Advance Passenger Information System (APIS)

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CBP eAPIS Private Aircraft Newsletter: July 2011

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has launched a newsletter to provide private aircraft operators with updates and best practices for complying with Advance Passenger Information System (APIS) requirements. The newsletter, created with input from NBAA and other stakeholders, is intended to be a monthly publication.

Dear eAPIS User:

Dear eAPIS user,

Because we have received many common questions, we at the CBP Private Aircraft APIS Office are working to address current issues and frequently asked questions through a newsletter format.  The information is intended to assist private aircraft pilots in preparing and submitting APIS manifests by addressing common mistakes, best practices, and regulatory requirements. 

The Private Aircraft eAPIS Newsletter is being published through the collaborative efforts of partnering aviation trade organizations.  The contributors for this newsletter are:

AOPA – Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association
COPA – Canadian Owners and Pilots Association
EAA – Experimental Aircraft Association
NBAA – National Business Aviation Association

Thanks to all these organizations for their continued partnership and assistance.

In previous newsletters we have visited a broad range of topics, many of which have been suggested by you, the eAPIS user.  Recently, our office has received several questions asking what procedures have changed in the last two years – procedurally, nothing has changed.  In an effort to make sure we’re all on the same page, we want to cover the basic CBP APIS procedures that take place for each private aircraft that arrives in to, or departs from the United States.  The steps we describe cover CBP requirements for the majority of private aircraft flights arriving in or departing from the United States.  For other circumstances not covered in this summary (importation/exportation requirements and procedures, overflight exemption applications, etc.), please contact the local CBP port associated with your flight. 

We recognize that APIS is just one of many responsibilities placed on a private aircraft pilot.  We’re working hard to make the process easier and less burdensome.  If you have questions about CBP or APIS, please contact us at [email protected]

For all other non-CBP, non-APIS inquiries, we recommend that you contact the FAA, the TSA, other government agencies, and agencies of other governments directly to determine what regulations you must follow to meet their requirements.

What is APIS?

The Advance Passenger Information System (APIS) is an automated record processing system capable of performing database queries on passengers and crewmembers prior to their arrival in to or departure from the United States.

By regulation, pilots of all private aircraft arriving in the United States from a foreign port or place are responsible for the electronic manifest submission to the United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) for all individuals traveling onboard the aircraft.  The pilot of the private aircraft is also responsible for validating the APIS data submitted for travelers arriving in to or departing from the United States.

The data transmitted provides an advance, accurate representation of each traveler onboard the private aircraft before the flight arrives in to or departs from the United States.
Through APIS, CBP can identify high-risk travelers who may pose a risk or threat to aircraft safety or to national security, while simultaneously facilitating the travel of legitimate passengers and crew members.

As a private aircraft pilot, what are my APIS responsibilities for arrivals in to the United States?

There are four common private aircraft pilot responsibilities associated with all private aircraft arrivals in to the United States:

  1. Ensure that an APIS manifest is submitted to CBP,
  2. Receive an electronic clearance response from DHS,
  3. Follow all instructions contained in the clearance response, and,
  4. Arrive safely and present the aircraft and all travelers to CBP for inspection.

1. Ensure that an APIS manifest is submitted to CBP

The private aircraft pilot is the party responsible for the submission of an accurate, complete, correct, and timely APIS manifest submission.  Remember, the pilot of the private aircraft is responsible for validating APIS data for travelers arriving in to the United States.  Through the APIS manifest, the pilot is asserting the validity of the APIS manifest data; i.e., the traveler matches the travel document and the travel document matches the travel document data submitted to CBP.  APIS manifests must be submitted no later than sixty (60) minutes prior to the flight’s departure.

A common question we receive regarding arrival manifests is “I won’t be staying at a hotel while I’m in the United States.  I’ll be camping under the wing of my plane.  What do I enter as my ‘Address While In The United States’?”

CBP regulations require a description of each traveler's address while in the United States.  The APIS manifest should include the pilot's best description of that address.  For example, for a day trip, a pilot can submit the address of the establishment to be visited.

In all cases the submission should be the best description of where the traveler will or has been visiting while in the United States.  If a Canadian family is flying in to the United States to attend AirVenture Oshkosh and will be setting up a tent by their aircraft, then the correct “Address While In The United States” to use would be the physical address of the Wittman Regional Airport (KOSH) where they are camped:

525 W 20th Avenue
Oshkosh, WI 54902

2. Receive an electronic clearance response from DHS

Within seconds of a manifest being submitted, a confirmation email receipt (Notification of Receipt of Transmission) from [email protected] is sent to the submitter’s email address on file.  The clearance response message will indicate one of two things: your manifest was successfully processed and cleared as expected, or CBP was unable to systematically clear your manifest.

While the email responses are always sent within seconds, some submitters have difficulty receiving them.  If, after submitting an APIS manifest you do not find a clearance response as expected, please check your spam or junk folders.  Because the message is sent from a “NoReply” address, it may have been blocked by your spam settings.  Typically, this can be remedied by adding [email protected] to your email contact listIf you’ve taken these steps and still can’t find the clearance response, please contact the affected CBP port to verify that your manifest information has been received and processed.

3. Follow all instructions contained in the clearance response

Again, the clearance response will tell you one of two things: either all has been processed successfully (proceed), or all has not been processed successfully (do not proceed). 

If all has been processed as expected, the message instructs pilots to make any applicable arrival arrangements (permission to arrive, landing rights, overflight exemptions, etc.) with the CBP port of entry. 

