The US government has announced a major expansion of its pre-clearance operations, which enable air passengers to be approved for entry into the US before they arrive in the country.
The immigration system has now been expanded to 10 new airports, including Tokyo Narita, which becomes the first East Asian airport to offer the service.
The other nine are Brussels Airport in Belgium, Punta Cana Airport in the Dominican Republic, Amsterdam Schiphol Airport in the Netherlands, Oslo Gardermoen Airport in Norway, Madrid Barajas Airport in Spain, Stockholm Arlanda Airport in Sweden, Istanbul Ataturk Airport in Turkey, and the two UK hubs of London Heathrow and Manchester Airport.
“A significant Homeland Security priority of mine is building more pre-clearance capacity at airports overseas. We have this now in 15 airports,” said US Secretary of Homeland Security, Jeh Johnson.
“I am pleased that we are seeking negotiations with 10 new airports in nine countries. I want to take every opportunity we have to push our homeland security out beyond our borders so that we are not defending the homeland from the one-yard line.
“Pre-clearance is a win-win for the travelling public. It provides aviation and homeland security, and it reduces wait times upon arrival at the busiest US airports,” he added.
Under the pre-clearance system, passengers from these 10 airports will now be able to undergo immigration, customs and agriculture inspection by US Customs & Border Protection prior to boarding their direct flight to the US. This is intended to make it streamline the process for travellers on arrival in the US, as well as identifying any threats before they reach US soil.
The Department of Homeland Security said that more than two dozen airports expressed an interest in opening pre-clearance facilities. Those selected were identified as having the “greatest potential to support security and travel facilitation”.
Prior to the expansion of the scheme, pre-clearance was only offered at airports in Canada, Ireland, the UAE and the Caribbean.