If you've ever flown into the U.S. from overseas and missed a connection because of a long line at Customs, or had to collect and re-check your bags, you'll be cheering at the announcement that U.S. Customs and Border Protection is negotiating to add pre-clearance facilities in nine new spots overseas.
And if you've flown to the U.S. from Toronto or the Bahamas, where it already exists, you know what it means. Basically, pre-clearance means that U.S. CBP personnel, stationed at an overseas location, check you through Customs and Immigration before you get on your flight, so when it lands in the U.S., it's treated as a domestic flight. You get off the plane and go. And if you're going on to another city, your bags can be checked straight through.
The locations to be added, assuming negotiations are successful, include such high-traffic, high-angst airports as Heathrow and Tokyo's Narita. From Dept of Homeland Security, the full list of 10 airports in 9 countries
- Brussels Airport, Belgium
- Punta Cana Airport, Dominican Republic
- Narita/Tokyo, Japan;
- Amsterdam/Schipol, Netherlands
- Oslo Airport, Norway
- Madrid-Barajas Airport, Spain
- Stockholm Arlanda Airport, Sweden
- Istanbul Ataturk Airport, Turkey
- London Heathrow Airport
- Manchester Airport, United Kingdom
Pre-clearance has other benefits, too, besides those for travelers. It allows more flights to serve U.S. airports that don't have a customs facility. A prime example is New York's Laguardia, which gets many flights from Canada and pre-cleared sites such as Aruba and the Bahamas, freeing up spots at JFK and Newark.