Pilot's tip of the week

USA – Canada Border Crossing


Subscriber question:

"Border crossing procedures have changed for going into Canada. Please review the procedure without going into un-necessary detail." - Rock M.


Border crossing

“The procedures have gotten much easier and more predictable. But that doesn’t mean it’s a short list – at least not the first time.

It’s easier to think of the process in three separate steps; people, airplane and proposed flight. The first two are generally one-time preparation and documentation, whereas each flight has recurrent requirements. Let’s look at the people part first and by people, I mean the pilot and passengers.

The pilot and all passengers must have passports. You also need your personal paperwork. In most cases, these are items you already have:

  • Pilot certificate with the English proficient endorsement (all FAA certificates issued since 2008 have this).
  • Current medical (This may change if the 3rd class medical reform is enacted).
  • There is also a requirement for a restricted radio telephone operator’s permit. Although I’ve never heard of anyone actually being requested to produce one, it’s still a requirement. The permit may be obtained online from the FCC here.
  • eAPIS is the electronic system to file notification of an intended flight. You should register for an eAPIS account in sufficient time before your intended flight as it may take up to a week to receive the user id. You can register for an account here.

The aircraft requirements are also generally one time and items that in most cases you would normally have:

  • The standard ARROW documents.
  • Mode-C transponder and ELT.
  • A letter from the aircraft owner if it is not your aircraft.
  • All cross border flights require an annual Department of Homeland Security (DHS) sticker on the aircraft. The sticker should be ordered in advance since it may take several weeks to arrive. You can order the sticker here.
  • Proof of liability insurance valid in Canada.

There are certain other less common requirements such as N number specifications. More information may be found at the FAA website listed here.

The flight portion is basically the same for both leaving and returning to the US. You must submit an eAPIS notification at least one hour prior to departure.

When going into Canada, you must call CANPASS (1-888 CANPASS) and you must be on a Flight Plan (either IFR or an activated VFR). The first landing must be at an Airport of Entry. For more info on CANPASS click here.

When returning to the US, file an eAPIS if you did not do a round trip outbound. You must be on a flight plan (again either IFR or Activated VFR). The first landing must be at an Airport of Entry. You will also need to contact US Customs and Border Patrol at least 1 hour prior to arrival.

This is just an overview and not all-inclusive. The requirements may change with little or no notice. Consult the Customs and Border Patrol website for more detailed information before you depart.”

Please let us know if any of the links above change or no longer work.

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