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U.S. Customs and Border Protection is set to open a new pre-clearance facility at Brussels airport after a signing ceremony yesterday.

Following the model in Canada and the Caribbean there have been additional overseas pre-clearance facilities opened in Dublin as well as UAE’s Abu Dhabi airport where all passengers leaving for the U.S. will be processed and then arrive in the U.S. like domestic passengers.

The agreement has to be ratified by the Belgian parliament before the facility can be installed and operated but that’s all but a formality at this point.

U.S. Customs & Border Protections published a press release about the signing yesterday.

The United States of America and the Kingdom of Belgium concluded an agreement today to implement U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Preclearance operations at Brussels Airport (BRU).

The agreement, which follows more than five years of negotiations, was signed in Brussels by U.S. Ambassador to Belgium Ronald J. Gidwitz and Belgian Minister of Foreign Affairs and of Defence Philippe Goffin.

Under the terms of the Preclearance agreement, CBP will station personnel at Brussels Airport to complete customs, immigration, and agriculture inspections of travelers before those travelers board direct flights to the United States. Precleared travelers will bypass CBP and Transportation Security Administration (TSA) security inspections upon arrival in the United States, saving valuable time as they proceed to connecting flights or their destination. …

Preclearance operations will commence after the signed agreement is ratified by the Belgian parliament and after the U.S. and Belgian governments and the Brussels Airport Company complete all necessary internal procedures. CBP will continue to work closely with its Belgian partners and with commercial air carriers to implement the agreement.

Preclearance increases capacity and growth opportunities for airports and air carriers in the U.S. market while improving the passenger experience for U.S.-bound travelers. To establish Preclearance operations, the host government and airport operator must implement security standards and protocols that are determined by TSA to be comparable to those of the United States and therefore sufficiently effective to enable passengers to deplane into sterile areas of U.S. airports.

Preclearance operations began in 1952 at Toronto Pearson International Airport. Today, CBP has more than 600 officers and agriculture specialists stationed at 16 Preclearance locations in 6 countries: Dublin and Shannon in Ireland; Aruba; Freeport and Nassau in The Bahamas; Bermuda; Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates; and Calgary, Toronto, Edmonton, Halifax, Montreal, Ottawa, Vancouver, Victoria, and Winnipeg in Canada. In 2019, CBP personnel stationed abroad precleared 22 million travelers, representing over 16 percent of all commercial air travelers to the United States.

It surely comes at a strange time to undergo such efforts and the fact that they chose Brussels Airport of all places is kinda odd as well. Are there really substantial flights that would warrant the cost of building and operating a facility there?

The staff (CBP Officers) at these overseas Preclearance facilities are U.S. citizens who earn a premium for being stationed overseas and they earn a pretty penny for their duties.

Conclusion

I’d like to know a bit more about the cost involved and who will end up paying for all this. There are many more airports where such a facility would make much more sense.

So far I had good experiences with using Preclearance in Canada and Dublin. It’s very convenient to arrive and just leave the airport or take a connection without having the uncertainty if you’re going to make it on time.

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