Western Governors’ Association
Policy Resolution 2016-02
Foreign Visitor Preclearance
- The U.S. Department of Commerce estimates that nearly 75 million foreign visitors entered the country during 2014. The vast majority of these travelers arrived in the United States by plane.
- Tourism is a significant revenue source for western states and territories, many of which count international travelers as major contributors to state and local economies and look to international tourism to drive local employment.
- Arriving airline passengers sometimes experience wait times in the airport passport and immigration processing area in excess of 90 minutes.
- Foreign visitor preclearance allows international travelers to be screened by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) officers prior to boarding an international flight. This preclearance allows passengers to bypass U.S. customs stations upon arrival at an American airport.
- The Transportation Security Administration requires passenger and property screening at foreign preclearance airports to conform with U.S. aviation security screening standards.
- Preclearance arrangements between the U.S. and Canada began in 1952. Since that time CBP has established over 600 American law enforcement officers and agricultural specialists at 15 preclearance airports in six countries: Ireland, Canada, Aruba, The Bahamas, Bermuda and United Arab Emirates.
- On March 16, 2015, U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Jeh Johnson signed a new preclearance agreement with the government of Canada. On May 29, 2015, CBP announced its intention to expand air preclearance operations to ten additional airports in nine countries:
- Brussels Airport, Belgium;
- Punta Cana Airport, Dominican Republic;
- Narita International Airport, Japan;
- Amsterdam Airport Schipol, Netherlands;
- Oslo Airport, Norway;
- Madrid-Barajas Airport, Spain;
- Stockholm Arlanda Airport, Sweden;
- Istanbul Ataturk Airport, Turkey;
- London Heathrow Airport, United Kingdom; and
- Manchester Airport, United Kingdom.
- These represent some of the busiest last points of departure to the United States – in 2014 nearly 20 million passengers traveled from these airports to the U.S.
- The DHS has supported preclearance as both a security imperative – enabling CBP to identify and stop potential terror threats before they reach U.S. soil – and a strong economic opportunity.
B. GOVERNORS’ POLICY STATEMENT
- In recognition of the economic and national security benefits provided by foreign visitor preclearance, Western Governors support CBP’s use of preclearance to reduce excessive wait times at American immigration and processing areas.
- Western Governors support the efforts of DHS and CBP to increase the number of international airports and countries at which foreign visitor preclearance is used. Such expansion will streamline legitimate international travel and will further protect the safety and security of American citizens as well as international visitors.
- Preclearance also allows smaller airports with no or few full-time CBP personnel to accept direct international flights from preclearance-approved foreign airports. Western Governors recognize the benefit this provides small or rural airports that accept a significant number of international travelers, for instance Antonio B. Won Pat International Airport in Guam, where passengers on arriving international flights can wait 2-3 hours for visa processing.
- In recognition of the benefits provided by foreign visitor preclearance, and in order to expand its use, DHS should work to complete the negotiation process with foreign countries and add new preclearance-approved international airports as soon as possible.
- Additionally DHS and CBP should work with western states to help identify optimal international foreign visitor preclearance airports for future consideration and should work with western state tourism directors to expand international travel opportunities in western states.
C. GOVERNORS’ MANAGEMENT DIRECTIVE
- The Governors direct the WGA staff, where appropriate, to work with Congressional committees of jurisdiction, the Executive Branch, the Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol to achieve the objectives of this resolution including funding, subject to the appropriations process, based on a prioritization of needs.
- Furthermore, the Governors direct WGA staff to develop, as appropriate and timely, detailed annual work plans to advance policy positions and goals contained in this resolution. Those work plans shall be presented to, and approved by, Western Governors prior to implementation. WGA staff shall keep Governors informed, on a regular basis, of their progress in implementing approved annual work plans.
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