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International Sports Travelers Can Expect More Preclearance Programs

1 Jun, 2015

By: Mary Helen Sprecher
CBP to Expand Operations to 10 More Foreign Airports in Nine Countries

Travel to international competitions – even for amateur and youth teams – is on the rise and accordingly, so are concerns about safety. As a result of heightened security, the U.S. has announced plans to extend U.S. Customs and Border Control  (CBP) preclearance operations to 10 foreign airports in nine countries.

According to an article in TravelWeekly, the U.S. is beginning negotiations for preclearance programs at 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.

Preclearance means travelers go through immigration, customs, and agriculture inspection by a CBP officer before boarding a direct flight to the United States. CBP officers stationed abroad are the ones who perform the screening, which conform to U.S. security screening standards.

According to the CBP website, preclearance is focused solely on passenger processing (in other words, not on cargo).  Processing includes anything a traveler is bringing into the U.S. that belongs to them, for example: their luggage, clothing, sports equipment, souvenirs, currency and any other personal effects.  

The U.S. already has preclearance facilities in 15 overseas airports. These include 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.

Over 16 million passengers through these preclearance locations in 2014. Another 20 million came to the U.S. through the airports where preclearance screening will be instituted.

Officials say preclearance will make not only those on flights feel safer, but those at home.

“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.

In a separate announcement, Mexico’s Programa Viajero Confiable, or Trusted Traveler Program, is planning to expand to 10 more airports, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

The program, similar to the U.S. Global Entry Program and Canada’s Nexus program, allows expedited screening of foreign travelers at immigration entry points. It was introduced in early 2014 and currently is in operation at airports in Mexico City, San Jose del Cabo and Cancun.

It was not immediately known which airports were picked for the expansion.

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