The US Department of Homeland Security is planning to expand immigration pre-clearance to ten new airports including London Heathrow.
The nine countries that are in discussions with the US are Belgium, the Dominican Republic, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Turkey and the United Kingdom. Negotiations and agreements with each country will now take place.
The plan is to expand pre-clearance at both Heathrow and Manchester airports. The other airports under consideration are Brussels; Punta Cana, Dominican Republic; Tokyo Narita; Amsterdam Schipol; Oslo; Madrid-Barajas; Stockholm Arlanda; and Istanbul Ataturk.
Each airport was identified based on volume and interest. In total, the ten facilities had close to 20 million passengers travel to the US in 2014.
Jeh Johnson, US secretary of Homeland Security, said: “A significant homeland security priority of mine is building more pre-clearance capacity at airports overseas. We have this now in 15 airports. I am pleased that we are seeking negotiations with ten new airports in nine countries.
“I want to take every opportunity we have to push our homeland security out beyond our borders so that we are not defending the homeland from the one-yard line.
“Pre-clearance is a win-win for the traveling public. It provides aviation and homeland security, and it reduces wait times upon arrival at the busiest US airports.”
In 2014, over 16 million passengers were cleared through a pre-clearance facility. Currently there are 15 air locations in six countries.
These locations are: Dublin, Shannon, Aruba, Freeport, Nassau, Bermuda, Calgary, Toronto, Edmonton, Halifax, Montreal, Ottawa, Vancouver, Winnipeg and Abu Dhabi.
American Airlines has responded in favour of the announcement.
Robert Isom, CCO of American Airlines, said: “Expanding air pre-clearance is a tremendous step forward for improving the overall travel experience for our customers and welcoming more visitors to the United States.
“Pre-clearance eases the congestion at our US gateway airports and ensures our customers get to their destinations faster.
“We fully support Secretary Jeh Johnson and the Obama administration’s plans… and we are excited to begin discussions on expanding preclearance facilities.”
In January, US immigration pre-clearance was extended to all Etihad Airways passengers flying from Abu Dhabi to the US (see news, January 2015).