It makes it easier to get back home while reducing the risk of potential terrorists entering the country.
Flying to and from certain foreign countries is about to get a whole lot more efficient, as the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) identified more destinations they would like to add to the current list of pre-clearance locations around the world.
Specifically, the duo recently announced that 11 new foreign airports in nine different countries were selected for possible pre-clearance expansion by this time next year. Airports on this new list include Ministro Pistarini International Airport in Buenos Aires; Mexico City International Airport in Mexico City; Rio de Janeiro-Galeao International Airport in Rio de Janeiro; and Milan-Malpensa Airport in Milan (to name a few).
For travelers, expanding pre-clearance should streamline customs operations for returning to U.S. soil and decrease wait times at border checkpoints. With these new facilities in place, the same immigration, customs, and agriculture inspections of international air passengers performed upon arrival in the United States can be completed before departure at foreign airports instead.
According to a July article in the New York Times, there also is a safety aspect to the policy: Extending border security to foreign airports ultimately can reduce the risk of potential terrorists entering the country.
That article quotes David J. Bentley, an analyst at the Center for Aviation in Manchester, England, as saying, “Most of the airports selected have a history of being used by jihadists as an entry and exit point to launch terrorist attacks. It seems that counterterrorism needs are driving the process rather than long customs queues at U.S. airports.”
Currently, the United States has on its pre-clearance list 15 destinations in six countries. CBP also staffs a pre-inspection facility for passenger/vehicle ferry traffic to the United States in Victoria, Canada.
Earlier this month, the DHS announced it would be rolling out pre-clearance in Stockholm Arlanda Airport in Sweden. Authorities estimated the operation could open by 2019, noting that before pre-clearance can begin the airport must erect facilities to house the expanded operation, and the two parent countries must agree on internal processes.
Stockholm had been one of 10 airports identified in May 2015 for pre-clearance expansion. Other cities tabbed at that time were Punta Cana Airport, Dominican Republic; Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, Netherlands; Istanbul Ataturk Airport, Turkey; and London Heathrow.
Authorities hope to announce pre-clearance expansions at some of these sites in the coming months.
Matt Villano is a freelance writer and editor based in Healdsburg, California. In nearly 20 years as a full-time freelancer, he has covered travel for publications including TIME, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, Sunset, Backpacker, Entrepreneur, and more. He contributes to the Expedia Viewfinder blog and writes a monthly food column for Islands magazine. Villano also serves on the board of the Family Travel Association and blogs about family travel at Wandering Pod. Learn more about him at Whalehead.com.