If you've already read the article on Customs / Immigration / Quarantine, you will know that there are only 58 qualified 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 acknowledgment 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.
— James Albright
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.
Certain aircraft arriving from areas south of the U.S.
(1) This section sets forth particular requirements for certain aircraft arriving from south of the United States. This section is applicable to all aircraft except:
(i) Public aircraft;
(ii) Those aircraft operated on a regularly published schedule, pursuant to a certificate of public convenience and necessity or foreign aircraft permit issued by the Department of Transportation, authorizing interstate, overseas air transportation; and
(iii) Those aircraft with a seating capacity of more than 30 passengers or a maximum payload capacity of more than 7,500 pounds which are engaged in air transportation for compensation or hire on demand. (See 49 U.S.C. App. 1372 and 14 CFR part 298).
(2) The term “place” as used in this section means anywhere outside of the inner boundary of the Atlantic (Coastal) Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) south of 30 degrees north latitude, anywhere outside of the inner boundary of the Gulf of Mexico (Coastal) ADIZ, or anywhere outside of the inner boundary of the Pacific (Coastal) ADIZ south of 33 degrees north latitude.
(b) Notice of arrival. All aircraft to which this section applies arriving in the Continental United States via the U.S./Mexican border or the Pacific Coast from a foreign place in the Western Hemisphere south of 33 degrees north latitude, or from the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Coasts from a place in the Western Hemisphere south of 30 degrees north latitude, from any place in Mexico, from the U.S. Virgin Islands, or [notwithstanding the definition of “United States” in §122.1(l)] from Puerto Rico, must furnish a notice of intended arrival. Private aircraft must transmit an advance notice of arrival as set forth in §122.22 of this part. Other than private aircraft, all aircraft to which this section applies must communicate to CBP notice of arrival at least one hour before crossing the U.S. coastline. Such notice must be communicated to CBP by telephone, radio, other method or the Federal Aviation Administration in accordance with paragraph (c) of this section.
Source: 19 CFR §122.23
Note: Paragraph (c) lists the needed details, 19 CFR 122.22 refers to the "Electronic manifest requirement for all individuals onboard private aircraft arriving in and departing from the United States."
Landing requirements for certain aircraft arriving from areas south of U.S.
(a) In general. Certain aircraft arriving from areas south of the United States that are subject to §122.23 are required to furnish a notice of intended arrival in compliance with §122.23. Subject aircraft must land for CBP processing at the nearest designated airport to the border or coastline crossing point as listed under paragraph (b) unless exempted from this requirement in accordance with §122.25. In addition to the requirements of this section, pilots of aircraft to which §122.23 is applicable must comply with all other landing and notice of arrival requirements. This requirement shall not apply to those aircraft which have not landed in foreign territory or are arriving directly from Puerto Rico, if the aircraft was inspected by CBP officers in the U.S. Virgin Islands, or otherwise precleared by CBP officers at designated preclearance locations.
(b) List of designated airports.
