Southern Border Overflight Exemption (SBOE)

International Operations Manual

Eddie sez:

If you've already read the article on Customs / Immigration / Quarantine, you will know that there are only 58 qualifed airports of entry in the United States and the rest that you might fly into are known as "landing rights" airports. You will need permission from a customs officer with acknowledgement of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the Public Health Service, and the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service of the Agriculture Department. But it gets a bit more complicated when your arrival back to the U.S. is from south of the border.

The exemption process has gotten easier over the years. You no longer need to have all of your pilots registered in the program or have at least one person in the cabin registered. But you do need to apply for this well in advance. The exemption letter is good for two years.

Everything here is from the references shown below, with a few comments in an alternate color.

Last revision:


The Southern Border Restriction

[, Part GEN 1.2]

4.1.8 All private aircraft arriving in the U.S. via (a) the U.S./Mexican border or the Pacific Coast from a foreign place in the Western Hemisphere south of 33 degrees north latitude or (b) the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Coasts from a foreign place in the Western Hemisphere south of 30 degrees north latitude, from any place in Mexico, or from the U.S. Virgin Islands, must furnish a notice of intended arrival to the Customs service at the nearest designated airport, listed in paragraph 6., to the point of first border or coastline crossing. They must land at this airport for inspection, unless they have an overflight exemption, see paragraph 4.5. Landing rights must be obtained from Customs to land at designated airports that are not also approved as international airports. The requirement to furnish an advance notice of intended arrival must not apply to private aircraft departing from Puerto Rico and conducting their flights under instrument flight rules (IFR) until crossing the U.S. coastline or proceeding north of 30 degrees north latitude prior to crossing the coastline. The notice must be furnished at least one hour before crossing the U.S. coastline or border. The notice may be furnished directly to Customs by telephone, radio, or other means, or may be furnished by means of an ADCUS message in the flight plan through the FAA to Customs. The FAA will accept these notices up to 23 hours in advance.

4.1.9 A one−hour advance notice of coastline or border penetration (but not landing) is required of private aircraft arriving in the continental U.S. from Puerto Rico that are not conducting their flight on an IFR flight plan and those private aircraft that have flown beyond the inner boundary of the Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) south of 30 degrees north latitude on the Atlantic Coast, beyond the inner boundary of the Gulf Coast ADIZ, south of the U.S./Mexican border, or beyond the inner boundary of the Pacific Coast ADIZ south of 33 degrees north latitude which have not landed in a foreign place. This notice requirement may be satisfied by either filing a flight plan with the FAA and placing ADCUS in the remarks section of the flight plan or by contacting Customs directly at least one hour prior to the inbound crossing of the U.S. border or coastline.

6. Airports Designated as Entry Points

6.1 Airports Designated as Entry Points for Aircraft Arriving from Mexico and Other Foreign Countries in the Western Hemisphere South of 30 Degrees North Latitude. TBL GEN 1.2−2


Photo: Airports desginated as entry points, US AIP. TBL GEN 1.2-2
Click photo for a larger image

The Exemption

[, Part GEN 1.2]

4.5 Exemption from the Landing Requirement

4.5.1 The owner or aircraft commander of a private aircraft required to furnish a notice of intended arrival in compliance with paragraph 4.1.9 of this section may request an exemption from the landing requirement specified in paragraph 4.3 of this section. If approved, the applicant is bound to comply with all other requirements, including operating at or above 12,500 feet mean sea level, providing advance notice of penetration to U.S. Customs at least one hour in advance of crossing the border or coastline, furnishing advance notice of arrival at the first intended airport of landing, etc. The request should be addressed to the Port Director of U.S. Customs having jurisdiction over the airport to be utilized most frequently when arriving from points south of the U.S. Requests for exemptions can be for either a single specific flight or term (one year) approval. Applications for a single overflight exemption must be received at least 15 days in advance of the intended date of arrival; for term exemption, at least 30 days in advance.

4.5.2 Air charters or taxi service cannot be granted an unqualified term exemption since they cannot reasonably comply with the requirements of a term application, namely, comprehensive details of the passengers they will transport in the course of one year. By submitting all other details, air charters/taxis will accrue the benefit of “conditional” approval. This approval is called conditional because the operator must receive the concurrence of the Port Director prior to each trip. Concurrence will be based upon factors such as the foreign point of departure to the U.S. and the passengers being transported. The benefit realized by the charter/taxi operator is that the time constraints listed above for timely submission of single overflight exemptions can be drastically reduced. Local Customs Ports will establish minimum time frames in accordance with their own requirements.