It probably comes as no surprise that the United States takes its border security seriously. On the one hand, it can feel like an invasion of privacy at every turn. On the other, it makes sense given their recent history that they’ve decided to take a closer look at who is traveling into or out of the country.
What is APIS?
The Advance Passenger Information System, or APIS, requires that information on international passengers traveling by air and sea be given to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) before they enter the country. The agency that handles APIS information is the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP). In practice, this means that when you fly commercially, your airline will hand over information on every passenger according to their passport, from their full name and gender to their nationality and country of residence.
The United States isn’t the only country with rules on passenger information, either. Places like Canada, France, and China all have a similar system for tracking people traveling across their borders. Keep in mind that some airlines may require you to provide this information at least 72 hours in advance of the flight, so planning ahead is vital for international trips. Thankfully, the process of submitting the necessary details has been streamlined since the rules were implemented. Remember all those questions you fill out while you’re trying to reserve your seat on a flight? The airline in question gathers all that up and sends it to the required agencies before the flight takes off.
What is eAPIS?
Speaking of sending tons of personally identifying information, how does that work exactly? Private planes use eAPIS, a public website that allows smaller commercial carriers to send the data to the CBP electronically. This comes along with the manifest for the trip at least an hour before the plane takes off. In that case, the pilot is the person responsible for collecting and sending all the required information on each passenger to the US government.
There are some interesting situations where private flights departing from remote locations without internet access have to land again outside of the US to transmit their passenger list. This is because eAPIS is generally used through a simple website portal operated by the American government. This can come with a few interesting glitches, such as forgetting your password as a pilot.
Address In The US
Have you ever been asked the exact address of where you’ll be staying when you arrive in the US? This piece of information is part of many customs questionnaires, but in the US you need to know the complete street address, zip code included, of where you will be lodging while in the country. Passengers taking cruises need to know the name of the ship and the city where they’ll be boarding it.
Unsurprisingly, there may be flaws in the API system. Travelers can be flagged for reasons that turn out to be entirely imaginary. If that’s the case, and you’re otherwise cleared to fly, you may be given a redress number. This is a reference number that’s issued in these cases by DHS to hopefully help a person’s entry to the US go a little bit smoother in the future.