Migration and Home Affairs

Border & law enforcement - advance passenger information (API) - revised rules

Date of roadmap: 5/6/2020

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has reported 4.3 billion passengers globally carried by air transport on schedule services in 2018, a 6.1% increase over 2017. It is estimated that the global volume of air passengers grows at a rate between 5% and 7% every year and could reach 7.2 billion by 2036. This continuous growth requires therefore measures aiming at speeding up border checks while combatting irregular immigration and ensuring internal security, like the processing of Advance Passenger Information (API).

API (Advance Passenger Information) data is biographic information on passengers (as contained in travel documents) collected by air carriers during check-in and, complemented with travel route information, transmitted by these carriers to the border control authorities of the country of destination. These authorities screen the passengers while in-flight for border migration management and law enforcement. The processing of API data provides an effective tool for advance checks of air travellers. Border checks for bona fide travellers are therefore expedited upon arrival, while more resources and time can be spent to identify travellers who need further attention. Consequently, API enables a risk-based data-driven approach to border security.

Reiterated calls for an increased use of API from the UN and the commitment by OSCE participating states to set up API systems confirm the importance of these data. In addition, since February 2018, the establishment of national API systems is an ICAO standard, making it mandatory for all Contracting States to the Chicago Convention. 

In the EU, Council Directive 2004/82/EC on the obligation of carriers to communicate passenger data ('API Directive') regulates the collection and transmission of API data.

In the European Union, the transmission of advance passenger data is regulated by the API Directive. The Directive imposes an obligation on air carriers to transmit, upon request, passenger data to the Member State of destination prior to the flight’s take-off, for flights in-bound from a third country to improve border controls and combat illegal immigration. It also enables Member States to use the API data for law enforcement purposes.

Results of the evaluation of the API Directive show the need to harmonize and clarify the way API data is collected throughout Europe; it also highlights the usefulness to combine API and PNR data in order to strengthen the reliability and effectiveness of PNR data as a law enforcement tool. The combined use of API and PNR data is believed to improve the data quality of the latter, limiting the number of false positives currently experienced by Passenger Information Units in the automated processing of PNR data and hence the amount of data that are subject to manual verification.

View the inception impact assessment for this initiative

The Inception Impact Assessment ( https://ec.europa.eu/info/law/better-regulation/have-your-say/initiatives/12434-Advance-Information-on-Air-Passengers ) published in June 2020 serves to inform stakeholders and citizens about the initiative. The feedback received is published alongside the inception impact assessment.

View the reference documents

EU legislation applicable to information on passengers

Evaluations of the API Directive

International instruments, guidelines and standards on passenger information