U.S. Customs easing clearance procedures

 - November 27, 2007, 10:17 AM

Welcome regulatory changes are coming for two programs designed to ease U.S. Customs clearances by general aviation aircraft. Based on the successful results of a three-year evaluation program, the Customs Service has proposed making permanent its General Aviation Telephonic Entry (GATE) program–a voluntary program designed to facilitate customs processing of certain prequalified frequent travelers on preregistered general aviation aircraft arriving in the U.S. directly from Canada.

The service also proposes amending its regulations regarding the overflight program that exempts certain private aircraft reentering the U.S. from specified areas south of the country from the special landing requirements applicable to such aircraft. The proposed amendments will modify the application process to standardize and streamline the information required and to provide for centralized processing of requests for overflight privileges. “This will reduce the processing time of applications,” Customs officials said. 

On Nov. 4, 1996, the Customs Service implemented the GATE program test for one year, but for various reasons the test yielded only partial results. The service announced its plan to conduct a second test of GATE for one year, beginning Aug. 5, 1998. The second test expanded the scope of participation to include airports with one full-time inspector and additional flights of certain commercial aircraft (small charter/air-taxi aircraft returning with flight crewmembers only). Overall, 235 airports were designated for GATE program use and  2,982 aircraft participated in the two GATE program tests. The data was collected over the period from September 1996 to September 1999.

Owing to the favorable comments and evaluations received concerning  the testing of the GATE program, Customs is proposing regulations to implement the GATE program on a permanent basis.

The service noted that the test notices referenced both “private” and “corporate” aircraft as ostensibly separate types of aircraft. In these proposed regulations, because corporate aircraft are encompassed within the service’s definition of “private aircraft” and private aircraft are included within the description of aircraft eligible for the GATE program, there is no need to provide separately for corporate aircraft. However, the GATE program is still not available for air taxi operations.

The Overflight Program
Although special reports of arrival and landing requirements are applicable to private aircraft that arrive in the continental U.S. from areas south of the country, private aircraft owners or operators have been able to seek exemption from the special landing requirements, for either a single flight or for a number of flights (overflight privileges) over a period of one year.

Various amendments are proposed to the regulations concerning the overflight program. For example, the present overflight regulatory procedure does not provide for the uniform processing of exemption requests. Requests for exemption frequently contain nonstandard information and are processed differently across the country. Customs is proposing to amend the rules to provide for a more uniform approach to collecting information. Certain information regarding business activity is no longer considered necessary and the requirement to provide justification for the exemption sought is proposed to be removed.

In addition, advance notification requirements are proposed to be changed. The regulations currently state that aircraft flying under an exemption must continue to follow the advance notice provisions of non-exempt aircraft, which require that the aircraft furnish the notice of intended arrival to the Customs Service at the nearest designated airport to the point of crossing. Customs is  proposing that the advance notice of arrival from exempted aircraft be made to the airport to which the aircraft is destined rather than to the nearest landing airport required by non-exempt aircraft.
Amendments are also proposed extending the duration of term exemptions from one year to two.

Comments must be received on or before Oct. 2, 2001. For more information, contact Steve Gilbert of the Customs Service at (202) 927-1391.