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The US Ambassador to Colombia has been quoted confirming a longstanding rumour regarding US immigration and South America. In 2018, the President of Colombia hinted that the US could be opening a “pre clearance” facility in Bogota, which would allow US immigration authorities to screen USA bound passengers before they take off. According to outgoing US Ambassador Kevin Whitaker, that’s officially in the pipeline.

What’s A US Pre-Clearance Immigration Facility?

It’s just as it sounds. A pre-clearance facility means that US Customs & Immigration Officials can process prospective travellers before they board a plane to the USA, allowing the plane to then land as if it’s a domestic flight. Yep, rather than doing immigration when you land, you’d do it before you take off.

The idea here is that processing passengers abroad can help to decongest US immigration lines at major airports, while also allowing the US Government to screen travellers before arriving on US soil. It’s easier for immigration officials to simply turn someone away where they originated, than to turn them away and need to find them a way back to their country of citizenship.

Bogota To Receive US Pre Clearance Facility In 2019/2020

Presently, the United States operates immigration pre clearance facilities in the Bahamas, Ireland, Abu Dhabi, Aruba, Bermuda and Canada, and potential future agreements with countries such as Sweden, The Netherlands and Saudi Arabia are in play. But the outgoing US Ambassador to Colombia is adding fuel to rumours that a pre-clearance facility could be landing in Bogota, first. In an interview with El Tiempo (In Spanish), a leading Colombian newspaper, Mr. Whitaker was quoted stating…

“There will be a pre-clearance facility in Colombia with representatives from my Customs & Immigration service. This is very important and President Duque and I are very interested in this issue. We already started the process. I wanted this to be done during my stay here, but it couldn’t happen in time. But within a year, or year and a half it will exist.”

This reiterates the initial rumour created by Colombian President Ivan Duque, who first told the same paper of pending plans in January of 2019. The facility would be built at Bogota’s Dorado Intl Airport, and would involve bringing a staff of US CBP officers down to Colombia for duty.

While pre-clearance facilities have their benefits, like screening potentially risky passengers before boarding a flight rather than after, they don’t come without headaches, either. In a world where more passengers find themselves connecting than ever, the need to allow time to “pre clear” adds valuable minutes, or even hours to minimally allowed connections, which make it harder for airlines, airports to effectively coordinate schedules and flights from elsewhere in the region.

There’s no specific timeline on the opening of this facility, other than the one year, to one and a half year mention from Ambassador Whitaker, but after confirmation from the President of the country in question and the outgoing ambassador of the country hoping to launch the facility, it’s fairly safe to say that this is going to become a reality sooner than later.

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