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Airports Selected for Possible Preclearance Expansion


The Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Jeh Johnson, recently announced that 11 new foreign airports have been selected for a possible Preclearance expansion. If Preclearance operations are expanded, travelers would then undergo immigration, customs and agriculture inspection by U.S. Customs and Border Protection before boarding a flight to the U.S. instead of upon arrival.

The homeland security benefit of expanding Preclearance is that it would prevent high-risk travelers from boarding a flight bound for the U.S. In addition, a Preclearance expansion would generate the potential for significant economic benefits for the U.S. and international U.S. partners. It would reduce wait times at domestic gateways, creating an overall increase in clearance capacity, facilitating quicker connections to the U.S. domestic flights, and maximizing plane and gate utilization.

“Expanding Preclearance operations has been a priority of mine as Secretary. Preclearance allows DHS to screen individuals prior to boarding a flight, which means we are able to identify threats long before they arrive in the United States,” said Secretary Johnson. “I look forward to the opportunity to grow our Preclearance operations in the Western Hemisphere, particularly into South America where CBP does not currently operate a Preclearance location.”

The 11 airports identified for possible Preclearance locations include:

  1. El Dorado International Airport (BOG) in Bogota, Colombia
  2. Ministro Pistarini International Airport (EZE) in Buenos Aires, Argentina
  3. Edinburgh Airport (EDI) in Edinburgh, United Kingdom
  4. Keflavik International Airport (KEF) in Iceland
  5. Mexico City International Airport (MEX) in Mexico City, Mexico
  6. Milan-Malpensa Airport (MXP) in Milan, Italy
  7. Kansai International Airport (KIX) in Osaka, Japan
  8. Rio de Janeiro-Galeão International Airport (GIG) in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
  9. Leonardo da Vinci-Fiumicino Airport (FCO) in Rome, Italy
  10. São Paulo-Guarulhos International Airport (GRU) in Sao Paulo, Brazil
  11. Princess Juliana International Airport (SXM) in St. Maarten

More than 10 million travelers fly to the U.S. from these airports each year.

“Preclearance has proven to be a valuable tool for CBP, foreign airports, the aviation industry and most importantly, the traveler, who benefits from shorter wait times,” said CBP Commissioner R. Gil Kerlikowske.

“CBP precleared more travelers than ever before last year, 18 million, accounting for about 15.3 percent of all commercial air travel to the United States. Not only were those millions of travelers able to immediately leave the airport or directly head to their connecting flight upon landing in the United States, but that’s 18 million fewer people waiting in line for CBP officers to process at the nation’s busiest airports.”

The U.S. and the host countries may, upon appropriate authorizations, begin negotiations which could result in an air Preclearance agreement, which would pave the way for the establishment of new Preclearance facilities.

In May of 2015, the Secretary of DHS identified 10 airports in nine countries for Preclearance expansion after the first open season. Stockholm Arlanda Airport was one of these 10 locations. Most recently, the U.S. and Sweden signed an agreement to implement Preclearance operations. The agreement will be brought into force after the governments have completed all necessary internal procedures. Preclearance operations may begin as early as 2019.

The other locations prioritized for preclearance during the first open season included:

  1. Brussels Airport, Belgium
  2. Punta Cana Airport, Dominican Republic
  3. Narita International Airport, Japan
  4. Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, Netherlands
  5. Oslo Airport, Norway
  6. Madrid-Barajas Airport, Spain
  7. Istanbul Ataturk Airport, Turkey
  8. London Heathrow Airport, United Kingdom
  9. Manchester Airport, United Kingdom

CBP continues to engage with many of the host governments and expects to announce additional agreements in the coming months.

The process for the second open season began in May of 2016, with DHS soliciting letters of interest from foreign airports. CBP then identified the selected airports in coordination with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and the Department of State (DOS) and prioritized them based on the greatest potential to support security and travel facilitation. DHS and DOS then evaluated all interested foreign airports in collaboration with stakeholders across the government.

CBP currently has more than 600 law enforcement officers and agriculture specialists stationed at 15 air Preclearance locations in six countries including:

  1. Aruba
  2. Freeport and Nassau
  3. The Bahamas
  4. Bermuda
  5. Calgary, Canada
  6. Toronto, Canada
  7. Edmonton, Canada
  8. Halifax, Canada
  9. Montreal, Canada
  10. Ottawa, Canada
  11. Vancouver, Canada
  12. Winnipeg, Canada
  13. Dublin, Ireland
  14. Shannon, Ireland
  15. Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

This recent Preclearance expansion announcement supports DHS’s efforts to accelerate the growth of the American travel and tourism industry, while enhancing security by preventing high-risk travelers from boarding flights bound for the U.S.

If you have any questions regarding Preclearance or travel to the U.S., please contact our office to schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys today!