immigration, and Agriculture in Brazil.
1. Work with your ground handler for your required arrival/departure cards.
These special forms are printed and accessible within Brazil but not available online at this time. The forms must be completed and turned in by all passengers and crew. If the crew and passenger information is sent in advance – names, date of birth, passport numbers, expiration dates and nationalities – your local ground handler will fill out these forms and provide you with completed cards to sign as you are escorted to federal police and customs for clearance.
2. To save time in clearing customs, avoiding peak commercial times at large airports, or stick to smaller airports. For tech stops, you need not worry.
Crew and passengers are taken to the main terminal separately for clearance. This can take some time, as it’s the same line and process as commercial arrivals. There’s a special line for crew, but you’ll be waiting with commercial crews. Passenger clearance at major airports such as Sao Paulo (SBGR and SBKP) can take up to 1.5 hours. As a courtesy, the duty officer may allow VIP passengers to skip the lines, but that’s not the standard. Avoid peak commercial times. For example, in SBGR, the peak hours are 0500 – 1000 local and 2000 – 2300 local. You can’t clear customs on the aircraft unless it’s a diplomatic flight. At some smaller airports of entry (AOEs), customs may sometimes clear you planeside as a courtesy, depending on the duty officer. Ground transportation is not available planeside, with the exception of air ambulance and diplomatic flights. No customs clearance is required on international tech stops. In Brazil a tech stop is defined as a one stop in the country at an international AOE for fuel uplift only. Because customs isn’t required for a tech stop, you can expect to turn your aircraft, with fuel uplift, in about one hour.
3. Make sure you follow the requirements for visas and other documents.
If crew and passengers do not have appropriate documentation on arrival (passports, visas, airline transport [ATP] licenses, medical certificates etc.), they’ll be deported. Visas are not issued on arrival in Brazil. Always confirm visa requirements prior to arrival. Pilots do not require visas if they’re in uniform and listed as crew on the general declaration (Gen Dec), but must have passports and licenses to clear customs. Flight attendants and aviation maintenance technicians must be licensed by the FAA or something equivalent. Alternatively, a visa will be required. Crew arriving on business jets and departing via airline back home will not require a visa if they have a valid inbound Gen Dec stamped by the immigration department. The process is different if the pilot arrives commercially (usually as relief crew) without a visa to pick up a business aircraft. Your ground handler may be able to set this up with sufficient lead time. However, it must be noted that even though visas aren’t required for crew who meet the criteria mentioned above, there have been instances where customs requests them. To ensure that no issues arise, we recommend that crew always have valid visas with them. Yellow Fever vaccinations are recommended, but no longer required in Brazil unless operating from areas considered endemic. We recommend you review the Brazilian list of Yellow Fever endemic countries prior to visiting the country.
4. To access the ramp/aircraft, work through your ground handler.
If crew return to the aircraft during a stopover in Brazil, they must go through security and provide appropriate identification, including a company ID and pilot license, but you do not need to be in uniform. It’s recommended that you set this up with your ground handler due to language barriers and the requirement for transport to and from your aircraft. Airport administration issues the required access passes.
5. Inform your ground handler of any catering onboard as Brazil prohibits various agricultural items.
Check with your ground handler on restricted food items. You may not bring certain dairy products, fruits or meats into Brazil. In the case of catering already onboard the aircraft, it may be possible to keep certain items at the airport in a restricted area. These items, however, may not be removed from the airport.
6. Familiarize yourself with the formalities for clearing customs on departure.
Crew usually arrive at the airport at least two hours prior to the estimated time of departure. For international departures, crew and passengers need to return immigration forms to customs along with five stamped copies of your Gen Dec. All outstanding fees must be settled prior to clearing outbound customs. Your ground handler can pay these fees for you. You’ll receive a receipt for payment, which must be shown to airport authorities in order to confirm filing of the flight plan. The receipt number needs to be added to remarks section 18 of the flight plan to validate it. It’s recommended that you have your local agent assist you with the departure process in order to avoid delays and complications.
While it’s not mandatory to use a local ground handler in Brazil, you’ll run risks of delays by attempting to self-handle. Local formalities in paying charges, filing flight plans, and clearing outbound customs can present challenges to unassisted corporate operators in Brazil due to their unique operational characteristics. In addition, it’s expected that aircraft parking issues, particularly in the Sao Paulo area, will become even more challenging in the future, and this is the type of issue where a good local ground handler can help. If you have specific questions about operating to Brazil, please feel free to ask us by leaving a comment below.
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Next week, we’ll discuss airport operations and security in Brazil.