European Governments Take Aim At U.S. Pre-Clearance Facilities In Protest Of Immigration Policies

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New U.S. policies in regards to Immigration and border protection have stirred controversy and several governments whose countries host U.S. Customs Pre-Clearance facilities are now taking issue with it.

Pre-Clearance facilities allow passengers to be processed by customs and border protection on foreign soil and depart from a secured area of the airport, then arriving in the U.S. like a domestic flight.

The first of these facilities have existed in Canada, the Caribbean and then expanded to Europe (Ireland) and now the Middle East (Abu Dhabi). The Netherlands also started talks about such a facility in Amsterdam, but it seems like these plans have now been put to rest.

Reuters (see here) reported last week that the Dutch have aborted talks and the Irish are reviewing the agreement.

The Dutch government said on Tuesday it had ended talks with the United States over allowing “pre-clearance” of passengers travelling from Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport following President Donald Trump’s curbs on immigration.

Pre-clearance allows passengers to clear U.S. customs and immigration before they fly, reducing delays when they land. The Dutch government said in December it was in talks with the U.S. government to introduce the practice at Schiphol.

But during a debate with parliament about the Trump administration’s weekend decision to ban travel from seven predominantly Muslim countries, Foreign Minister Bert Koenders said those talks had now been ended.

On Monday, Ireland said following Trump’s move the practice was under review at Irish airports.

Apart from making a stand I don’t see what this is going to accomplish. These facilities are usually installed to make local airports more attractive to travelers and airlines offering an advantage over departures from regular airport where U.S. departures would be processed at the port of entry overseas.

The Reuters article in regards to the Irish discussion can be found here.

Ireland will conduct a complete review of U.S. customs pre-clearance arrangements at its airports following the concern caused by President Donald Trump’s curbs on immigration, the government said on Monday.

Ireland’s Dublin and Shannon airports are among a handful of locations outside North America where passengers can clear customs and immigration before traveling to the United States under an international agreement between the two governments. …

“I have asked for a complete review of the pre-clearance facilities here in Ireland. I would say that pre-clearance has been of enormous convenience, so these are issues that we are happy to negotiate upon,” Prime Minister Enda Kenny told a joint news conference with British Prime Minister Theresa May.

In a statement, the government added that “there is obviously concern” about the change in the U.S. immigration rules introduced by the new administration, and that Dublin had contacted the U.S. government about the matter.

The Irish government wants to convene a meeting as soon as possible to discuss the recent developments, the statement said.

There has so far been one case where a person was refused pre-clearance to the United States at either airport, a spokesman for the department of transport said. …

Just a day after calling for a review of this practice and associated facilities the Irish government backpaddled according to this updated report, saying that the cabinet is in full support of U.S. Pre-Clearance in Ireland.

Ireland’s cabinet is fully in favor of retaining U.S. customs pre-clearance arrangements at the country’s airports, Prime Minister Enda Kenny said on Tuesday, a day after calling for a review of the arrangements. …

Kenny has ordered a complete review of the arrangements following what the government described as the concern caused by President Donald Trump’s curbs on immigration that are being carried out by U.S. officials at the two airports.

“The cabinet this morning were very fully in favor of retaining our pre-clearance and the Attorney General has confirmed that the issue in so far as the legality is concerned is a matter entirely for the United States courts,” Kenny told parliament.

This pretty much confirms that the PM’s first statement was nothing more than a populist speech just for the sake of saying something even if it doesn’t make any sense.

After that announcement he might have gotten briefed upon the fact that without the pre-clearance facilities, the use of the Irish airports for U.S. Departures by connecting passengers from Europe would pretty much cease and Ireland as well as the airports would lose a good chunk of revenue.

I can imagine the General Managers of Shannon and Dublin Airport have made a few calls to the Prime Ministers office after that announcement.

Politics of the whole matter aside, it’s usually the host country that pays a large chunk of the associated cost that comes with an overseas CBP pre-clearance facility simply for the reasons outlined above. It really saves a lot of time going through the immigration process before your departure and then arrive as a cleared flight at the destination in the U.S.

Bear in mind the staffing expense alone is a lot as these CBP officers get paid extra for being stationed overseas.

Conclusion

I doubt the U.S. Government or CBP would care at all if these Pre-Clearance facilities in Europe would shut down. After all they ease just a tiny fraction of the traffic and the airports could very well handle these few additional flights as international arrivals in the U.S. as well.

