The UK is outside the Schengen Area of Europe, which means that if you are travelling from the UK to, say, France, Belgium or Germany you will need to clear Customs in one of those countries on first arrival. Once you have entered the Schengen Area you can travel to another Schengen country without formaility. Hence, if you enter mainland Europe in France you will need to clear French customs but you can travel on to Germany without further Customs clearance. Equally, when you return to the UK from a Schengen Area country you will need to clear outgoing customs in that country before departure.
UK Customs Outbound
For travel from the UK to countries within the EU (exept for Ireland), there is no legal requirement to inform UK Customs or the Border Agency of your departure from the UK.
If you are planning to visit a country within the Common Travel Area (CTA), a General Aviation Report form (GAR) will need to be completed and submitted as described in the 'UK Customs Inbound' section opposite, except that it must be submitted with 12 hours' prior notice of your arrival time. The CTA includes the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man, and travel between these places is controlled by the Terrorism Act 2000.
For flights to non-EU countries, a GAR will need to be completed and submitted with 24 hours' prior notice.
Europe Customs Inbound
Most journeys by microlight from the UK to mainland Europe will land in France, but the arrangements for first arrival in other countries is very similar.
You will need to clear French Customs at an airfield which is designated for that purpose. At this time (January 2018) there are only a few places within easy reach of the north French coast which qualify, namely Calais LFAC, Le Touquet LFAT, Albert Bray LFAQ and Cherbourg LFRC. There have been many recent changes in customs procedures and requirements such as pre-notification so any visiting pilots need to obtain up to date information from the airport concerned.
It is a good idea to check that the airfield of your choice still has Customs facilities because many airfields have had this facility withdrawn and others are under review.
A list of current border crossing points into France (including customs airfields) is available at europa.eu.
Europe Customs Outbound
Departures from Schengen Area countries back to the UK need to be made from one of the airfields with Customs facilities, as noted in the Europe Inbound section above, and the same notice periods are required as are applicable to arrivals.
When you return to the UK you do not need to land at a customs airfield, but you will need to submit a General Aviation Report Form (GAR). The GAR is used to notify UK Border Force and the police that you are crossing an international boundary.
For flights from the EU (excluding Ireland), the GAR must be submitted with 4 hours' prior notice before your arrival time. From the CTA, the GAR needs to be submitted with 12 hours' prior notice, and from non-EU countries, it's 24 hours prior notice.
You can also submit by completing the GAR form in Excel format (found at the following link) and emailing it to HMRC at email@example.com, or in extremis you can contact the NCU at +44 300 123 2012 or +44 845 723 1110.
Return to the FLIGHT PLANNING section