Department of Homeland Security Plans to Expand Preclearance

The popular program will expand to airports in nine countries By: Kenneth Shapiro
Travelers will soon have more options for clearing customs. // © 2015 Thinkstock
Travelers will soon have more options for clearing customs. // © 2015 Thinkstock

The Details

Department of Homeland Security

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently announced that the U.S. intends to enter into negotiations to expand air preclearance operations to 10 new foreign airports.

Why It Matters:
The airports are located in nine separate countries: Belgium, the Dominican Republic, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Turkey and the U.K. 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 U.S. — could be completed before departure from these foreign airports rather than upon arrival in the states. According to the DHS, expanding the preclearance program is both a security imperative — enabling CBP to stop potential threats before they arrive on U.S. soil — as well as a strong economic tool.

Fast Facts:
- After nearly a year-long process, CBP identified these airports in coordination with the Transportation Security Administration and the Department of State 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.

- 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, U.K.

- In 2014, nearly 20 million passengers traveled from these 10 airports to the U.S.

What They Are Saying:
“A significant homeland security priority of mine is building more preclearance capacity at airports overseas,” said Jeh Johnson, secretary of Homeland Security. “We have this now in 15 airports. I am pleased that we are seeking negotiations with 10 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.”

“When the experience for the international traveler improves, the U.S. economy improves, and again this administration deserves praise for pressing ahead with innovative policies that simultaneously bolster national security and streamline the customs entry process,” said Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association. “Customs preclearance is a program that has proven itself effective, and extending it to these key travel markets will undoubtedly boost visitation. As a bonus, adding preclearance facilities will further relieve pressure on the customs entry process here on our shores, improving the system generally.”