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US Expanding Customs Preclearance to 9 New Countries

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If you’ve traveled to the US from Canada; Dublin and Shannon in Ireland; or any number of airports in the Caribbean, you’ve probably encountered a Department of Homeland Security Preclearance facility before boarding your flight home. Unique to the US, this allows DHS to process passengers abroad before they even board their flight to the United States — in a nutshell, you go through all customs formalities on foreign soil, including baggage screening, duty payments and often an interview with an immigration officer. When you land in the US, you walk off your plane in the airside section of the terminal, allowing you to board a domestic flight without additional screening.

Generally, this process works out well for passengers, who can schedule tighter connections without the risk of missing a flight because of immigration or security checkpoint delays. As you can imagine, stationing hundreds of immigration officers abroad is hardly a small expense, but the program does give inspectors an opportunity to live in another country (usually for a few months at a time).

A CBP officer checks a passenger's documentation after arriving to the US. Courtesy DHS.
A CBP officer checks a passenger’s documentation after arriving to the US. Courtesy DHS.

Well, Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson today announced the intention to expand Preclearance to an additional 10 airports in nine countries, including Brussels Airport, Belgium; Punta Cana Airport, Dominican Republic; Narita International Airport, Japan; Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, Netherlands; Oslo Airport, Norway; Madrid-Barajas Airport, Spain; Stockholm Arlanda Airport, Sweden; Istanbul Ataturk Airport, Turkey; and London Heathrow Airport and Manchester Airport, United Kingdom.

In a statement, DHS said that nearly 20 million passengers traveled to the US from these 10 airports last year, so this does sound like a good move. It’s unclear if Global Entry will be available, but (with a few exceptions) these facilities typically process passengers a bit more quickly than their counterparts in the US.

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