U.S. Customs and Border Protection General Aviation Arrivals

With the opening of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection General Aviation Facility at the Lakeland Airport we wanted to provide some additional guidance for those intending to arrive at LAL from a foreign port. Please note that the process below only applies to private aircraft operators registered in the United States arriving from a location in the Western Hemisphere located North of 33 degrees north latitude or 30 degrees north latitude (Canada, Iceland, Greenland) and the Eastern Hemisphere (Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia, and the Islands of Oceania). This is not a comprehensive review of all CBP and FAA procedures. It is important that all operators familiarize themselves with 19 CFR §122 as well as all applicable CBP, FAA, FCC, and your destinations (foreign ports) requirements (pilot certificate, radio station license, life jackets, life rafts, etc…) for personnel, cargo, and aircraft entering / exiting the country.

The following guidance is broken down into processes and steps. The processes are ordered chronologically and should be adhered too otherwise a delay or denial of entry could occur.

NOTE: According to 19 CFR §122.1(h) a “private aircraft” is any aircraft engaged in personal or business flight to or from the United States which is not: carrying passengers and/or cargo for commercial purposes; or returning to the United States carrying neither passengers and/or cargo in ballast after leaving with passengers and/or cargo for commercial purposes.

Process 1 – CBP User Fee, Transponder, and Decal (In Addition to LAL User Fees)

Under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985 (COBRA) (P.L. 99-272) the U.S. Customs Service is authorized to collect user fees for various services including processing fees for air passengers. Private aircraft arriving from foreign areas are charged a processing fee of $27.50 each calendar year. You can apply online for a User Fee Decal / Transponder on the Decal and Transponder Online Procurement System (DTOPS) website:https://dtops.cbp.dhs.gov/main/#.  Once the application is processed and payment is received your decal / transponder will be shipped.

Process 2 - Aircraft Departure (From the U.S) Requests:

Private aircraft must not depart the United States to travel to a foreign location until CBP confirms receipt of the appropriate manifest and departure information as set forth in 19 CFR §122.22(c), and grants electronic clearance via e-mail or telephone.


Step 1: File an e-APHIS (Part 91) or APHIS (Part 135) submission to include current and valid phone, fax, and email information a minimum of one (1) hour prior to scheduled departure.

Step 2: For charter flights (Part 135), fax a copy of CBP Form 7507 General Declaration with the aircraft’s tail number, ETA, CBP bond number, and contact phone/fax numbers with a departure stamp and/or a log number issued by CBP.

NOTE: Part 135 departure requests outside of normal operating hours, or departing between 11:30am and 1:30pm the following day, should be coordinated during normal operating hours.

In accordance with 19 CFR §122.65 once an aircraft has been cleared or given permission to depart it must depart within 72 hours. The aircraft commander or agent shall report promptly to the Lakeland U.S. Customs and Border Protection Office (during normal business hours) or CBP Sector (after hours) that the flight is delayed beyond or cancelled within 72 hours after the aircraft received clearance or permission to depart. 

Process 3 – Flight Requirements

Step 1: The aircraft commander or agent shall notify the Lakeland U.S. Customs and Border Protection Office (during normal business hours) or CBP Sector (after hours) at least 24 hours prior to the intended arrival time at LAL.

Step 2: Ensure the aircraft is equipped with a working Mode C or Mode S (altitude encoding) transponder. 

Process 4 – Arrival and Processing into the U.S

Step 1: Contact the  FBO Sheltair at 863-647-3911 notifying them of the intended landing date and estimated time of arrival. If you cannot reach the FBO contact Airport Operations at 863-834-4911. Once all passengers have cleared customs regulated garbage will be collected.

Step 2: For the safety of CBP and airport personnel, all engines and auxiliary power units are requested to be shut down once the aircraft is chocked unless prior arrangements have been made.

Step 3: All passengers, crew members, travel documents, baggage, and the aircraft shall be made available for exam by CBP in accordance with 8 CFR, 14 CFR and 19 CFR. Ensure you have all your required documentation ready for inspection including:

Step 4: Once cleared by CBP please place all APHIS Regulated Garbage in a bag outside the aircraft to be collected by the FBO. If a bag is unavailable please wait for an FBO ramp agent to collect and properly dispose of the APHIS Regulated Garbage. We ask that all aircraft avoid bringing regulated garbage back with them from any foreign port.


NOTE: CBP processing and ramp areas are designated security zones. The use of audio, video, photographic, cellular or tablet devices are prohibited until all passengers and crew in the party have been cleared by CBP; in accordance with 14 CFR, 19 CFR and 41 CFR.

NOTE: The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) regulates garbage arriving on any foreign aircraft to prevent the spread of pests in the United States and safeguard agricultural products. USDA APHIS developed the regulated garbage program where any garbage including: plant products, vegetables, meat products, dairy products, or anything that has come into contact with such must be disposed of by incineration.

NOTE: Larger aircraft incapable of turning on the CBP ramp will need to make prior arrangements with the Lakeland U.S. Customs and Border Protection Office to clear in another location acceptable to CBP. 

Additional Resources

Should you have additional questions regarding U.S. Customs and Border Protection policies and procedures please e-mail private.aircraft.support@dhs.gov.

To apply for your user fee decal / transponder please visit the DTOPS website at: https://dtops.cbp.dhs.gov/main/#.

To complete your Advance Passenger Information System (APIS) manifests please visit the e-APHIS website at: https://eapis.cbp.dhs.gov/auth/login.html?resource_url=https%3A%2F%2Feapis.cbp.dhs.gov%2Feapisj%2Feapis%2Flogin.

The FAA provides additional guidance on entering, exiting, and flying in United States airspace at: https://www.faa.gov/air_traffic/publications/us_restrictions/airspace/.

For additional information on Regulated Garbage please visit the USDA’s website at: https://www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/ourfocus/planthealth/sa_import/sa_garbage/ct_regulated_garbage/.

For information on the FBO (Sheltair Aviation) please visit their website at: http://www.sheltairaviation.com/fbos/lakeland.

The National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) has developed their own checklist which can be obtained at: https://www.nbaa.org/ops/intl/customs-regulatory/customs-checklists/.

AOPA’s pilot information center provides additional guidance on flight planning for Canada, Bahamas, and Mexico, as well as Alaska and U.S. border crossing procedures at pilotassist@aopa.org or call 800-872-2672 Monday – Friday 8:30am-6:00pm (Eastern Time).

AOPA’s flying to Canada: https://www.aopa.org/go-fly/destinations/international-travel/canada.