I recently flew into the US using the new electronic Advanced Passenger Information System (eAPIS) system, and although I diligently read everything that I could find on the ins and outs of the new system, including the tutorial provided on the CBP website, I apparently had a few misunderstandings about how the system worked.
This led to a phone call from the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) office admonishing me for not submitting a manifest on my outbound flight and requesting that I advise them if the flight arrived and how many people were on board.
I had filed an outbound manifest; in fact I had filed two, since our departure time was delayed, and I could not find a way to change a manifest once it was submitted. I received confirmation emails for both submissions clearing me for departure, so I naturally figured that everything was fine and that I was good to go.
After replying to the email from CBP, advising the officer of my submissions and confirmations, and letting him know that the flight had indeed arrived with 2 people onboard, I started to wonder if I had incorrectly completed something in the manifest that could have caused this confusion.
So I emailed the National APIS Account Manager with a few questions to confirm my understanding and to see if there was anything that I'd missed.
1. If you are departing from a U.S. airport that is not an AOE, and will be crossing the U.S./Canada border during this flight and landing in Canada, how do you complete the section of the Notice of Departure regarding Departure Information? I read somewhere that the "Airport" identified should be the closest AOE, but is that the closest AOE to the departure airport, or the closest AOE to the location of border crossing?
2. What is the process for advising CBP if the time of border crossing, or the time of departure from the U.S. airport, changes? Does a new eAPIS submission need to be made with the updated times? If not, how is the pilot to advise CBP?
3. What is the process for advising CBP if the times change after departure due to stronger than expected winds, or routing changes from ATC?
Here are the answers to the questions I received from Ralph D. Modisette, National APIS Account Manager, U.S. Customs & Border Protection:
1. You may depart from any U.S. port or place. The "field help" associated with the Departure "Airport" field addresses this situation: Enter the ICAO airport code corresponding to the last domestic port of departure.
For a complete list of valid airport codes, select the Options button (blue arrow icon) to the right of the field.
As CBP may, in special occasions, work at airports which aren't official CBP airports, we have listed those airports as well. If the airport is in the list, you may list it as the nearest CBP Airport of departure.
If the airport code is not found in the list, choose the airport code closest (geographically) to your departure site. If you're not leaving from that airport location, enter details of the actual departure location in the "Departure Location Description" box below.
The "Airport" field is used to assign the departure manifest to the correct CBP airport of departure, but the "Departure Location Description" field is the airport or place from where you actually depart.
2. Changing of airports and/or times does not need to be completed in eAPIS as long as the flight is on the same date. For these types of changes, please contact the affected CBP airport, for both inbound and outbound flights. If there is a change to the date of a flight, a new manifest must be submitted through eAPIS.
Once you have submitted a manifest through eAPIS, if you need to add additional travelers, you can submit another manifest with the same flight information. It is not necessary to resubmit the travelers that have already been transmitted, but you will need to resubmit the pilot's name each time as eAPIS always requires a pilot for each manifest.
For deleting travelers, once a manifest has been submitted, travelers cannot be deleted. It is not necessary to do anything further.
For a departing flight (leaving the U.S.), if your flight is delayed, but is within the same day, you should contact the affected CBP port (the port that you listed as the departure airport, even if you are departing from another airport). If the flight is on a different day, you must submit a new eAPIS manifest for the flight.
3. For U.S. inbound flights, follow regulations and guidelines as you have in the past. Have Flight Services contact the affected airport(s) for any changes to arrival time or airport that you may have while in the air.
For U.S. outbound flights, if the change in time affects a CBP airport, please notify the CBP airport of the time change. Otherwise, the squawk code issued to your aircraft for the flight will allow CBP to know the actual border crossing time.
Based on these answers, I feel that I now have a much clearer understanding of how to complete the Notice of Departure, how delays affect the eAPIS submission, and what actions are expected by the pilot when plans change en route.
ed. All of your questions are answered in various places such as on our website under COPA Guides: The AOPA/COPA Guide to Cross Border Operations (United States/Canada) and most are also covered in AOPA's new online tutorial (http://flash.aopa.org/asf/eAPIS/tutorial) that we encourage members to take before using the program for the first time.