TSA Waivers. These are something we haven’t talked about in a while, possibly because they haven’t actually changed in a while. But we saw a question on them and thought it might be a good time to have a little recap.
Let’s start with the basics
Here is the TSA Waiver site. This is where you submit your requests.
And here is the TSA site on waivers. This is where you can find info on waivers.
Which Waiver is Right for You?
There are a few types.
You have your Disney Theme Park, Washington DC Special Flight Rules Area/Flight Restricted Zone, Major Sporting Events and Special Events waivers.
And then you have your International Waivers which include International Air Ambulance, No Transponder and Single Trip Waivers.
The International Single Trip waivers are probably what most folk need a little guidance on.
International Waivers are required for ‘various aircraft to fly within US airspace, which includes the airspace above the United States and its territories’.
Whether you need one depends on your aircraft size, where it is registered and where you’re coming from.
Flying to and from the US
International TSA waivers are not required for any aircraft arriving to or departing from the US or its territories. So this applies if you only make one stop in the US (i.e. you fly in and straight back out again).
Flying within US airspace
Planning to make more than one stop in the US? You’ll need an International Waiver if you do this in a foreign registered aircraft which is heavier than 100,309 pounds (45,500 kg).
But, since most private aircraft generally fit under this weight limit, you probably don’t need one.
Overflying the US
OK, here we go, the bit to know – this is for when you take off and land somewhere not in the US or its territories, and overfly the US in between.
If your aircraft weighs 100,309 lbs or more: you need a waiver, even if your aircraft is US registered.
If your aircraft weighs less than 100,309 lbs: US registered aircraft do not need one. If you are foreign registered and overflying, you do need one – unless your aircraft weighs less than 100K lbs, is registered in a “Portal Country”, and is flying directly from any one of these (prior to entering US airspace).
The Portal Countries are:
- Cayman Islands
- British Virgin Islands
Special Interest Countries
The black sheep of the World of Waivers. Probably the easiest category to work out the rules for. You’ll need an international waiver for everything – ops to, from, within and over the US, if your aircraft is registered in one of these countries. The list currently includes: China, Cuba, North Korea, Russia, Sudan.
Landings: Foreign registered aircraft over 100K lbs making 2 or more stops in the US need a Waiver.
Overflights: All overflights over 100K lbs need one – and that includes N-reg. If you are foreign registered and overflying, you need one regardless of size. There’s one single exception: If overflying with an aircraft under 100K lbs registered in a Portal Country, and the flight is from any of those countries, then you’re good.
Special Interest Countries: Aircraft registered in these need a Waiver for everything – ops to, from, within and over the US.
Where is this officially written?
There were some official, permanent Notams published back in 2016. FDC 6/4255 and FDC 6/4256 (KFDC A0006/15 and A0006/16). These have vanished though and we can’t find any replacements.
The best spot to read it (officially) seems to be in the AIM Chapter 5 (Air Traffic Procedures), Section 6 (National Security and Interception Procedures), and take a look at 5-6-7 for the stuff on transiting US airspace.
How to get it and what to do with it.
You need to submit your request to the Authorization Office here. You cal also contact them at +1 571 227-2071. They are open between 9am and 5pm, and it is recommended that you submit your request at least 7 days before your planned flight to the US.
When you apply, don’t forget to include all those who may be onboard in your request.
Once you have it, it is only valid for 90 days. You need to carry the hard copy onboard with you.
Any other things to know?
If you do operate over US airspace then you need to stick to their rules which also require that you:
- Use an active VFR or IFR flight plan
- Be equipped with a Mode C or S transponder and use an ATC-assigned transponder code
- Communicate clearly with ATC
Still not sure?
We have a handy guide which tells you everything we just told you above, but in a handy Opsicle form. It also has a little flow chart to help you decide whether you need a waiver or not.
OPSGROUP members can download a copy for free here.
If you’re not an OPSGROUP member, but you’d like to be, you can join here.
More on the topic:
- More: Private Flights to the US
- More: Ops in Europe vs USA: The Differences
- More: Optimise your Descent
- More: Is the Fuel Pool Drying Up?
- More: US West Coast flights halted: North Korean missile threat, or coincidence?