United States border preclearance

United States border preclearance

The United States maintains border preclearance facilities at a number of ports and airports in foreign countries. Operated by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection service, travelers pass through Immigration and Customs, Public Health, and Department of Agriculture inspections before boarding their aircraft, ship or train. This process is intended to streamline border procedures, to reduce congestion at ports of entry, and to facilitate travel between the preclearance location and some U.S. airports that may not be equipped to handle international travellers.

Preclearance exists at most major Canadian airports, providing convenience to travellers from those cities to the U.S. Arrangements also exist with some airports in Bermuda, The Bahamas, Aruba and 2 airports in Ireland. In Canada, U.S. Border Preclearance is also known by its French name, Prédédouanement. When travelers from a preclearance port arrive in the U.S. they do so as domestic travelers (and are not subject to further inspections). This is particularly beneficial to those who have an ongoing connection (such as a connecting flight), as there is no risk of border delays causing them to miss their connection. (A corresponding drawback, however, is that a delay in preclearance could cause the passenger to miss the outbound flight.) Air travelers with further connections have their baggage checked through to their destination; without preclearance the baggage would have to be collected prior to customs inspection and then checked-in for the subsequent flight.

Preclearance provides considerable flexibility to the airlines operating in those routes where such program is available. For example, major U.S airlines and their subsidiaries routinely operate many daily flights from locations like Toronto, Ontario, Canada, or Nassau, Bahamas, to New York City. Thanks to the presence of preclearance facilities in Toronto and Nassau, the airlines can conveniently direct their flights from these locations to land at LaGuardia Airport, rather than the much larger and busier John F. Kennedy International Airport. This allows them to save the valuable space at JFK for their other international arrivals.

Preclearance applies to both U.S. citizens as well as citizens of most other countries who travel to the US. As the U.S. requires those in transit through the U.S. to pass through U.S. immigration (unlike many other countries, which permit airside transfers), preclearance also applies to transit passengers.

These facilities exist because of agreements made between the federal government of the United States and the government of the host country. Travelers who have passed through the U.S. government checks, but whose flight or ship has not departed, remain in the legal jurisdiction of the host country. U.S. officials may question and search travelers, but they do not have powers of arrest (either for customs or immigration violations, or for the execution of outstanding warrants), although they can deny boarding. Local criminal laws apply, and are enforced by local officials.


Informal preclearance arrangements between the U.S. and Canada began in Toronto, Ontario, in 1952, following a request from American Airlines. This was extended and formalized with Canada's passage of the Air Transport Preclearance Act passed by the Canadian House of Commons in 1974, the [http://laws.justice.gc.ca/en/1999/20/2689.html#rid-2690 1999 Preclearance Act (Bill S-22)] and with the 2001 Canada-U.S. Agreement on Air Transport Preclearance. [ [http://w01.international.gc.ca/minpub/Publication.aspx?isRedirect=True&publication_id=380038&Language=E Press release] by the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade] The following Canadian airports operate U.S. preclearance facilities:

*Calgary International Airport
*Edmonton International Airport
*Halifax Stanfield International Airport
*Montréal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport
*Ottawa Macdonald-Cartier International Airport
*Toronto Pearson International Airport
*Vancouver International Airport
*Winnipeg James Armstrong Richardson International Airport

The U.S. operates a preclearance post at Pacific Central Station (Vancouver) for Amtrak Cascades rail service between Vancouver, British Columbia, and Seattle, Washington.

The U.S. operates preclearance posts at both the port of Vancouver and the port of Victoria. This is particularly valuable to travellers using cruise liners which visit Alaska or that depart from Vancouver and have a first stop at other US coastal cities situated along the west coast of North America (Seattle, Astoria, San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego).

Caribbean and Atlantic Ocean

Informal preclearance with Bermuda began in 1960. The Bahamas and the U.S. signed a treaty in June 1974 formalizing the process.
*Aruba - Queen Beatrix International Airport
*The Bahamas - Grand Bahama International Airport in Freeport
*The Bahamas - Lynden Pindling International Airport in Nassau
*Bermuda - Bermuda International Airport


The U.S. and Ireland entered into a [http://historical-debates.oireachtas.ie/D/0367/D.0367.198606060003.html preclearance arrangement] in 1986. Only immigration checks are performed, with customs and agriculture inspections still done on arrival in the U.S. — therefore passengers from Ireland must still land at international terminals.

Dublin Airport's Terminal 2, currently being built, will have full US Customs and Border Protection facilities. This will allow passengers from T2 to leave US airports (including domestic airports, if any airline decides to serve them) upon landing without further inspection. Shannon will have similar facilities by the end of 2008.

*Shannon Airport
*Dublin Airport


ee also

*Immigration to the United States
*List of United States immigration legislation
*United States Department of Homeland Security
*United States Citizenship and Immigration Services

External links

* [http://www.cbp.gov/xp/cgov/toolbox/contacts/preclear_locations.xml CBP website list]
* [http://www.canadianembassy.org/border/transportation-en.asp Preclearance in Canada]
* [http://www.customs.gov/xp/cgov/newsroom/press_releases/archives/legacy/2002/82002/08132002_2.xml Details of the beginning of preclearance]

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