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The short story about Temporary Admission

The essence of Temporary Admission

Updated March 2024
The customs aspect of flying within the EU
Any aircraft flying into the EU will operate under customs control using either the Temporary Admission procedure (TA) or full importation. There are no other options. If the aircraft is not already fully imported, the aircraft will automatically be considered as flying under the TA procedure even though the owner or operator has not themselves taken any action to activate this procedure or realized that their aircraft is flying under TA. The TA procedure is thus always required when flying to the EU, even for a flight with only one stop within the EU.

Who can use Temporary Admission?
TA can only be used by EU outsiders where the aircraft is owned (including any UBOs), operated, registered, and based outside the EU.

Most EU outsiders will practically have the same flying privileges as given under full importation as the few limitations does not influence the typical flight and will even give the typical operator more flexibility and extra advantages as unrestricted personal/family/guest use without consequences and no tax, VAT (Value Added Tax)or duty liability anywhere. Many of these points are often a problem and burden when using full importation.

1. Flights where the aircraft will be used for passenger transport subject to an individual and personal ticket fee or direct payment is not allowed
2. Transportation of commercial freight items is not allowed
3. The use of TA includes some grey zone areas, which can all be handled securely by having the proper documentation
4. Some preconditions must be handled correctly, including those described below

Basic preconditions for EU outsiders
TA can only be used if the aircraft is owned by and registered to a non-EU entity and further operated by a non-EU operator. The aircraft must also have its normal fixed base outside the EU. The term ‘non-EU’ relates to anything other (states, territories, or areas) than the 27 EU member states and related customs areas. However, we will always recommend an operator check the full TA compliance before flying to the EU, as other factors can also influence compliance.

How does Temporary Admission work?
The use of TA is designed to be a paperless process with a voluntary option to document entries and exits using a Supporting Document (SD), meaning that a qualifying aircraft can enter the EU without any customs contact or paper declarations. It is the EU Commission’s opinion that the bare act of crossing the outer EU border counts as a customs declaration. Help with documenting or clarifying TA compliance might not be needed if the aircraft only has flights that start or end outside the EU (no internal EU trips), does not carry any EU-resident crew or passengers, and the crew and operator understand the practical usage of the TA procedure as these types of flights typically do not trigger customs ramp checks. However, we will always recommend that operators check and document full TA compliance before flying to the EU, as other factors than those mentioned might also influence compliance.

Temporary Admission is supposed to be paperless, so why is documentation needed?
Unfortunately, the paperless entry and exit procedure has created a common misunderstanding that an operator is not required to present relevant documentation to prove TA compliance upon request from customs. Only the entry and exit are supposed to be paperless, but the operator must continuously live up to the preconditions of TA, handle the limitations correctly, and be able to document these at any time, even if flights are just in and out of the EU with only one visited destination. Correct documentation proving TA compliance is a make-or-break issue during customs ramp checks, and the so-called Supporting Document (if used upon entry) does not prove TA compliance alone.

Temporary Admission is not without preconditions and consequences
When flying to the EU under TA, the aircraft must adhere to certain preconditions and is granted a suspension of all normal EU taxes and duties. As a consequence, there will naturally be customs checks to ensure that the TA terms are correctly fulfilled and documented. Failure to adhere to the terms or document them properly will often result in consequences. The lack of relevant documentation has stopped or grounded several aircraft over the years.

How TA works
The usage of TA procedure is thus always required when flying to the EU, even for a flight with only one stop within the EU. The use of TA is designed to be a paperless process with a voluntary option to document entries and exits using a Supporting Document, meaning that a qualifying aircraft can enter the EU without any customs contact or paper declarations. Help with documenting or clarifying TA compliance is probably not needed if the aircraft only has flights that start or end outside the EU (no internal EU trips), does not carry any EU residents as crew or passengers, and the crew and operator understand the practical usage of the TA procedure in the different EU member states that the aircraft plan to visit. We always recommend operators consult experts in all other scenarios. Even though using TA is supposed to be a simple, paperless process for most operators, documentation must not be disregarded. Correct documentation proving TA compliance is a make-or-break issue during customs ramp checks and the so-called Supporting Document (if used upon entry) alone does not prove TA compliance.

Activation of TA
TA is activated (knowingly or not) every time an unimported aircraft crosses the outer EU border and is terminated again when the same aircraft crosses the EU’s external border on the way to a non-EU destination. The bare act of crossing the outer EU border counts as a customs declaration.

The definition of the declarant
The declarant (the physical operator) is, in a customs context, seen as the user of the aircraft. Therefore, it is important to know the structure surrounding the aircraft, as some limitations depend on the role of the declarant. The declarant must always be the entity that truly operates (physically piloting) the aircraft. No other entities are allowed to be the declarant. If the aircraft is managed, the management company is normally considered to be the physical operator, thus the correct declarant in customs terms. Please be aware that the EU’s definition’ operational control’ related to the use of TA is not the same as FAA’s. This means that the entity considered the declarant in an FAA context is often not the correct declarant when using TA in the EU.

The physical operator is liable for the correct use of TA
The physical operator (the declarant) will be seen as the responsible entity and targeted if anything related to EU customs is incorrect. Non-compliance with TA will most likely activate a direct payment of the VAT (ranging from 17-27%) and customs duty (2.7%).