From a consumer perspective, I can’t see why I would use a connection via Dublin or Shannon if it weren’t for this benefit. Even now I consider it a complete waste of time if you’re able to use Global Entry or Mobile Entry to clear U.S. Immigration. All such a shutdown would do is to take the edge away from these airports even further. As far as Amsterdam is concerned, this decision will accomplish just that on the expense of KLM and their partner Delta. Others might disagree but I just find Schiphol horrible to begin with so no loss there. Question is: Is KLM happy about this move?

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  • Chak

    I don’t agree with you on Schiphol, for an airport this size it is quite nice.

    • Aaron

      I agree with that. Schiphol is one of the better airports in Europe. Skytrax would agree with that.
      I don’t think the average traveler to the US knows about these pre-clearance facilities, so I don’t think it will have a negative impact on the airports that decide to remove or end talks about them. I only see this as a middle finger towards the US government.

      • Jill Gillham

        Agree about pre-clearance. For most people in my leisure travel cohort who don’t have easy access to long haul LCCs, Ireland has a reputation for ticket prices that can be $300-$500 cheaper than flying into ‘Big Name’ European airports. They know nothing about pre-clearance but the $1400 per person package self-driving tour of Ireland they saw on Groupon sounds like a reasonable way of trying out their shiny new American passport.

        • cscasi

          Well, I have traveled to Ireland a couple of times with my wife and our United States of America passports are NOT “shiny new” as you put it. And Americans who travel through the airports that have pre-clearance are obviously made aware that they are there.

  • Flyboy

    Overheard at UK Border Controls: “Why isn’t there a line for US citizens? Isn’t England a colony?”

    • Belle Fitz

      Lol no way. I thought about the dedicated line for US citizens in addition to the EU line but never was stupid enough to think that

      • cscasi

        Read up and get educated! There is no dedicate line for American citizens entering the U.K.

    • cscasi

      Well, if you were only right. Americans queue just like everyone else entering the U.K! Just those with British passports go through a speedier shorter line that the rest.

      • Emmanuel Kalispera

        If you got an EU passaport you get through a speciel queue too.

      • CV3V

        In my experience, as a British passport holder if fly into LHR for a domestic connection off international – every nation is lumped into the same queue.
        Fly international into a regional airport and the non EU passengers are in a separate shorter queue, so get through faster than UK/EU nationals!

      • Alan

        Incorrect – UK citizens get no priority over EU citizens or anyone else eligible to use ePassport gates, unlike in the US where US citizens get priority. In fact if flying to a regional airport a non-EU citizen will actually get through quicker, which I think is a pretty silly state of affairs.

  • Nan Yang

    Schiphol is one of the best airports in Europe, and making a stand IS important

    • Chris

      Schiphol is totally ridiculous. Never understood why they don’t segregate air side and land side like every other airport — instead if you connect there you have to go through full security checks again, nearly missed connection flights multiple times because of this and now avoid Schiphol like the pest!

    • cscasi

      A stand for what? More socialist vitriol being spewed by left wingers?

  • “Apart from making a stand” – but that is the entire point. You stand up for rights and values. You do not permit and facilitate a foreign govt to conduct activities that you find to be morally fundamentally unacceptable.

    • AA48

      What rights and values are being stood up for? I think that if the Europeans who have been moaning and groaning really had any balls they would immediately ban all flights to and from the USA.

      • Discrimination on the basis of religion. Regarding banning flights, no – for a wide variety of different reasons, principally however because the USA has not banned any flights, so it would not be an appropriate tit for tat action – however we have not reached that stage yet.
        Stopping the discharge of a discriminatory policy in your country is very different and far more immediate thing, it is essentially ensuring you are not complicit in it.
        Any response to it, would be a later thing.

        • AA48

          Don’t sound so pompous. All the President is trying to do is stop terrorists entering his country. His 90 day moratorium on entrants from certain countries is simply to allow time to see how the current regulations are working. Sad you think that is such a bad thing.

        • cscasi

          The United States has NOT banned or discriminated because of RELIGION. It has just chosen a select few countries where it seems most of the terrorists seem to come from; for extra vetting. They could care less whether or not they are Muslim or otherwise. If they were discriminating on Religion, they would have instituted a ban for all Muslims from any and all countries around the world! And, you are right, it has not banned any flights from any countries (except for those countries that the Federal Aviation Administration has found, lack the proper government aviation safety control – in other words they have lax or no real oversight of their airlies and allow operation of poorly maintained aircraft and airline crews which are not properly trained.

