Customs Tips For Any Trip: Part 2 – Compliance with the Details

PT 5 M minute read
Customs Tips For Any Trip: Part 2 – Compliance with the Details

This business aviation blog post continues from our article last week, entitled “Customs Tips For Any Trip: Part 1 – Avoiding Issues on your Trip.

For business aircraft operators, “know before you go” is the critical rule to follow for successfully navigating the customs, immigration, and quarantine (CIQ) clearance process at any new or unfamiliar international location. Be aware that CIQ, in general, is becoming stricter these days in terms of procedural and documentation requirements. And keep in mind that certain parameters and procedures may change and that new requirements can always be implemented that did not exist in the past.

The following is an overview of what you need to know:

1. Airports of entry

For your first stop in a country you’ll need to clear at an airport of entry (AOE). If you’re departing a country from a non-AOE, you must first reposition to an AOE to clear departure customs. Note that some airports are only AOEs on request, and additional lead time must be considered in such cases.

For example, at Bora Bora (NTTB), setting up a CIQ clearance takes approximately 30 days, and various charges are involved. It’s at the discretion of customs authorities if the request will be approved or not.

Also note that when requesting to use an airport as an AOE you may be charged with the costs of bringing customs agents to the location and for each hour they’re on location.

2. U.S. customs pre-clearance

Full U.S. customs pre-clearance is available for GA operators at Shannon (EINN) and Aruba (TNCA), with appropriate advance notification. But, there are certain restrictions and conditions to consider. After pre-clearing at EINN or TNCA you may only enter the U.S. at an airport with international trash disposal certification, and U.S. customs reserves the right to re-inspect your aircraft on arrival. For more information on U.S. customs pre-clearance, please visit our blog.

3. Clearance restrictions

Some ports restrict the number of passengers that may be cleared onboard, at a fixed-base operator (FBO) or general aviation terminal (GAT). For example, at Newark (KEWR) you’ll need to reserve an airport gate for CIQ clearance if you have more than 20 passengers on an international arrival. When trying to set up clearance onboard your aircraft, or at an FBO/GAT, it’s best to provide at least one week notice to determine if this will be possible. Local customs may want to verify the purpose of your trip and check on availability of an agent to come out. At Tokyo Narita (RJAA) there’s an added cost to make arrangements to clear CIQ at the GAT, as opposed to in the main terminal. To clear at the Singapore Changi (WSSS) GAT, additional charges are imposed.

4. International trash disposal

For most international arrivals you’ll need to dispose of all, or most of, onboard perishable in-flight catering and foods, depending on the country you’re traveling to. Arrangements must be made with certified providers to properly remove and dispose of international trash at destination. If you’d like to keep some of your in-flight catering, perhaps for the next flight leg, you’ll need to check with CIQ and/or agriculture authorities to determine if this is possible. In some cases your ground handler will have refrigerated storage facilities available, and it may be possible to obtain approval to store perishable food items there.

5. Health and vaccination requirements

Due to ongoing global health issues — such as yellow fever, malaria, typhoid and Ebola — CIQ authorities are strict on ensuring passengers and crew arriving into their country. In many cases, depending on where you’re flying in from, you’ll need to present appropriate vaccination certificates and conform to published vaccination incubation times. For example, if you’re arriving from a country endemic for yellow fever, you’ll need to show proof of yellow fever vaccination, administered prior to the 10 day vaccination incubation period. If you do not have the required vaccinations you may be quarantined or not permitted into the country. Certain destinations in Africa allow unvaccinated individuals to receive the required vaccinations at the airport with associated costs. Always verify vaccination and health certificate mandates well in advance of travel.

6. Disinfecting the aircraft cabin

There are many locations worldwide – including airports in Australia, India and Fiji – where operators must use an approved disinfectant spray to sanitize the aircraft cabin. Normal procedure is to spray the cabin at top of descent and then give the used can of disinfectant to the local CIQ inspector.

7. CIQ clearance on departure

Pre departure CIQ clearance is a common requirement worldwide. Procedures for doing this differ, however, depending upon the country and airport. At some locations you may clear on the aircraft whereas at other locations you might clear within the FBO/GAT or in the main terminal.

8. Declaring goods on departure

When departing a country with more than a certain quantity of money/monetary instruments, high value purchases or historic/art items, a declaration must usually be made and purchase receipts must be available. Particularly when transporting art works into/out of a country, it’s important to verify any specific requirements. Argentina, for example, has strict requirements when departing the country with any artworks. Thailand is rigorous in prohibiting artifacts with images of Buddha leaving the country, unless you can provide documentation proving it’s not a historical piece.

9. Traveling with minors

When traveling with minors, particularly when only one parent is aboard, be aware of any documentation requirements. Some countries require a letter, from any parent(s) not onboard the aircraft, to confirm that they’re aware of the flight and approve of the minor’s travel.

10. Special documentation/procedures

Some CIQ authorities require specific documentation to be submitted. You may, for example, need to provide a certain number of gen dec copies, supply additional crew documentation or submit specific certifications regarding delivered in-flight catering. For example, when departing from the Hawaiian Islands for the U.S. mainland, CIQ restricts certain catering items that are not wrapped appropriately and/or do not have correct stickers from approved caterers. Note that some smaller airports in the U.S. are unable to clear foreign nationals, due to a lack of equipment. In such cases, you may need to arrive in the U.S. at a different AOE to clear before proceeding to your destination.

11. Penalties for providing wrong /incomplete information

If wrong or incorrect information/documentation is submitted to CIQ, delays are possible on arrival/departure. For example, Northolt (EGWU) has zero tolerance in terms of crew/passenger information that does not match persons onboard the aircraft and there will be issues, even fines, involved. In addition to being fined for not having proper documentation, the crewmember or passenger may not be permitted to enter the country. In cases of repeat offences the operator may be banned from the airport or country. Any issues that may arise, including severity of fines, are at customs discretion and the appeal process is often not easy.


While CIQ procedures at most international locations are straightforward, you may at times be faced with documentation and/or procedural requirements that may require additional lead time to comply with. It’s recommended that you always speak to your 3rd-party provider to determine procedural requirements that must be met including but not limited to customs clearance point, issues for incorrect information submissions, penalties, and declarations for each of your destinations.


If you have any questions about this article or would like assistance planning your CIQ arrangements for your next trip, contact me at

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