No safety this week—just an international story. If you’re leaving the continental U.S. by now you’ve heard of eAPIS, Electronic Advance Passenger Information System. If not, don’t leave home without going through the ASF eAPIS Customs Training course first. Here is my experience with the system.
Took a trip to Canada two weeks ago for a conference in Toronto with collegiate aviation educators. Before going I went to AOPA’s flight planning web area to see how things might have changed since my last trip north. There is an excellent brief on how to get out and back into the country without irritating the TSA or Customs.
First, register with CBP and only after doing that, can you put in a passenger manifest for outbound and inbound legs. It is a bit cumbersome and documents are needed so assemble them first: Passport, pilot certificate and aircraft customs sticker numbers. The government site is typically stodgy and not very nimble but you can get through it. I’d recommend registering a week before the trip to make sure you complete the process. After the first time, when they know who you are, it should go much faster.
Don’t ask me why CBP needs an outbound manifest but that’s the way it is. I also filed my return manifest into Buffalo to clear customs—you still have to stop at an airport that is a port of entry.
The Canadians were wonderfully efficient-call the central 800 number for CANPASS, tell them who, when, where and why with an ETA and call again on arrival. They welcomed me to Canada by phone and that was it! Wonder when U.S. might get to that point.
Coming home, I called Buffalo customs the day before. The officer knew exactly who I was and when I planned to clear through—apparently the government computers were inexplicably linked-odd! The next morning I flew across the lake and landed at KBUF. Before I could get out of the aircraft the officer was there. He glanced at my passport, pilot and medical certificate and wished me a nice day—less than two minutes and no paperwork to fill out.
Wish I could tell you that it was ugly but in this case the system worked very well. There are non-government eAPIS websites that likely will ease the way through for a small fee. Coming from the islands where web is not available, file both outbound and inbound manifests before leaving. If you get delayed or there is a change let customs know by phone. Apparently, CBP understands that there may be some flex as long as the contents of the manifest haven’t changed.
Other experiences – Good or not so?