          • Patrick

            If only there was a Likex1000 button.
            Agree 100%… the misinformation being peddled by the majority of the US and for that matter world media to their already dumbed down audience is potentially leaving the US open to greater threats.

        • Rohan Relaxo

          Aye dont act the fool pompous David! Everyone knows the terrorists come from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, UAE, Pakistan which is why these countries have been blacklised by Donald duck ….you really need to start reading up on this shit. You should ask Patrick for some information…dude’s a genius

      • Belle Fitz

        Haha totally agree! Or impose extra scrutiny and delays for US passport holders at European borders lol

        • cscasi

          Ah, but they are not coming from countries where many of the Muslim terrorists have come from! How many Americans have gone to Europe and bombed and killed European citizens?

    • cscasi

      How do you know that these governments and its people see these pre-clearance facilities as morally fundamentally unacceptable? What reliable sources can you quote to back up your claim?

  • David

    The Canadian situation is quite different from Europe or anywhere else (other than Mexico were PreClearance ever to be offered there…certainly not under the current regime though) since it permits nonstop, direct flights to dozens of US cities where airports do not have INS/Customs facilities. Any cities in the US flown to from Europe or the Gulf emirates already have INS/Customs facilities and there’d be little demand to fly a 777 into Nashville et al, third tier US cities. I doubt the Canadian government (my government) will want to see them removed for that reason. Though who knows what the Trump regime will decide to change!

    • cscasi

      Where do Canadian registered commercial flights fly from Canada to United States cities where no INS?Customs facilities? Kinda hard for Canadian citizens or other than American citizens to be on those aircraft landing in a U.S. city with no immigration and customs clearance facilities. Got to have those passports checked and stamped and their bags have to be cleared by U.S.customs at the arrival airport in the United States.

      • David

        The whole point of PreClearance is just that, pre-clear you into the US in a foreign country by US authorities before departing for the US. Once through the normal immigration/customs procedure of PreClearance you are de facto in the US. Major Canadian airports all have a separate Transborder gate area that doesn’t intermingle passengers with those flying domestic or overseas. You are embargoed as is your aircraft so it can land at any airport in the US even if that airport doesn’t have normal customs/immigration facilities, nor do you go through those facilities at airports where there are such facilities. There is no need to recheck passports or luggage upon arrival. That’s the whole point of the program.

        I can’t list all the US airports without immigration/customs facilities that Air Canada, its regional affiliates, or WestJet (or even US airlines like DL, AS, AA and UA) fly into but there are or have been quite a few. Most flights to Canada from these and other US airports depart from domestic gates and not the international ones. Whether this will change when/if the US introduces an exit process of checking passports to record those departing is an open matter. Since Canada-bounfd passengers must pass through Canadian customs/immigration at their first point of entry into Canada, and our authorities share this data on a real time basis with US border officials, there may be no change for people flying to Canada from the US so domestic gates can still be used. (Before boarding any flight to Canada from the US, passengers are required to have their passports checked by the airline’s staff prior to boarding.)

        The point is, once you’re through a PreClearance facility at any airport, you’re in the USA.

  • MWDB

    Those that believe banning citizens from (those) 7 Muslim countries from entering is going to make the US safer are perhaps rather naive…..

  • Bradley

    I have a question about the per-clearance process as I usually drive into Canada for work but this time I will be flying. How much extra time is needed for per-clearance? I will be flying out of YVR (Vancouver) several times over the next couple of months with early morning (6am) flights.

    • Bradley, according to the YVR website, the US CBP Pre-Clearance facility there opens at 4:30AM every day and the first flights to the US begin at 6am, but it looks like there are several flights departing to the US within the first half hour so it could get busy. So I’d assume they would expect passengers for these early flights to arrive around or before the 4:30AM time (as you’ll still have to go through airport security first). If you don’t have Global Entry you might save some time by using some of the new technologies available from US Customs, such as Mobile Passport. You can access the YVR page on Customs Pre-Clearance here: http://www.yvr.ca/en/passengers/navigate-yvr/customs-and-immigration/us-customs-and-border-protection