The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) named 11 new foreign airports as candidates for the expansion of the U.S. Preclearance program. 

Under the program, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents are stationed at foreign airports, where they conduct immigration, customs and agriculture inspections before travelers board inbound flights.

The latest candidates for the program, unveiled by DHS secretary Jeh Johnson, are airports in Bogota, Colombia; Buenos Aires, Argentina; Mexico City; Milan and Rome, Italy; Osaka, Japan; and Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, as well as airports in Edinburgh, Scotland; Reykjavik, Iceland; and the Dutch half of St. Maarten.

In a statement, Johnson said that expansion of Preclearance is a priority. The program, the DHS says, prevents high-risk travelers from boarding U.S.-bound planes. In addition, Preclearance reduces customs wait times at domestic airports, creates an overall increase in U.S. clearance capacity, facilitates quicker connections to domestic flights and maximizes aircraft and gate utilization.

Johnson said that he is especially eager to expand the program into South America, where no airport offers Preclearance.

At present, Preclearance is offered at 15 airports spread among Aruba, the Bahamas, Bermuda, Canada, Ireland and the United Arab Emirates. The process for a specific airport to go from a Preclearance candidate to actually housing U.S. customs agents can be a long one.

The U.S. and the nine countries involved in the most recent announcement must work out bilateral Preclearance agreements, which would pave the way for the establishment of the actual Preclearance facilities.

In May of 2015, DHS identified 10 airports in nine countries for potential Preclearance expansion. However, it was only last Friday that Sweden became the first of those countries to enter into a Preclearance agreement with the U.S. Even so, Preclearance operations in Stockholm aren't expected to begin until at least 2019, the DHS said.

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