Visa requirements

Issuance of visas for GA bizjet crew members and pax is becoming more restrictive because of increased concerns for border integrity and security.

Visa applications

South Korea does not normally require visas for US nationals. But if you're traveling to North Korea for business/leisure/crew rest purposes, entry requirements are much stricter.

Visa lead times requirements can vary greatly from country to country. To name a few examples, it may take weeks to process a visa for India, whereas a VOA for Vietnam can often be processed in 30 minutes.

Electronic travel authorizations for Australia and Canada can usually be processed online in minutes but cannot be obtained upon arrival.

Saudi Arabia now offers a 72 hour VOA, which usually works well if you're traveling to a single destination. But things can get sticky if you need to travel to a 2nd destination within the country, or have to extend your stay beyond 72 hours.

While China does offer VOA at certain airports and for certain nationalities under certain conditions, it's possible to obtain 72-hour visa-free entry. This is the case, for example, for US nationals landing in Shanghai or Beijing and continuing on to a 3rd country within the 72 hours. While these visa-free options are technically only available to passengers, Brunel points out that local ground handlers have been successful in obtaining these 72-hour entries for crew members in some cases.

Visa tips

Custom agent reviews bizav passengers documentation at HAM (Hamburg, Germany). While Germany does not currently mandate Schengen visas for US nationals, this may change over the next year or 2 as the EU considers implementing new visa requirements for US citizens.

ISPs recommend that, whenever practical, crew members should obtain multi-year multi-entry visas for all the countries they commonly visit. Keep in mind that visa processing times vary from less than 24 hours to several weeks.

Linebaugh says that it's best to have 2 valid passports, one for visa processing and another one to travel with. "Keep in mind that you may still use a valid visa in an expired passport so long as you are also carrying a current and valid passport. But if you're not comfortable with this, it's usually possible to have a consulate move your visa over to the new passport," he adds.

As many countries mandate that you must have at least 6 months of remaining validity in passports, this can create another issue in terms of having to renew travel documents early. "We always recommend having 2 separate 10-year passports valid at any time," declares Linebaugh. "This puts you in a better position to take pop-up trips while also having visas processed for future travel requirements."

Entry into the US

The US is one of the few countries, along with Canada, where visas and customs/immigration clearance is always required – even for international tech stops. If you're not a US citizen, green card holder or Canadian citizen, you'll always need a visa or electronic system for travel authorization (ESTA) in order to enter the US.

And note that ESTA holders may only travel inbound aboard an authorized visa waiver program carrier, which is still not common among business jet operators, in order to be able to use the ESTA. "If there's a chance you may be bringing foreign nationals to the US, it's important to confirm that they have appropriate visas. And in the case of ESTA holders, make sure you're an authorized carrier under the visa waiver program," cautions Hodges.

It's important to advise CBP that you'll be bringing in foreign nationals and confirm that processing capability is in place, particularly when operating to smaller airports of entry or landing rights airfields in the US. "There was a case of a crew member arriving at FOK (Westhampton NY) with foreign nationals who had not been declared to CBP in advance," recalls Linebaugh.

"CBP had been dispatched from JFK (Kennedy, NY) but had not brought the stamps needed to process the foreign national. The passenger ended up waiting about 4 hours at FOK while the CBP officer drove back to JFK to pick up the required stamps."

Future directions

ISPs caution that visa and assorted entry requirements are likely to become progressively more complex. Don't assume that a visa requirement rule that was valid 2 years ago may still be valid for travel next week, and be cautious in terms of VOA options. As countries get more cautious in regards to border integrity and security, expect tighter travel regulations and more complex visa requirements.

Editor-at-Large Grant McLaren has written for Pro Pilot for over 20 years and specializes in corporate flight department coverage.



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