If your manifest was not processed successfully, you’ll be given instructions on how to contact a DHS representative to assist with the flight’s clearance.

4. Arrive safely and present the aircraft and all travelers to CBP for inspection

Upon arrival in to the United States, private aircraft pilots are required to report immediately to CBP for inspection. 

Here’s where APIS data is verified and validated by CBP.  Just as private aircraft pilots are responsible for validating APIS data for travelers arriving in to the United States, CBP officers validate the accuracy of the APIS manifest (i.e., the traveler matches the travel document and the travel document matches the travel document data submitted to CBP).  The officers processing your aircraft arrival will compare the travelers and travel documents presented upon arrival with the APIS manifest submitted.  Discrepancies are reported and in some cases penalties are proposed.  All penalty cases are reviewed before any penalty case initiation against the pilot occurs.  In the two years since the Private Aircraft APIS Program was implements, hundreds of thousands of manifests have been successfully processed and less than five penalty cases have been initiated.

As a private aircraft pilot, what are my APIS responsibilities for departures from the United States?

The APIS responsibilities for a pilot of a private aircraft departing the United States are much the same as when he or she is arriving but, because not all departing aircraft are inspected by CBP, the process is a bit simpler.  The private aircraft pilots are responsible for:

  1. Ensure that an APIS manifest is submitted to CBP,
  2. Receive an electronic clearance response from DHS,
  3. Follow all instructions contained in the clearance response, and,
  4. Arrive safely at your destination.

1. Ensure that an APIS manifest is submitted to CBP

Just as with arrivals in to the United States, the private aircraft pilot is the party responsible for the submission of an accurate, complete, correct, and timely APIS manifest submission.  The pilot of the private aircraft is also responsible for validating APIS data for travelers departing the United States.  Through the APIS manifest, the pilot is asserting the validity of the APIS manifest data; i.e., the traveler matches the travel document and the travel document matches the travel document data submitted to CBP.  Remember, APIS manifests must be submitted no later than sixty (60) minutes prior to the flight’s departure.

A common question we receive regarding departure manifests is “My airport of departure is not listed in eAPIS, what should I do?”

Departures from the United States can originate from virtually anywhere.  If the last United States departure point is from a port or place that does not have an airport code listed in the table provided in eAPIS, use the airport code of the nearest CBP airport to the departure site.  In the “Actual Departure Location Description” field, describe the actual place from which the aircraft will depart.  This is an optional, free-text field which should be used only when the location of actual departure differs from the airport listed in the “CBP Airport” field.  The “City” field should always be listed as the actual city from which the aircraft is departing.

For example, if an aircraft is departing from Wittman Regional Airport (KOSH) in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, KOSH is not listed as a CBP airport of departure.  For this flight, the CBP airport closest to the point of departure is Austin Straubel International Airport (KGRB) in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  For this manifest, the CBP airport of departure (“Airport”) should be entered as KGRB.  Because the actual city of departure (“City”) is Oshkosh, the “Actual Departure Location Description” should be entered as KOSH.

2. Receive an electronic clearance response from DHS

As we discussed earlier, within seconds of a manifest being submitted, a confirmation email receipt (Notification of Receipt of Transmission) from [email protected] is sent to the submitter’s email address on file.  The clearance response message will indicate one of two things: your manifest was successfully processed and cleared as expected, or CBP was unable to systematically clear your manifest.

3. Follow all instructions contained in the clearance response.

As with the arrival manifest response, the clearance response for departures from the United States will tell you one of two things: either all has been processed successfully (proceed), or all has not been processed successfully (do not proceed).  But, because not all departing aircraft are physically inspected by CBP, the response message content is a bit different.

a)  If your APIS manifest has been processed as expected, the message instructs pilots they are clear to depart; there are no references to contacting CBP because arrival arrangements (permission to arrive, landing rights, overflight exemptions, etc.) don’t apply.  When you receive this message, you are clear to depart at the time stated – unless CBP or another DHS agency contacts you and instructs you to report for an outbound inspection.  As we described earlier, outbound inspections also include APIS data quality validation.  The pilot must ensure that all data transmitted accurately represents the travelers, the aircraft, and the details of the flight.

b)  As we discussed earlier, if your manifest was not processed successfully, you’ll be given instructions on how to contact a DHS representative to assist with the flight’s clearance.

4. Arrive Safely at your Destination

Arrive safely at your destination.  Again, if your APIS manifest was processed and you were cleared for your departure, you are clear to depart at the time stated – unless CBP or another DHS agency contacts you and instructs you to report for an outbound inspection.    If you were contacted to present the aircraft for an outbound inspection, the pilot must present the aircraft, himself, and all travelers for inspection just as he would for an inspection upon arrival in to the United States.  As previously mentioned, outbound inspections also include APIS data quality validation.  The pilot must ensure that all data transmitted accurately represents the travelers, the aircraft, and the details of the flight.

I’ve filed my APIS manifest. I’ve received my clearance response. What do I do if my flight plans change?

Even though this scenario is addressed in every clearance response we send, we still get this question regularly.  If changes to an already transmitted manifest are necessary (travelers are added, aircraft is changed, etc.), an updated and amended manifest must be retransmitted to CBP.

But, amendments regarding flight cancellation, expected time of arrival/departure (ETA, ETD) or changes in arrival/departure locations, to an already transmitted manifest may be submitted telephonically, by radio, or through any other existing processes and procedures.

We hope this information is helpful. If you have any questions or concerns, or suggestions for newsletter content, please contact [email protected].

Thank you for your continued compliance.