Brussels Airport is set to become the latest overseas airport to offer passengers the chance to clear US immigration before they board their flight. After talk during the summer about the Belgian capital’s airport becoming the next in the United States’ “Preclearance” program, it was yesterday confirmed by US authorities.
Run by US Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the program allows America-bound travelers to complete all customs and immigration formalities before boarding the plane. In essence, passengers can then arrive in the United States as though they have just gotten off a domestic flight.
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30 agents could be based in Brussels
While an actual timeline for the facility to open hasn’t yet been announced, it is understood that 30 American Customs and Border Protection agents will be based at Brussels Airport (BRU).
“The work is only now beginning. We are now going to work with the airlines and other partners to see what the impact will be on operations and costs, and how we can organize everything practically.”
In the past, other countries have talked about US preclearance, but nothing ever developed in most cases. However, now that an agreement has been signed, Brussels could become the third European airport to offer the service. The other two airports are Dublin and Shannon and were selected because Ireland gets many tourists from the United States.
Over 4.5 million Irish emigrated to the United States between 1820 and 1860. Today more than 34.5 million Americans claim Irish heritage, hence many tourists visiting Ireland from the US.
What is good about preclearance?
- If you have ever arrived in the USA from overseas, busy airports like Miami or JFK can leave you standing in a line for what seems like forever. By being screened before your flight, on arrival, you walk off the plane with no waiting or standing around.
- Doing the immigration check at the departure airport allows the authorities to stop people deemed high-risk or people who do not have the necessary paperwork from arriving in the country.
- In many countries, people in transit (passing through one country to get to another) do not need entry visas so long as they remain in the airport. In the United States, this does not exist, which means all passengers have to clear United States Immigration.
The only real downside to preclearance is that it can lead to delays if a passenger is not allowed to board the US-bound plane, and the airline has to retrieve their baggage.
It could attract US carriers
With Brussels being the de facto capital of the European Union and the headquarters for NATO, Brussels Airport’s preclearance facility could attract US carriers.
When British Airways had it’s London City Airport (LCY) to JFK flights, a big plus for business travelers was the ability to clear Customs and Immigration at Shannon Airport (SNN) and not have to wait in New York.
What do you think about Brussels Airport getting a preclearance facility, and would you use it if you could? Please let us know what you think in the comments.