When you travel to a new country, you have to go through an immigration checkpoint. The purpose of the immigration checkpoint is to vet you before you’re allowed to get out of the airport. You are supposed to show your visa (if required), travel documents and state your purpose of visit. These immigration checkpoints are almost always at the destination country. However, in the last few years, the USA has “Pre-clearance Checkpoints” outside of the country to clear visitors before they are flying to the USA. These “Preclearance Checkpoints” are manned by Customs and Borders Protection (CBP) personnel.
In this scenario, preclearance means that you are screened for eligibility to enter the USA prior to boarding your flight. In other words, you will be clearing customs and immigration prior to departure instead of after arrival, which goes against the norm. When you eventually land in America, you will be treated as a domestic passenger, that is, you will simply collect your baggage and be able to get out of the airport. The main advantage of preclearance is that you avoid the long lines at US airports.
Normally when you land in the US, you will not only be sharing the queue with your fellow passengers from your flight but also several international flights that landed around the same time. This usually leads to long wait times, sometimes, in excess of two hours to clear your customs and immigration.
Documents required for preclearance
You would need to show your passport and visa (if required). Any other documents pertaining to your documents will need to be provided. For example, if you are an international student on an F-1 visa, you’d need to show your I-20. CBP officer might ask you any questions pertaining to your travel and nature of your visit. All passengers will also need to hand over the customs declaration form (6059B), which needs to be submitted one per family.
List of airports that offer US preclearance
- Calgary International Airport
- Edmonton International Airport
- Halifax Robert L. Stanfield International Airport
- Montreal Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport
- Ottawa MacDonald-Cartier International Airport
- Toronto Pearson International Airport
- Vancouver International Airport
- Winnipeg International Airport
- Grand Bahama International Airport
- L. F. Wade International Airport
- Lynden Pindling International Airport
- Queen Beatrix International Airport
- Dublin Airport (Ireland)
- Shannon Airport (Ireland)
- Abu Dhabi International Airport (UAE)