|Beaumont, Tex||Jefferson County Airport.|
|Brownsville, Tex||Brownsville International Airport.|
|Calexico, Calif||Calexico International Airport.|
|Corpus Christi, Tex||Corpus Christi International Airport.|
|Del Rio, Tex||Del Rio International Airport.|
|Douglas, Ariz||Bisbee-Douglas International Airport.|
|Douglas, Ariz||Douglas Municipal Airport.|
|Eagle Pass, Tex||Eagle Pass Municipal Airport.|
|El Paso, Tex||El Paso International Airport.|
|Fort Lauderdale, Fla||Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport.|
|Fort Lauderdale, Fla||Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.|
|Fort Pierce, Fla||St. Lucie County Airport.|
|Houston, Tex||William P. Hobby Airport.|
|Key West, Fla||Key West International Airport.|
|Laredo, Tex||Laredo International Airport.|
|McAllen, Tex||Miller International Airport.|
|Miami, Fla||Miami International Airport.|
|Miami, Fla||Opa-Locka Airport.|
|Miami, Fla||Tamiami Airport.|
|Midland, TX||Midland International Airport.|
|New Orleans, La||New Orleans International Airport (Moissant Field).|
|New Orleans, La||New Orleans Lakefront Airport.|
|Nogales, Ariz||Nogales International Airport.|
|Presidio, Tex||Presidio-Lely International Airport.|
|San Antonio Tex||San Antonio International Airport.|
|San Diego, Calif||Brown Field.|
|Santa Teresa, N. Mex||Santa Teresa Airport.|
|Tampa, Fla||Tampa International Airport.|
|Tucson, Ariz||Tucson International Airport.|
|West Palm Beach, Fla||Palm Beach International Airport.|
|Wilmington, NC||New Hanover County Airport|
|Yuma, Ariz||Yuma International Airport.|
Source: 19 CFR §122.24
If you are flying a business jet from south of the border, 19 CFR 122.23 more than likely applies to you. If so, you are required to land where 19 CFR 122.24 tells you to, unless you have an exemption. More of that next.
(a) Request. Any company or individual that has operational control over an aircraft required to give advance notice of arrival under §122.23 may request an exemption from the landing requirements in §122.24. Single overflight exemptions may be granted to entities involved in air ambulance type operations when emergency situations arise and in cases involving the non-emergency transport of persons seeking medical treatment in the U.S. All approvals of requests for overflight exemptions and the granting of authority to be exempted from the landing requirements are at the discretion of the port director. Exemptions may allow aircraft to land at any airport in the U.S. staffed by Customs. Aircraft traveling under an exemption shall continue to follow advance notice and general landing rights requirements.
(b) Procedure. An exemption request shall be made to the port director at the airport at which the majority of Customs overflight processing is desired by the applicant. Except for air ambulance operations and other flights involving the non-emergency transport of persons seeking medical treatment in the U.S., the requests shall be signed by an officer of the company or by the requesting individual and be notarized or witnessed by a Customs officer. The requests shall be submitted:
(1) At least 30 days before the anticipated first arrival, if the request is for an exemption covering a number of flights over a period of one year, or
(2) At least 15 days before the anticipated arrival, if the request is for a single flight, or
(3) In cases involving air ambulance operations when emergency situations arise and other flights involving the non-emergency transport of persons seeking medical treatment in the U.S., if time permits, at least 24 hours prior to departure. If this cannot be accomplished, Customs will allow receipt of the overflight exemption application up to departure time. In cases of extreme medical emergency, Customs will accept overflight exemption requests in flight through a Federal Aviation Administration Flight Service Station.
(c) Content of request. All requests for exemption from special landing requirements, with the exception of those for air ambulance operations and other flights involving the non-emergency transport of persons seeking medical treatment in the U.S., shall include the following information. Requests for exemptions for air ambulance operations and other flights involving the non-emergency transport of persons for medical treatment in the U.S. shall include the following information except for paragraphs (c)(5) and (c)(6) of this section:
(1) Aircraft registration number(s) and manufacturer's serial number(s) for all aircraft owned or operated by the applicant that will be utilizing the overflight exemption;
(2) Identification information for each aircraft including class, manufacturer, type, number, color scheme, and type of engine (e.g., turbojet, turbofan, turboprop, reciprocating, helicopter, etc.);
(3) A statement that the aircraft is equipped with a functioning mode C (altitude reporting) transponder which will be in use during overflight, that the overflights will be made in accord with instrument flight rules (IFR), and that the overflights will be made at altitudes above 12,500 feet mean sea level (unless otherwise instructed by Federal Aviation Administration controllers);
(4) Name and address of the applicant operating the aircraft, if the applicant is a business entity, the address of the headquarters of the business (include state of incorporation if applicable), and the names, addresses, Social Security numbers (if available), and dates of birth of the company officer or individual signing the application. If the aircraft is operated under a lease, include the name, address, Social Security number (if available), and date of birth of the owner if an individual, or the address of the headquarters of the business (include state of incorporation if applicable), and the names, addresses, Social Security numbers, and dates of birth of the officers of the business;
(5) Individual, signed applications from each usual or anticipated pilot or crewmember for all aircraft for which an overflight exemption is sought stating name, address, Social Security number (if available), Federal Aviation Administration certificate number (if applicable), and place and date of birth;
(6) A statement from the individual signing the application that the pilot(s) and crewmember(s) responding to paragraph (c)(5) of this section are those intended to conduct overflights, and that to the best of the individual's knowledge, the information supplied in response to paragraph (c)(5) of this section is accurate;
(7) Names, addresses, Social Security numbers (if applicable), and dates of birth for all usual or anticipated passengers. An approved passenger must be on board to utilize the overflight exemptions.