Even though TA is meant to be a paperless customs entry process, please do not make the mistake of actually flying paperless without the ability to prove TA compliance. Every operator should be able to document their TA eligibility upon request. Mistakes can cost hours on the ramp, even in an “All Good” scenario.

Carrying EU-resident passengers on flights within the EU
EU-resident passengers are allowed 1).

Carrying EU-resident pilots on flights within the EU
EU-resident pilots are allowed but only if the pilots are directly employed by the physical operator (the declarant) 1).

Carrying non-EU-resident passengers and pilots on flights within the EU
There are no restrictions.

Does the owner of the aircraft have to be onboard or present in the EU?
An aircraft under TA is used by the person(s) who acts as the pilot(s) and not by the passengers. Therefore, all restrictions for EU-resident persons are meant for the real user of the aircraft in customs terms, thus the pilots. Accordingly, the presence of the aircraft owner is not needed in most cases. The exception being aircraft owned by an individual and occasionally borrowed and used by an EU-resident person who acts as the pilot. This rule is meant for smaller aircraft personally owned and operated without hired pilots 1).

The function of the Supporting Document
The Supporting Document (SD) only acknowledges that the aircraft has arrived within the EU and is opting to fly under TA. Having the SD ready in the aircraft or actively using the SD indicates that the operator understands the use of TA, which is a good start if approached by customs, but it does not grant the aircraft free circulation status for a six-month period, nor does it approve TA compliance in advance. Both of which is a common misunderstanding. Again, no operator should fly to the EU unprepared and unable to explain and document why they are eligible to use the TA procedure, and the SD does not have this function.

Validity of the Supporting Document
The SD is only valid if the aircraft has not left the EU and for a maximum of six months. A new SD must be processed upon the next entry even though the six months mentioned in the field “period for discharge” have not yet passed. The six months mentioned here is the maximum stay of the specific entry whereupon the form is stamped (in customs terms; period for discharge). If the aircraft has been flying outside the EU after the first entry, it is a common misunderstanding that any future entries into the EU within the first six months will be endorsed in advance by using this form – it will not.

How to handle a customs ramp check
Ramp checks will eventually happen, so any operator ought to be prepared to avoid wasting time on the ramp. All experience shows that a convincing portfolio and well-prepared pilots will close all inspection issues effectively, while a fumbling start will often prolong an inspection for hours or days. About one-third of all recorded TA problems are related to the operators’ inability to understand and document the correct use of TA. In these cases, compliance is not an issue, only the lack of ability to prove compliance.

Correct documentation is a make-or-break issue
Operators should always consider how to document the TA compliance and handle and secure the known grey zone areas when using TA. The relevant documentation can be conditioned without help from OPMAS, but we will be happy to help and have years of experience with this process. We offer different TA solutions depending on the risk profile and typical flight pattern. Please inquire for more details.

Aircraft registrations allowed when using TA
Aircraft registered in the 27 EU member states and related customs areas are not eligible for TA, but any other aircraft registration will work.

Period of stay within the EU
A stay is limited to a maximum of six months per entry. Multiple continuous stays are allowed as long as the aircraft roam around within the EU.

How can the aircraft be used?
TA can be used to fly privately, corporately, and commercially within the EU without any problems and with EU-resident persons onboard if applied correctly. Since 2014, the TA procedure has become a very well-defined customs procedure, especially for corporate and commercial aviation. This is thanks to the huge effort from, e.g., the EU Commission and NBAA.

Traffic rights (charter permits)
Non-EU-based charter operators may need to obtain traffic rights on some internal EU legs, but this is independent of the TA or full importation status. Any fully EU-imported aircraft must also obtain the same traffic rights. A fully EU-imported aircraft instead of a TA aircraft will not improve the situation. Full importation does not grant an aircraft better traffic rights than aircraft flying under TA or EU-registered aircraft.

How the handling of the VAT and the customs works
Both the VAT and customs duty are suspended as long as the preconditions for TA are fulfilled. A violation will activate a full payment of these taxes.

Legal background for TA
The Istanbul convention from 1990, regulating the worldwide usage of TA, is not very precise, and the EU Commission has been and is continuously publishing various working papers and guidelines to clarify the correct understanding of TA and its usage in the EU. The 2014 working paper from the Union Customs Code Committee (available in English, French, and German) is especially important. Operators should always be aware that these documents are not binding for EU member states, which is why different interpretations exist between member states, thus also why it is important to have a competent customs agency outlining the correct use and understanding based on the specific setup. The problem with local interpretations is often related to flights within France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, and Greece.

Click here to see a list of the known grey zone areas where different interpretations of the TA procedure exist and where operators often need guidance to use TA safely. None of the grey zone areas create problems against using TA if correctly handled and documented.

How can we help?
If you have questions about the above, please do not hesitate to contact us.

1) This reply is based on solid EU working papers, but these papers are non-binding for EU member states, the topic can therefore be seen as a grey zone area. That is why we are mentioning this reservation and recommending that all operators have proper documentation ready to present during a customs ramp check in order to secure flights with EU passengers onboard.

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