US border pre-clearance facilities to open at Brussels Airport

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1952
Preclearance at Dublin Airport

As announced earlier in our forum, US border pre-clearance facilities will be opened at Brussels Airport, so that American border control can be completed before departure. This decision, announced by Vice-Premier Alexander De Croo during an interview on Belgian broadcaster Radio 1, has been anticipated since the first discussions in 2017.

Thirty officers of the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will be stationed at Brussels Airport to enable travellers with destination the United States to arrange the border formalities in Brussels before boarding and to enter the United States more quickly and without hassle upon arrival.

This should give Brussels Airport a significant advantage over other European platforms in ease of use for passengers travelling to the US. However, an airport spokesperson said she didn’t know yet when the preclearance would be operational.

Preclearance operations — begun in Toronto in 1952 and now in Aruba, the Bahamas, Bermuda, Canada, Ireland (Dublin and Shannon) and the United Arab Emirates — has gained prominence since Sept. 11, 2001.

Also for the US are the advantages of preclearance for national security and travel facilitation so great that in 2014 the CBP and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)  announced a formal process for international airports to apply to host preclearance operations.

The best means we have to disrupt and deter terrorist threats is the strategic stationing of CBP law enforcement personnel overseas, pre-clearing travellers before they board U.S.-bound flights,” said Dylan DeFrancisci, CBP director of preclearance operations. “CBP intends that a decade from now, one in three air travellers to the U.S. will be precleared, up from 16 percent in fiscal year 2014.”

DHS cooperated with the Departments of State and Transportation on the airport preclearance application parameters. At the close of the application period, more than two dozen foreign airports had expressed interest. “DHS sent technical teams from DHS and State to visit each candidate airport to assess the feasibility of preclearance operations at each location,” said Randy Howe, director of the CBP preclearance expansion integrated program team.

DHS and State evaluated and prioritised all interested foreign airports. Each applicant was rated on four criteria: facilitation, security, feasibility and strategic impact with multiple subcategories, including items like national security, passenger facilitation, wait-time impact and economic benefits. “This created a composite score that drove the final decision,” said Howe.

The 10 airports identified in May 2015 as candidates for preclearance were:  Brussels Airport, Belgium; Punta Cana Airport, Dominican Republic; Narita International Airport, Japan; Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, Netherlands; Oslo Airport, Norway; Madrid-Barajas Airport, Spain; Stockholm Arlanda Airport, Sweden; Istanbul Ataturk Airport, Turkey; London Heathrow Airport and Manchester Airport, United Kingdom. These sites represent some of the busiest departure points to the U.S. — nearly 20 million passengers travelled from these 10 airports to the U.S. in 2014.

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