shutterstock_62030287U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced its intent to expand air preclearance operations to 10 new foreign airports, located in nine countries, as part of the agency’s efforts to improve national security and to enhance economic opportunities.  Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson called for the creation of these additional preclearance facilities, saying: “I want to take every opportunity we have to push our homeland security out beyond our borders so that we are not defending the homeland from the one-yard line. Preclearance is a win-win for the traveling public. It provides aviation and homeland security, and it reduces wait times upon arrival at the busiest U.S. airports.”  The 10 airports being considered are: (1) Brussels Airport, Belgium; (2) Punta Cana Airport, Dominican Republic; (3) Narita International Airport, Japan; (4) Amsterdam Airport Schipol, Netherlands; (5) Oslo Airport, Norway; (6) Madrid-Barajas Airport, Spain; (7) Stockholm Arlanda Airport, Sweden; (8) Istanbul Ataturk Airport, Turkey; and (9) London Heathrow Airport and (10) Manchester Airport, United Kingdom. 

Negotiations will now take place between the United States and the governments of the host countries to finalize air preclearance agreements and to create new preclearance facilities for U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).  In 2014, CBP cleared about 16 million travelers through the existing 15 preclearance locations, and it expects to clear approximately 20 million travelers through the additional 10 preclearance locations, over double the existing volume of travelers.

The preclearance inspection process allows CBP to inspect an individual in the exact same manner as it would at a U.S. port of entry before an individual boards a plane to the United States, thereby reducing security threats on U.S. soil and avoiding the cost of sending an individual back to their home country.  Travelers who are processed through preclearance are treated like domestic travelers upon arrival and do not need to undergo customs and agriculture inspections (CBP still has the right to inspect goods).  Furthermore, travelers who require U.S. visas to gain admission to the United States must still apply for a visa stamp at a U.S. Consulate abroad.  Finally, travelers must hold an airline ticket for the United States to be inspected by CBP at a preclearance locations.

At present, CBP has 15 preclearance locations in six countries:  (1) Dublin and (2) Shannon in Ireland; (3) Aruba; (4) Freeport and (5) Nassau in The Bahamas; (6) Bermuda; (7) Calgary, (8) Toronto, (9) Edmonton, (10) Halifax, (11) Montreal, (12) Ottawa, (13) Vancouver, and (14) Winnipeg in Canada; and (15) Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.