Shannon, Ireland U.S. Pre-Clearance to the U.S.: Business Aviation Guide
More and more General Aviation (G.A.) operators are taking advantage of pre-clearance services at Shannon, Ireland (EINN). This U.S. Customs pre-clearance option has been steadily enhanced over the years. With the time involved to pre-clear now significantly reduced compared to a few years ago and just announced extended operating hours, operators are finding it worthwhile to take advantage of this option when heading from Europe to the U.S. The following is an overview of what you need to know:
Customs and Border Protection (CBP) pre-clearance of G.A. aircraft has been available at EINN since 2010. Initially, this service was only possible for private non-revenue flights, but in 2011 pre-clearance for charter (non-scheduled commercial) was also made available. As a result, pre-clearance requirements and lead times are now the same for both private non-revenue and charter flights. Be aware that CBP pre-clearance at EINN is not available for cargo, government, diplomatic, and/or military flights. After you clear at EINN, there are approximately 200 airports in the U.S. to which you may operate.
Hours of operation
As a result of the Covid 19 pandemic and the lack of Commercial Transatlantic operations, USCBP operating hours are Monday to Friday 0900-1700 with an out-of-hours service available on request and subject to approval for the hours 0700-0900 & 1700-2100L Mon-Fri and also weekend requests. In order to make an appointment for pre-clearance on the weekend, the request must be made with USCBP through Universal Aviation Shannon no later than 1500L on the Friday beforehand. Also worth noting, as a result of C19, no pre-clearance of passengers is taking place onboard using mobile equipment. Commercial Transatlantic flights resume from March 10, 2022, so I expect that the above-mentioned hours of operations for USCBP will change. Regular pre-clearance operating hours at EINN are 0900 – 1700 local seven days a week. The first available pre-clearance slot is at 0915 local, with the last option being 1600 local. Hours of operation are limited due to limited manpower and budget. However, a new Bi-Lateral agreement has recently been signed between the U.S. and Irish Governments that will allow for the development of USCBP services in Ireland. As a result, one of the critical developments for US CBP at Shannon will be introducing an on-request out-of-hours CBP pre-clearance service for G.A. Operators using Shannon. The finer details of this service are currently being formalized between the Shannon Airport Authority and USCBP Shannon, and the expected introduction of services is estimated to be in early June 2019.
For private non-revenue and charter flights, pre-clearance appointments must be made with CBP Shannon at least 24 hours before arrival. Shorter-notice arrangements may be possible on a case-by-case basis, depending on CBP availability and at their discretion. It’s not possible, however, to land at EINN and then set up pre-clearance. Initially, in 2011 48 hours’ advance notification was mandated for charter pre-clearances, but this has been reduced to 24 hours.
Number of passengers onboard
CBP has two pre-clearance areas at EINN – one for private/charter flights with no more than 20 passengers (not including crew members) and the other for flights with passenger counts of more than 20. If your flight has more than 20 passengers, you’ll pre-clear on the commercial side. This involves standing in line with passengers from scheduled commercial flights (if there is a commercial flight pre-clearing at the designated time). However, all G.A. Passengers/Crew clearing in the commercial area are always fast-tracked using a separate Business class line.
When EINN pre-clearance was first offered, it took about 90 minutes to pre-clear and service an aircraft at EINN. Today, this is down to about 45-60 minutes, including all aircraft services such as fuel, etc. Furthermore, some operators report that this time is actually shorter than the time needed to clear at some locations in the U.S. Since July 2017, Mobile Equipment was introduced in Shannon by USCBP, allowing clearances to take place on board the aircraft. In general, this is usually reserved for U.S. nationals only. While it is something we can request, it is wholly at the discretion of the USCBP Port Director on the day.
eAPIS (for private) and APIS (for charter) for the leg to the U.S. must be filed at least 60 minutes before departure (from your departure point to EINN) when you’ve set up pre-clearance at EINN. You may call to make CBP pre-clearance arrangements before submitting eAPIS or APIS. It’s imperative, however, to ensure that eAPIS or APIS notifications are made and/or crew/passenger changes updated at least 60 minutes prior to departure to EINN.
Operators may arrange EINN pre-clearance either directly with CBP or by way of their ground handler. CBP mandates initial pre-clearance requests be made by phone. If you work through a ground handler, CBP will e-mail confirmation, with pre-clearance approval and a time slot, to both you and the ground handler.
It’s best to coordinate this with your ground handler
Our recommendation is to coordinate EINN pre-clearance via your ground handler. Have them provide all necessary information to CBP on your behalf and assist in updating CBP on any schedule and/or crew/passenger changes. Should your schedule change and you need to revise a pre-clearance slot, your ground handler will assist with the revision.
Revising a pre-clearance
Suppose you need to revise a confirmed pre-clearance, due to schedule/crew/passenger changes. In that case, CBP must be notified, and agents will try to accommodate your changes. Should your request for revised pre-clearance fall when CBP is busy with another pre-clearance, authorities have the right to refuse your request. While denial of a pre-clearance schedule change is not common, CBP may be unable to accommodate a revised clearance time.
Information needed for pre-clearance
To secure a pre-clearance slot, you’ll need to provide a full schedule, CBP decal number, aircraft information, crew and passenger information, visa details, and information on airports to which your aircraft has traveled within the past 24 hours.
