There’s not much worse after a long-haul international flight than waiting in a long queue to clear immigration and customs! The good news, if you’re travelling to the United States, is that you may not need to.
What is US immigration preclearance?
The United States offers border “preclearance” at selected airports in six countries. US immigration preclearance is great for passengers because they complete US Customs & Border Protection (CBP) formalities at their origin airport. Passengers then arrive in the United States as “domestic” passengers, skipping the often-lengthy immigration and customs queues.
Even if you’re just passing through the USA in transit, it is a government requirement that you’ll still need to clear US immigration and customs. By flying to the United States from an airport offering US immigration preclearance, you’ll reduce the risk of getting stuck in a CBP queue and missing your connecting flight.
Airports offering US immigration preclearance must have a special terminal or waiting area exclusively for pre-cleared passengers travelling to the United States.
Which airports have US immigration preclearance?
US preclearance is currently available at 16 airports. This includes most international airports in Canada.
Here is a full list of airports with US immigration preclearance facilities:
- Aruba – Aruba
- Bahamas – Nassau, Freeport
- Bermuda – Bermuda
- Canada – Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal, Ottawa, Calgary, Edmonton, Halifax, Victoria, Winnipeg
- Ireland – Dublin, Shannon
- United Arab Emirates – Abu Dhabi
As US immigration preclearance is quite popular with travellers, airlines that fly to the USA from one of the above-listed airports enjoy a competitive advantage. For example, Etihad Airways is the only one of the Middle Eastern carriers to be able to offer this service. Aer Lingus, based in Dublin, also benefits.
There are currently no US immigration preclearance facilities in the UK. But British Airways is able to offer the service to passengers on its daily Business-only flight from London to New York as there is a refuelling stop in Shannon, Ireland.
Expansion of US immigration preclearance to other airports
The program is being expanded to other airports, but the process takes time. First, the US government must be satisfied that the airport itself is equipped to handle US preclearance and that security screening meets TSA standards. Once an agreement is reached, the process of setting up the necessary facilities still takes some time.
There are airports currently approved for US preclearance that do not yet offer the service, including Stockholm and Punta Cana. There have also been discussions about expanding it to various other airports including Manchester and Tokyo-Narita.
There are no US immigration preclearance facilities in Australia. But the possibility of the service being introduced in Sydney was recently discussed on the Australian Frequent Flyer forum: Rumour: US Customs preclearance for Sydney