A Complete Manual for Conducting International Flight Operations
Customs procedures are a broad and ever changing topic. Despite the fact that U.S. Customs and Border patrol publishes procedures for its agents, it is unlikely that they will be the applied uniformly from one location to another. This causes frustration on the part of the flight crew and passengers, however, the one thing that is certain is that complaining and not cooperating with CBP will not get you through the customs clearance procedure any faster.
Common Challenges & Frustrations
Some points of frustration have been, disposal of international garbage (catering and food purchased overseas), requiring the APU to be shut down during a tech stop, search of individual bags, Not fueling during the customs clearing procedure, not opening the cabin door until a customs agent arrives at the aircraft, inconsistencies with respect to when a General Declaration is required, when and for whom is the blue customs form required, when are crew declarations required, etc.
1. Customs Declaration Form 6059B
It is recommended that all passengers and crew members complete this form. Occasionally it may be substituted by a Crew Declaration, but in some instances even if the flight crew has completed a crew declaration, CBP may also request the blue Customs Declaration form 6059B.
A couple points of note: The form must be completed in ink, it must be the current edition of the form, and passengers and crew must declare currency over $10,000 as well as any goods purchased overseas. If the value of goods purchased overseas is significant, US CBP will impose a duty on those items.
The worst thing that can happen is to not declare and then have a CBP officer discover the items in the course of an inspection.
2. Pilot Certification, Medical, Passport, & VISA
Pilot Certificate & Medical
Though not always required, generally all flight crewmembers should be prepared to present their pilot’s certificate and medical. If the crewmembers are required to vacate the aircraft and clear in a customs facility, it is worthwhile to make sure that each crewmember has their pilot certificate and medical on their person.
Passport & VISA
Be aware that some countries will restrict visits if the expiration of a crewmember or passenger’s passport is within 6 months of the date of travel. For a professional flight crew, it is recommended that passports are renewed through expedited means prior to the 6 month expiration date.
Another point of interest, if a visa must be obtained, from China for example, the China Visa will expire within 5 years or at the date of the expiration on the U.S. passport. For that reason, it may be worthwhile renewing your U.S. passport before going through the process of obtaining a foreign visa.
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3. Passenger with Multiple Passports
Multiple US Passport Considerations
Occasionally a flight crew will run into a situation where passengers have multiple U.S. Passports, one reason for this might be that passengers who travel to Israel do not want to use the same passport when traveling to other Middle East locations. For that reason, it is very important to make sure you have the correct passport number and visa. A work around for this situation is to request blank pages which are removable from the passengers or crewmembers passport. It may also be wise to request that your passport not be stamped in Israel if you intend to travel to other destinations in the Middle East.
4. Disposal of International Garbage
Nothing is more frustrating to passengers and crewmembers than having their untouched catering and food items discarded for no apparent reason. International Garbage actually falls under the jurisdiction of both the CBP as well as the Department of Agriculture. There are numerous requirements with respect to disposal of International Garbage from the color of bag it must be packed in, to the companies who are approved to incinerate the trash. There are, however, a few exceptions where food items may be kept on board.
Food Items Exempted From Removal
5. APU Usage During Custom Clearance
Another source of frustration is the requirement to shutdown the APU during a customs tech stop. Depowering the aircraft can add an extra
15-30 minutes to an already busy tech stop.
What Are The Requirements?
According to CBP regulations the APU may remain running as long as the APU exhaust is more than 8 feet high, this permits the CBP officer to conduct the RIID exterior scan of the aircraft. In all likelihood you will be required to comply with the Customs Officer regardless of the regulation, but it never hurts to know.
6. EAPIS Departure Airport
Most operators will not be aware of this issue until they are contacted by the CBP headquarters in Washington D.C.- When Filling EAPIS there is the departure airport and the departure “Location Description”. When departing an airport without customs on-site, the departure airport will be the nearest airport with a CBP office. In the case of the EAPIS submission at the right, the flight is departing from Santa Barbara, California, however, the nearest customs office is located in Van Nuys California.
With respect to APIS filing, it is important to note that the pilot is always responsible for the accuracy of APIS submissions regardless of whether they are being filed by a dispatch department or 3rd party flight planner. It is recommended that the PIC prints and review the APIS submission prior to departure.
Revision date: July 29, 2015
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The material contained on this site is to be used for reference only. You should always follow your primary resources first (aircraft manuals, government regulations, etc.).
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