WASHINGTON— Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson announced today the United States intends to enter into negotiations to expand air preclearance operations to ten new foreign airports, located in nine separate countries: Belgium, the Dominican Republic, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Turkey and the United Kingdom. If negotiations are successful, preclearance – where each traveler undergoes immigration, customs, and agriculture inspection by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) before boarding a direct flight to the United States– could be completed before departure from these foreign airports rather than upon arrival in the U.S. Expanding the preclearance program is both a security imperative – enabling CBP to stop potential threats before they arrive on US soil – as well as a strong economic opportunity.
“A significant homeland security priority of mine is building more preclearance capacity at airports overseas. We have this now in 15 airports. I am pleased that we are seeking negotiations with ten new airports in nine countries. 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,” said Secretary Johnson.
After nearly a year-long process that began with soliciting expressions of interest from foreign airports, CBP identified these 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. More than two dozen foreign airports expressed an interest in opening Preclearance facilities. DHS and DoS evaluated all interested foreign airports in collaboration with stakeholders across the government, and with the U.S. and global aviation industry.
The 10 airports identified for possible preclearance locations include: Brussels Airport, Belgium; Punta Cana Airport, Dominican Republic; Narita International Airport, Japan; Amsterdam Airport Schipol, 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. These countries represent some of the busiest last points of departure to the United States – in 2014, nearly 20 million passengers traveled from these ten airports to the US.
“CBP’s preclearance operations are an important step in the U.S. government’s effort to prevent terrorism from coming to our borders,” said CBP Commissioner R. Gil Kerlikowske. “Where we can identify foreign airports willing to partner with us, additional preclearance agreements will further protect the safety and security of our citizens while also streamlining legitimate travel and commerce.”
The United States and the governments of the host countries are expected to begin negotiations which could result in a final air preclearance agreement, paving the way for the establishment of a new preclearance facility.
Preclearance is the process by which CBP Officers stationed abroad screen and make admissibility decisions about passengers and their accompanying goods or baggage heading to the United States before they leave a foreign port. TSA requires that passenger and accessible property screening at a foreign preclearance airport conforms to U.S. aviation security screening standards so that the U.S.-bound aircraft can disembark passengers at a domestic U.S. air terminal without needing to be rescreened. CBP officers do, however, retain the authority to inspect passengers and their accompanying goods or baggage after arriving in the United States. Today, CBP has more than 600 law enforcement officers and agriculture specialists stationed at 15 air preclearance locations in 6 countries: Dublin and Shannon in Ireland; Aruba; Freeport and Nassau in The Bahamas; Bermuda; Calgary, Toronto, Edmonton, Halifax, Montreal, Ottawa, Vancouver, and Winnipeg in Canada; and Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Last year, CBP cleared over 16 million passengers through these preclearance locations.
CBP is transforming the international arrivals experience for travelers—creating a faster and more traveler-friendly process. Programs like Global Entry, NEXUS, SENTRI, Automated Passport Control (APC) and Mobile Passport Control (MPC) are streamlining and expediting travelers’ entry into the United States, while maintaining the highest standards of security. With the expansion of CBP’s Trusted Traveler Programs, APC and MPC, average wait times were down 13 percent at the top 10 airports last year.
Today’s preclearance announcement is one in a series of steps the Administration has taken to accelerate the growth of the American travel and tourism industry, while enforcing the highest level of security. For example, the Administration has facilitated travel to the United States by decreasing wait times for a visa from countries like China, India, and Brazil from a few months to just a few days.