Note: Where the Social Security number is requested, furnishing of the SSN is voluntary. The authority to collect the SSN is 19 U.S.C. 66, 1433, 1459 and 1624. The primary purpose for requesting the SSN is to assist in ascertaining the identity of the individual so as to assure that only law-abiding persons will be granted permission to land at interior airports in the U.S. without first landing at one of the airports designated in §122.24. The SSN will be made available to Customs personnel on a need-to-know basis. Failure to provide the SSN may result in a delay in processing of the application;
(8) Description of the usual or anticipated baggage or cargo if known, or the actual baggage or cargo;
(9) Description of the applicant's usual business activity;
(10) Name(s) of the airport(s) of intended first landing in the U.S. Actual overflights will only be permitted to specific approved airports;
(11) Foreign place or places from which flight(s) will usually originate; and
(12) Reasons for request for overflight exemption.
(d) Procedure following exemption. (1) If an aircraft subject to §122.23 is granted an exemption from the landing requirements as provided in this section, the aircraft commander shall notify Customs at least 60 minutes before:
(i) Crossing into the U.S. over a point on the Pacific Coast north of 33 degrees north latitude; or
(ii) Crossing into the U.S. over a point of the Gulf of Mexico or Atlantic Coast north of 30 degrees north latitude; or
(iii) Crossing into the U.S. over the Southwestern land border (defined as the U.S.-Mexican border between Brownsville, Texas, and San Diego, California). Southwestern land border crossings must be made while flying in Federal Aviation Administration published airways.
(2) The notice shall be given to a designated airport specified in §122.24. The notice may be furnished directly to Customs by telephone, radio or other means, or may be furnished through the Federal Aviation Administration to Customs. If notice is furnished pursuant to this paragraph, notice pursuant to §§122.23 and 122.24 is unnecessary.
(3) All overflights must be conducted pursuant to an instrument flight plan filed with the Federal Aviation Administration or equivalent foreign aviation authority prior to the commencement of the overflight.
(4) The owner or aircraft commander of an aircraft subject to §122.23 granted an exemption from the landing requirements must:
(i) Notify Customs of a change of Federal Aviation Administration or other (foreign) registration number for the aircraft;
(ii) Notify Customs of the sale, theft, modification or destruction of the aircraft;
(iii) Notify Customs of changes of usual or anticipated pilots or crewmembers as specified in paragraph (c)(5) of this section. Every pilot and crewmember participating in an overflight must have prior Customs approval either through initial application and approval, or through a supplemental application submitted by the new pilot or crewmember and approved by Customs before commencement of the pilot's or crewmember's first overflight.
(iv) Request permission from Customs to conduct an overflight to an airport not listed in the initial overflight application as specified in paragraph (c)(10) of this section. The request must be directed to the port director who approved the initial request for an overflight exemption.
(v) Retain copies of the initial request for an overflight exemption, all supplemental applications from pilots or crewmembers, and all requests for additional landing privileges as well as a copy of the letter from Customs approving each of these requests. The copies must be carried on board any aircraft during the conduct of an overflight.
