U.S. Customs & e-APIS for Private Non-Revenue Made Easy: Part 1 – Setting up CIQ clearance
This business aviation blog post is part of a series on U.S. Customs and eAPIS requirements and arrangement tips for private non-revenue operators traveling to and from the U.S.
Don’t assume that because you’ve filed eAPIS, that U.S. Customs need not be notified of your international arrival. All operators to the U.S. must pre-notify CBP at their intended port of entry. As pre-notification procedures differ from port to port it’s always best practice to research particular customs, immigration, and quarantine (CIQ) clearance procedures, at least a week in advance, for your intended arrival location.
The following is an overview of what you need to know:
1. All international arrivals must clear Customs
For any entry into the U.S. – even tech stops – U.S. Customs must be notified and cleared. Operators who do full U.S. pre-clearances at Shannon (EINN) or Aruba (TNCA), may proceed to any U.S. airport capable of handling international trash. But, if you are pre-checked and pre-vetted in the US Virgin Islands – either St Thomas (TIST) or St Croix (TISX) — you must travel to an airport of entry (AOE) on the U.S. mainland and U.S. Customs reserves the right to re-clear your aircraft on arrival stateside. All pre-check paperwork from TIST and TISX must be submitted to CBP at your first destination on the mainland. If Customs does not show up, the crew can provide this information to the ground handler, or FBO, who’ll submit it to CBP after-the-fact.
2. Information required to set up Customs
The first step for private non-revenue operators is to file eAPIS. After eAPIS is transmitted you’ll need to either notify Customs or make a landing rights request. If you’re operating to a landing rights airport, such as Austin (KAUS), eAPIS and a CBP request must be submitted a minimum of 24 hours in advance. If it’s a notification airport, such as Miami (KMIA), you’ll need to submit eAPIS at least one hour prior and follow this up with a phone call to CBP at the port of entry. Always file eAPIS before you notify CBP as they may ask for this information when you call them. Also, be aware that some airports require additional notification lead time so it’s best to research local CBP requirements advance. There are no longer Form 178 requirements when notifying CBP. This requirement went away in 2009 with introduction of eAPIS. In most cases, there’s no required paperwork to submit to CBP for a clearance request. It’s always advisable, however, to have a copy of your border overflight exemption (BOE), if you’re using it, as well as copies of your general declaration (gendec). Certain airports, however, still want arrival requests in writing and/or particular forms faxed to them in advance.
3. Notifying CBP
Each AOE in the U.S. has a local number to reach CBP. In most cases, you must contact an agent directly, by phone, with your clearance request. If you do not reach the CBP office, a voicemail is not sufficient notification; you must always speak to a CBP agent to obtain landing rights. For landing rights airports it’s important to be aware of specific lead time requirements. Lead time is usually 24 hours but, depending on the location, may be 48-72 hours. Be mindful that the local CBP office may be closed on weekends and holidays. Overtime for outside business hours clearance is usually available so long as CBP has this overtime in their budget. But, availability of CBP overtime usually runs out close to the end of the year – which is usually the busiest time of the year for operators.
4. CBP availability
Some airports, such as Islip (KISP), do not have dedicated CBP staff and require agents to travel to the particular location to meet arriving flights. At some coastal locations, local CBP may be responsible for clearances at the airport and a ship port and you may need to revise your schedule to meet CBP availability. Some airports have blackout periods for general aviation (GA) CIQ clearance, due to peak traffic periods and/or limited local staffing. Dallas Love Field (KDAL) is an example of a port where CBP gives priority to scheduled commercial flights and GA clearance may not be available at particular times of day. At some smaller AOEs, CBP resources may be just a single customs agent and operating hours will be restricted. While limited operating hour and blackout periods are normally well publicized, certain restrictions may be indicated via NOTAM. It’s best to research particular airport requirements at least one week in advance. Be aware that some smaller ports, such as Fargo (KFAR), are not equipped to handle visa-carrying foreign nationals. In this case they may only clear arriving U.S. citizens/residents and/or Canadian nationals.
5. Agriculture requirements
For arrivals in the U.S. all fresh produce, meats and fruits, etc. must be appropriately disposed of as international waste. In most cases, you’ll only be permitted to make an international arrival at an airport with appropriate international trash disposal capabilities. Due to USDA restrictions there are certain airports that will only clear international arrivals from Canada or Mexico, as they don’t have the equipment to dispose of international trash.
6. Revising CBP notifications
Any changes to crew/passenger manifest , tail number, or other changes require an eAPIS revision as well as notification to local CBP. CBP notification of eAPIS changes is important as local customs agents may not have seen, or be aware, of the change to eAPIS when the flight arrives. This may lead to additional scrutiny by local agents upon your arrival. While estimated arrival time (ETA) revisions to eAPIS are not needed, if you’re arriving on the same local day, you must always notify local CBP of any ETA change.
While it doesn’t happen often, there are cases where customs clearance confirmations may change. If this does occur it will most likely be at a smaller AOE where CBP agents may need to commute it or, in rare cases, when CIQ overtime may become an issue.
7. Additional Reading: U.S. customs and APIS for part 91
Note: Links will be updated as articles are published.
- Part 1 – Setting up customs clearance
- Part 2 – visas, ESTAs and BOEs
- Part 3 – eAPIS considerations
When looking to arrange CBP clearance in the U.S., it’s always recommended to research in advance what requirements must be met and the lead time requirements. Also, always keep CBP updated on changes that will affect your clearance.
If you have any questions about this article or would like assistance arranging eAPIS or CBP clearance, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stay tuned for Part 2, which covers visas, ESTAs, and Border Overflight Exemptions for private non-revenue operations to the U.S.