By COPA President and CEO Kevin Psutka
I never heard of the word sequestration until the U.S. fiscal condition resulted in measures to curtail spending. While to a certain extent sequestration does not affect Canada, some U.S. government services that we need, such as Customs, are being curtailed.
Noting that members continue to fly across the border and given that the annual migration to Oshkosh will again create pressure on the system as hundreds of aircraft cross in a short period of time, I wondered what, if anything, will be the impact on travel by private aircraft.
A story from AOPA caught my attention:
So I searched the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) website for any clues about what may occur on our border with the U.S. and found a list of FAQs: (http://www.cbp.gov/xp/cgov/newsroom/advisories/info_seq_cbpops/seq_faq.xml)
As well as a letter from the CBP: (http://www.cbp.gov/linkhandler/cgov/newsroom/advisories/info_seq_cbpops/trade_travel_letter.ctt/trade_travel_letter.pdf)
As recommended in the letter, I contacted Mr. Eric Rodriguez, program manager, general aviation, office of field operations, CBP headquarters, who I have been working with for several years on border programs and issues.
He could not advise me on what may occur at various aviation ports of entry but he did reiterate what is stated on the CBP website: “Any changes to service hours will be port-specific and will be determined at the local level.”
So, we have no idea if or to what extent problems may occur like have been reported along the southern border but it appears that the decisions rest at the local level as each port of entry deals with their constraints.
Our advice to members is to allow for the possibility of significant delays. As we have always emphasized, you must make direct contact with the CBP at port of entry you intend to use. This is in addition to the eAPIS report that you must file online to enter or leave the U.S.
You should be flexible to accommodate restrictions in hours of operation and willing to compromise to, for example, arrive when other aircraft will be there so that only one trip to the airport is necessary for the CBP officers or go to another airport where delays may be minimal. In any event, do not plan you trip so that you are dependent on a quick turnaround with Customs.
Be aware that the requirement remains for you and your passengers to remain in the aircraft until a CBP officer arrives and gives you permission to exit. Otherwise, you may be subject to a penalty.
More information about crossing the border can be found in the COPA Guide to Cross Border Operations, in the “members only” side of our website: http://www.copanational.org/guides.cfm
And for more information on the U.S. eAPIS program please go to this site: http://www.cbp.gov/xp/cgov/travel/private_flyers/private_flyers/