Preclearance allows air passengers to fulfill US customs and security requirements before entering the country. Currently, there are 13 airports outside the US that have preclearance facilities.
How does preclearance work?
Basically, you present yourself to a US customs post in an airport and go through a process similar to what would happen if you were to be processed upon arrival in the US. it’s just like arriving on a domestic flight.
What’s the advantage?
There are a multitude of advantages. Primarily. it is a time-saving facility for passengers. Preclearance passengers are processed faster than those who arrive in the US without it. The latter can involve long waits, as customs posts at US airports deal with a multitude of arrivals, from all over the world. Precleared passengers only have to collect their luggage before exiting the airport. An example of this is the British Airways route to JFK New York, operated from London City airport. There is a stopover at Shannon airport in Ireland, which has preclearance facilities. This saves the London passengers from going through the usually lengthy customs clearance process in New York.
Immigration control and security
Precleared passengers also reduce the risk of illegal entry and terrorism. If a passenger is refused entry into the US, he or she is not entitled to claim asylum in that country because they are not on US soil. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) prescreening also reduces the risk of terrorist acts committed on board a US-bound flight. For instance, preclearance may have prevented the “shoe bomber” Richard Reid from gaining entry to a US plane and attempting to blow it up.
Expansion of preclearance airports
The CBP recently announced a multi-stage expansion to its preclearance facilities around the world. By 2024, it aims to have 33% of passengers who enter the US processed in this way.
However, you may have to wait some time before preclearance reaches your shores – the CBP has only recently (2015) opened negotiations with airport authorities around the world. It is expected that no decision on new preclearance facilities will be in place for at least another 2 years. So watch this space!