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Passenger Manifest Required For All Air Carriers Now

by Jose Latour

This may not be big news to most of you guys, but since I have a considerable number of fellow pilot readers, I wanted to share this with you: as of January 1, federal law requires the electronic filing of passenger manifests for all airlines and shipping lines, as well as for all passengers entering or departing the United States. As larger commercial airlines and cruise ships are already required to provide such passenger manifests, the new regulation is going to affect mostly charter companies and smaller airlines and shippers, who are likely to be burdened in that they don't necessarily have the software and human resources to provide this information. According to the Miami Herald article reported by the ever intrepid Alfonso Chardy (who, of late, is a wonderful resource for me as far as his articles), the INS is being rather cool about the whole thing and has told carriers that those having problems meeting the reporting requirement will indeed be given more time to comply.

According to the statistics in the article, in fiscal year 2000 (October 1, 1999 - September 30, 2000), 33.7 million nonimmigrant foreign nationals were admitted into the United States. Florida was the state with the highest number of total foreign visitors. A Washington-based INS spokeswoman stated:

"This new requirement was mandated by Congress to enhance border security."

The requirement is in addition to the foreign registration involving nationals of 20 countries (already covered extensively in other sections) and in conjunction with the tracking system associated with the presence of foreign students in the U.S.

I spoke to a couple of folks who will be impacted by the new rule, both of whom asked to remain anonymous given our local INS readership. One, a part-owner of a charter company flying regular flights to the Bahamas and the Florida Keys out of a South Florida airport, indicated that the procedure is going to be "a pain in the neck." He told me that currently, one of the flight crew's responsibilities is to maintain the flight manifest, but that the additional reporting requirements add another bureaucratic step to an already huge paperwork burden established by the FAA, Customs, and other associated agencies. His impression was exactly the same as mine: more paperwork, none of which will do a thing to deter terrorist activity in the United States.

The other person that I spoke to is a Canadian H-1B pilot who is not a client of mine but whom I have befriended through e-mail. I wanted to hear his thoughts because he has been flying both commercial and charter, and I figured he would know the difference between the paperwork associated with each situation and how this will impact his respective past and present employers. His thoughts were that for the larger companies, it shouldn't be that big of a deal: most of them keep databases on the booking of larger group flights with the bulk of passenger information anyway, and the charter companies for which he had flown were mostly domestic as far as destinations. He indicated that companies flying internationally were already having to gather passport information, and it should be something as simple as modifying a database to suit whatever specific data the new requirement elicits from the charter companies. On the other hand, he indicated that for small companies flying short hops to the Bahamas (like the first guy), it will be a royal pain in the neck.

Once again, we see the pattern repeated: more legal requirements, more bureaucracy, more work for Americans... and are we any safer?

About The Author

Jose Latour is the founding partner of Latour & Lleras, P.A., a Gainesville, Florida based business immigration practice representing corporations nationwide in visa management, compliance, and HR training. The above represents Mr. Latour's Editorial opinion. The A/V rated firm and its web site,, were named a winner of the 2002 Inc. Magazine Web Award, receiving recognition along with 14 other companies as the best Web companies in America. In 1999, the firm was named "One of America’s Top Ten Internet/Virtual Companies" in the Inc. Magazine and Cisco Systems "Growing with Technology Awards." The site is one of the most visited and widely read resource on the Internet on U.S. immigration law, attracting subscribers from all over the world, the media and from within the U.S. government. Mr. Latour served as a U.S. Diplomatic and Consular Officer in Mexico and Africa before entering private practice and today divides his time between his law practice, writing, flying, and his music.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.