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US to Expand Airport Preclearance Centers

  • VOA News

File - Airline passengers wait go through the Transportation Security Administration security checkpoint at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

File - Airline passengers wait go through the Transportation Security Administration security checkpoint at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

The United States says it is considering expanding to 10 foreign airports an airline preclearance program that allows visitors to go through customs before boarding a flight to the United States.

The Department of Homeland Security announced Friday that it is entering negotiations to add preclearance programs in Belgium, the Dominican Republic, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Turkey and the United Kingdom.

Two airports in the United Kingdom -- London Heathrow and Manchester -- are part of the potential expansion.

The Department of Homeland Security says the 10 airports represent some of the busiest departure points to the United States, with nearly 20 million passengers having traveled from them to the U.S. in 2014.

Homeland Secretary Jeh Johnson said the preclearance program ensures the United States is "not defending the homeland from the one-yard line."

"Preclearance is a win-win for the traveling public. It provides aviation and homeland security, and it reduces wait times upon arrival at the busiest U.S. airports," Johnson said in a statement.

The preclearance program allows travellers to undergo immigration, customs, and agriculture inspection by U.S. customs officials before boarding a direct flight the United States. It is already available at 15 airports in six countries -- Ireland, Aruba, the Bahamas, Bermuda, Canada and the United Arab Emirates.

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