a row of blue machines

Even for American citizens, or at least those without Global Entry, arriving off a long haul flight and queueing up for US immigration is never fun. Sometimes its minutes, sometimes it’s hours, and it’s hardly ever very cordial.

Wouldn’t it be nice if when you landed off that flight from Europe, or South America, you’d already completed all the formalities, and you could just hop off the plane like you were on a domestic flight? In four new countries, including a potential first of its kind in Asia, that’s happening.

a close up of a passport

US Expanding Immigration Pre-Clearance

Immigration pre-clearance is an expanding US travel concept, which brings US immigration checkpoints to foreign countries. It allows the United States to screen all travelers and their belongings before they depart, rather than after they arrive.

For all passengers, pre-clearance is great, because all flights from that point of origin bound for the United States land in the USA like a domestic flight, without the need to spend extra time in the airport or go through any further formalities on arrival.

You do all the waiting in line and passport stamping before you depart, regardless of what passport you hold. For eligible travelers, these USA pre-clearance facilities also offer Global Entry, which speeds up the process via automated machines for members of the trusted traveler program.

After years of success in Nassau, Dublin, Shannon, Abu Dhabi and more, the USA’ Immigration Pre-Clearance program is expanding.

Presently, the USA has 16 pre clearance locations in six countries, including Aruba, Bahamas, Bermuda, Canada, Ireland and the United Arab Emirates. In the coming months, and 2021, the program will expand to three more locations, with Brussels, Belgium up first.

But now, Taiwan is also expected to join, after applying to bring a fourth new US Pre-Clearance option to Taipei.

This would make Taipei an increasingly vital Asian travel hub, as US bound travelers seek out transit via the city to bypass any immigration queues on arrival. Brussels is a popular European departure point for US bound flights, and will make the travel experience all the more attractive and seamless as travel rebounds.

a row of blue machines

Last year, GSTP was among the first to break the English language news that Colombia was in final negotiations to open a pre-clearance facility at Bogota’s El Dorado Airport, and those plans are moving ahead full steam. US Customs & Border Protection also told Travel & Leisure that a third pre-clearance facility in Amsterdam is only a matter of time.

Each US pre-clearance agreement requires support of the host country and the United States, involving complicated financial agreements and control over the facility.

Why Add Facilities While Travel Is Quiet?

Why now? Pre-clearance adds an element of control to the movement of people into the United States, rather than relying on airline staff and authorities in other countries to ensure people who aren’t eligible – or these days, are unhealthy to fly – don’t make it on the plane in the first place.

Sending passengers back to their point of origin can be expensive for airlines and countries alike, and pre-clearance eliminates many of those variables. But for travelers, there’s little not to like about the whole ordeal, with all the stresses and queueing up taking place before a long flight, rather than after.

When you land at New York JFK, Los Angeles International or any other gateway, you can simply wheel your carry on directly out the airport, and get started with your next big adventure. Travel to the USA may actually become easier soon, and that’s great news.

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

Join the Conversation


  1. I guess that’s good news, but my experience with this in Aruba was pretty horrific. First, you have to get to the airport a minimum of three hours before departure (and that is really calling it close). Second, the lines are incredibly long and the process is unbearably slow. Also, there is no place to sit as you move through the lines. I saw a number of elderly people who looked like they might not make it to the end of the line. Then, you have to go through both Aruba customs and U.S. customs.
    I would prefer to stick to the existing model if nothing can be done to speed up the process. I waited 3-1/2 hours in line.

    1. I think a key issue is the “how”. Currently LHR serves USA from too many terminals. Would need to condense for it to make sense, or have the facility become a feeder to the terminals. It’s not impossible with a covid-19 terminal reshuffling, but would undoubtedly create some issues if one were installed in T5, giving BA competitive advantage over UA, DL, VS, etc.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *