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