Visa and ESTA considerations
It’s vital that the captain ensure that all passengers – who are not U.S. citizens, U.S. residents, or Canadian nationals – have appropriate visas for entry to the U.S. Passengers from Visa Waiver Program (VWP)-designated countries, with Electronics System for Travel Authorizations (ESTA), may only pre-clear if they’re traveling aboard an aircraft that’s a VWP signatory carrier. Suppose a passenger has an ESTA, rather than a visa, but the aircraft is not on the approved list of signatory carriers. In that case, the passenger will be denied entry to the U.S. For more information, see our article entitled, “Operating Under the Visa Waiver Program: Top FAQs from Business Aviation Operators.“
The clearance process at EINN is the same as for CBP clearances stateside, and you must adhere to the same regulations. As with mainland U.S. clearances, you’ll not be able to bring in certain restricted items, and crew members/passengers will be limited to 10,000USD in currency or currency equivalent per person without making additional declarations. After pre-clearance is completed, crew members/passengers will be escorted back to the aircraft by 1) two CBP officers who will inspect the aircraft for departure, 2) a member of the Irish Police Force, and 3) the ground handler.
Costs of pre-clearance
The total cost of pre-clearance at EINN is about 300 Euros but is dependent on the number of travelers being pre-cleared. Your ground handler can provide a breakdown of these fees. Many business aircraft operators find the pre-clearance fee a small price to pay to avoid clearing at some of the more troublesome/slower airports in the U.S. and taking advantage of low fuel prices at EINN.
When landing at EINN, for a tech stop and CBP pre-clearance, arriving aircraft will be assigned a parking spot, and all services will be performed there. Following a short introduction by your ground handler, all travelers will deplane and be escorted to the USCBP processing area. One crew member will remain on board to oversee the aircraft servicing. It is also advisable that this remaining crew member shall obtain the Oceanic Clearance at this time for departure during this period. Baggage can now remain on board the aircraft. However, all baggage must be visible and accessible to the CBP officers when they are performing their onboard checks. If further inspection is required, the baggage will be taken off and inspected planeside.
Crew members/passengers undergo standard security screening when arriving at the terminal for pre-clearance. Passengers/crew members are screened with a metal detector while luggage goes through x-ray and radiation screening. Security screening takes approximately five minutes in the VIP screening area. Usually, it takes a little longer if you’re clearing on the commercial side – depending on the volume of scheduled commercial traffic. It’s important to note that liquids over 100 ml should not be carried in hand luggage. Larger volumes of liquids should either be left onboard or packed in non-carryon luggage stored in the hold area of the aircraft during flight.
Customs declarations need to be filled out by each passenger, which should be done in advance. I-94 forms no longer need to be completed by hand as they’re available online. These should be completed in advance by the passengers.
In the unlikely event that USCBP requires the baggage to be offloaded and inspected at their facility, It’s best to prominently I.D. each bag with visible tags and ensure that the traveler’s name is clearly printed on them. After luggage is removed from the aircraft and taken to CBP, passengers/crew members will need to identify their baggage when clearing CIQ. All baggage is scanned, screened, and photographed following CBP-mandated requirements. A computerized image of the luggage will then be shown to passengers during CBP pre-clearance. The U.S. customs agent will require the traveler to declare that the image shown is their luggage item. To this end, operators may request two-dimensional bar code luggage tags from their ground handler in advance and place them on all luggage before arrival at EINN. This will cut down on the time involved in the luggage-matching process. For more information, contact your ground handler.
APUs may be kept running
When pre-clearance at EINN was initiated back in 2010, it was necessary to shut down Auxiliary Power Units (APUs) during the clearance process. This policy has changed. Operators may now leave APUs running – thereby allowing all aircraft systems to remain ready for a no-delay departure – but only if the APU intake/exhaust is at least eight feet above the ground. During the pre-clearance process, aircraft services – fueling, lav service, in-flight catering, etc. – may be performed while passengers, crew members, and luggage clear in the terminal.
Remaining overnight at EINN
Some operators prefer to overnight at EINN prior to pre-clearing CBP. After an overnight stop at EINN, passengers will be taken directly to CBP for U.S. Customs pre-clearance. Crews typically arrive at the airport about two hours prior to the estimated departure time, which is sufficient as the pre-clearance process is short.
Airports you may operate to
After you clear at EINN, there are approximately 200 airports in the U.S. to which you may operate. This list of available airports has grown over the years and continues to grow. It’s a strict requirement that you land at an Airport of Entry (AOE) with a U.S. Department of Agriculture representative who’ll remove international waste. Once your EINN pre-clearance has been completed, confirmation of a successful pre-clearance is sent to the captain and your EINN ground handler. At the scheduled point of arrival stateside, a US Department of Agriculture representative will be notified by CBP to meet your aircraft.
You may not change airport of arrival in the U.S.
Once you’ve pre-cleared at EINN, you must operate to your specified/approved airport of entry in the U.S. If for any reason, including operational weather diversions, you elect to land at a different airport, your EINN pre-clearance is no longer valid, and you’ll need to re-clear CBP at an AOE on first landing in the U.S.
Based on your final destination in the U.S. and schedule, operators traveling from Europe may find that pre-clearing in Shannon is an advantageous option – both in terms of time and simplicity. More and more U.S. airports accept operations inbound from CBP pre-clearance at EINN. It’s important to remember that you must continue to one of the approved U.S. mainland airports after the EINN US pre-clearance has been completed, as alternatively, CBP clearance will need to be repeated at an AOE. It’s vital to ensure that all information needed for an EINN pre-clearance is forwarded to CBP Shannon or your ground handler in advance. In addition, make sure you understand visa requirements and update CBP Shannon on any schedule, crew, or passenger changes. Always pre-organize your hand luggage to ensure you do not have any liquid quantities of more than 100 ml. Always provide prominent I.D.s or customized bar codes for all pieces of luggage.