Secretary of Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Jeh Johnson announced this week that 11 new foreign airports, located in nine countries, have been selected for possible preclearance expansion.
DHS said, “If preclearance operations are expanded to these airports, travelers would undergo immigration, customs and agriculture inspection by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) before boarding a flight to the United States rather than upon arrival. The homeland security benefits of preclearance include preventing high-risk travelers from boarding aircraft bound for the United States. In addition to enhancing security preclearance generates the potential for significant economic benefits for the United States and our international partners by reducing wait times at domestic gateways, creating an overall increase in clearance capacity, facilitating quicker connections to US domestic flights and maximizing aircraft and gate utilization.”
“Expanding Preclearance operations has been a priority of mine,” Johnson said. “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. I look forward to the opportunity to grow our Preclearance operations in the Western Hemisphere, particularly into SouthAmerica where CBP does not currently operate a preclearance location.”
The 11 airports identified for possible preclearance locations include: El Dorado International Airport (BOG) in Bogota, Colombia; Ministro Pistarini International Airport (EZE) in Buenos Aires, Argentina; Edinburgh Airport (EDI) in Edinburgh, United Kingdom; Keflavik International Airport (KEF) in Iceland; Mexico City International Airport (MEX) in Mexico City, Mexico; Milan-Malpensa Airport (MXP) in Milan, Italy; Kansai International Airport (KIX) in Osaka, Japan; Rio de Janeiro-Galeão International Airport (GIG) in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Leonardo da Vinci-Fiumicino Airport (FCO) in Rome, Italy; São Paulo-Guarulhos International Airport (GRU) in Sao Paulo, Brazil; and Princess Juliana International Airport (SXM) in St. Maarten.
More than 10 million travelers fly to the United States from these airports each year, DHS said.
“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.”
DHS said in its announcement that, “The United States and the host countries may, upon appropriate authorizations, begin negotiations which could result in an air preclearance agreement, paving the way for the establishment of new preclearance facilities.”
In May 2015, Johnson identified 10 airports in nine countries for preclearance expansion after the first open season. Stockholm Arlanda Airport was one of these 10 locations with which the United States and Sweden signed an agreement to implement preclearance operations at that airport. The agreement will be brought into force after the governments have completed all necessary internal procedures. Preclearance operations may begin as early as 2019.
DHS said, “The other locations prioritized for preclearance during the first open season included: Brussels Airport, Belgium; Punta Cana Airport, Dominican Republic; Narita International Airport, Japan; Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, Netherlands; Oslo Airport, Norway; Madrid-Barajas Airport, Spain; Istanbul Ataturk Airport, Turkey; and London Heathrow Airport and 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 2016, with DHS soliciting letters of interest from foreign airports. CBP identified the selected airports in coordination with the Transportation Security Administration and the Department of State (DOS) and prioritized them based on the greatest potential to support security and travel facilitation. DHS and DOS 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 6 countries: Aruba; Freeport and Nassau, the Bahamas; Bermuda; Calgary, Toronto, Edmonton, Halifax, Montreal, Ottawa, Vancouver and Winnipeg, Canada; Dublin and Shannon, Ireland; and Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
DHS said its “preclearance announcement supports the administration’s efforts to accelerate the growth of the American travel and tourism industry, while enhancing security by preventing high-risk travelers from boarding aircraft bound for the United States.”