(5) The notification specified in paragraph (d)(4) of this section must be given to Customs within 5 working days of the change, sale, theft, modification, or destruction, or before a flight for which there is an exemption, whichever occurs earlier.
(e) Inspection of aircraft having or requesting overflight exemption. Applicants for overflight exemptions must agree to make the subject aircraft available for inspection by Customs to determine if the aircraft is capable of meeting Customs requirements for the proper conduct of an overflight. Inspections may be conducted during the review of an initial application or at any time during the term of an overflight exemption.
Source: 19 CFR §122.25, Exemption from special landing requirements.
You no longer need to have the names of every person on the airplane in the exemption, in fact you don't need any of them. The process is fairly painless, it is just a matter of applying. A sample exemption letter is shown below.
Sample exemption letter
I am presenting this example to show how simple the process has become.
05/10/2019 17:51 EDT
Dear Sir or Madam,
Under Title 19 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Section 122.23, operators of certain General Aviation aircraft (generally private and unscheduled charter aircraft) arriving from some areas south of the United States are required to provide an advance notice of arrival and land at certain designated airports listed in § 122.24(b) for U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) processing unless exempted from this requirement through an Overflight Exemption provided for in § 122.25.
Your application on behalf of CODE 7700 LLC for an Overflight Exemption (#101185) has been approved. This exemption will expire on 05/07/2021.
I. All operators are required to transmit applicable Advance Passenger Information System (APIS) data for all travelers aboard General Aviation aircraft (commercial and private) arriving in or departing from the United States. With the transmission of complete, correct, valid and timely APIS data for all travelers aboard, the holder of this Overflight Exemption may utilize it to arrive:
• with no passengers;
• with passengers already listed within an existing overflight exemption; or
• with passengers not listed within an existing overflight exemption.
II. When utilizing this Overflight Exemption:
• an electronic or paper copy of this letter must be maintained onboard the utilized aircraft;
• a copy of this letter must be available upon arrival for CBP inspection;
• only aircraft approved though APIS and capable of complying with regulatory flight behavior requirements may be utilized;
• only pilots and crew approved through APIS may be utilized;
• operators of exempted aircraft must utilize a transponder that reports aircraft position and altitude (i.e., Mode C, Mode S);
• operators of exempted aircraft must fly in accordance with instrument flight rules (IFR); and
• operators of exempted aircraft must maintain altitudes above 12,500 feet mean sea level (unless otherwise instructed by Federal Aviation Administration controllers).
III. Through the terms of this Overflight Exemption the operator is authorized to overfly the designated CBP airports listed in 19 CFR § 122.24(b) – from any and all foreign points – to any airports where CBP services are normally available.
IV. The aircraft commander, operator, or authorized representative must still obtain landing rights approval or permission to land directly from the U.S. CBP port of arrival as applicable under 19 CFR §§ 122.12, 122.14, and 122.15 and must provide advance notice of arrival in accordance with 19 CFR § 122.31.
V. Any request to change or amend this application must be in writing. Such requests can be submitted to CBP at GAsupport@cbp.dhs.gov.
VI. Operators of aircraft utilizing an Overflight Exemption must comply with all applicable CBP requirements and regulations. To the extent that the terms of this other letter deviate from the requirements under 19 CFR §§ 122.25(c)(7), (10), and (11), this letter constitutes notice to the holder of this Overflight Exemption that CBP does not intend to enforce those requirements for flights covered by this letter, since the need for those specific requirements is mitigated by the provision of APIS data.
VII. Noncompliance with the terms of this Overflight Exemption or any other CBP requirements and regulations may become grounds for the cancellation and/or the denial of an Overflight Exemption and/or penalty case initiation.
VIII. Term renewal applications must be submitted at least 30 days prior to the expiration date.
IX. Applications for changes or updates to an existing Overflight Exemption must be submitted at least 30 days prior to the first anticipated flight.
Title 19 U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Department of Homeland Security, Department of the Treasury