6 FAQs about Using Your Border Overflight Exemption

PT 4 M minute read

Please note that changes have been made with regards to the Border Overflight Exemption (BOE) process effective June 17, 2013. For more information on the new changes, please see our article “Breaking News: CBP Changes BOE Process – Effective June 17, 2013.”

This aviation blog post is part of a series on border overflight exemptions for business aviation.

A Border Overflight Exemption (BOE) is a valuable asset in improving overall operational flexibility. However, it’s important to be aware of inherent limitations. In most circumstances, you can’t use your BOE to return to the U.S. from south of the 30th parallel (Central and South America and Caribbean) or from the west from beneath the 33rd parallel (for Tahiti only) with just a flight crew onboard (no passengers), and you must operate to an airport where customs will accept your arrival. It’s the operator’s responsibility to maintain and update BOE information and remain compliant. From time to time, there have been operators that have lost BOE privileges due to non-compliance.

If you are operating with a BOE, here are some important tips to keep you compliant:

1. As a rule you can’t utilize a BOE without passengers onboard

To take advantage of BOE benefits, you must have at least one approved passenger onboard the aircraft. Flight crew members cannot be listed as passengers. A BOE is meant to provide added convenience for passengers by avoiding an additional stop to clear customs and not for deadheading home. However, occasionally Customs officers at some airports of entry (AOEs) may allow an aircraft with crew only to return to home base on a BOE. In these cases, be sure to get approval in advance. Keep in mind that certain regions, such as the Northeastern U.S., can be particularly inflexible in allowing crew-only flights to operate under a BOE. Additionally, if a CEO or other passenger has a pilot license and flies the aircraft occasionally, he or she may be able to register under both crew and passenger on the BOE application.

2. Customs at your U.S. arrival airport must approve your flight

You must meet the criteria listed below (and on your approved BOE) in order to be able to utilize the BOE:

  • all flight crew
  • at least one passenger
  • the aircraft
  • departure and arrival point

Additionally, customs at your requested destination must approve the flight. This is done with a customs request and by advising the customs inspector that the aircraft has a BOE. Customs will verify the BOE and its validity. Flights are rarely permitted to airports without normal customs availability, such as Van Nuys, CA (KVNY) and Burbank, CA (KBUR). However, exceptions are allowed from time to time. Non-compliance with BOE regulations can result in fines or loss of BOE privileges.

3. You must revise your BOE if you change aircraft, flight crew, or other factors

Any additions or removals of aircraft, passengers or flight crew, and departure or entry airports require a revision. For example, if you arrive without approved crew or at least one approved passenger, your company may be fined. If you change a crew member, or add a contract pilot, you may be able to accommodate a revision of your BOE. However, that is at the discretion of the customs officer processing the change. Be aware that each port (of entry) handles revision requests in different manner. Some ports may take a longer time to process revisions than others, due to the methods of communications. For example, Dallas, TX (KDFW) accepts email communications, while other ports, such as Newark, NJ (KEWR), require communication via fax. Houston, TX (KIAH) prefers original hard copies for all applications and sends out approvals via U.S. mail. For this reason, we consider it best practice to combine BOE revisions, as it will reduce delays with multiple requests.

4. Don’t always count on the customs inspector to have all your answers in regard to BOEs

There’s occasional confusion among customs inspectors regarding when and where a BOE is required. There have been cases where customs officers have requested a BOE for aircraft arriving from Canada. A BOE is not required when arriving from Canada, Africa, or the Cape Verde Islands. When arriving from the Southern Pacific region, a BOE is not required, with the exception of French Polynesia. Operators have encountered problems from time to time when arriving at Los Angeles, CA (KLAX) from Papeete, French Polynesia (NTAA) without realizing that a BOE is needed for this leg.

5. You must still use your BOE at border airports

Some operators assume a BOE is not required to operate to a border airport, even if it’s not the closest available border airport based on their route of flight. For example, if you’re flying from Nassau, Bahamas (MYNN) to Houston, TX (KIAH) or Tucson, AZ (KTUS), you must clear customs at a border airport in south Florida. The only way to legally fly from MYNN to KIAH without a BOE would be to route around Florida and south of Cuba (their airspace doesn’t permit operating east to west), to enter U.S. airspace right outside Texas. This requires additional time, jet fuel, and other associated costs, so it’s not recommended.

6. The BOE process is easiest when you get help

For many flight operations large and small, managing BOEs can be a time consuming process, so it often makes sense to outsource to a 3rd-party provider. A 3rd-party provider can usually obtain a BOE with less lead time as well as manage all revisions and renewals, while avoiding such common mistakes as missing information or formatting errors. For an operator that has a current BOE and would like the 3rd-party provider to manage it for them a letter is required. Specifically, this letter must be on company letterhead stating that the operator would like to have the 3rd-party provider manage the BOE for them. This letter can be sent to the customs inspector that processes their BOE or to the 3rd-party provider who will in turn send it to the customs inspector.


If you have any questions about this article, contact me at saadfarid@univ-wea.com.

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