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Why passengers from UAE will skip immigration queues in USA

12 Jan

From this Thursday, all US-bound passengers flying from Abu Dhabi will be treated as domestic passengers upon their arrival in the US, thus sparing them from tiring customs and immigration procedures after a long journey.

This has been possible as all passengers to the US – even those with connecting flights from Mumbai, Delhi and other Indian destinations – would have pre-cleared US customs and immigration at Abu Dhabi Airport itself.

“Air travellers on all Etihad Airways flights to the United States from this week will be able to experience the benefits of arriving in the US having pre-cleared US Customs and Border Protection at Abu Dhabi Airport,” the airline noted in a media statement.

The US operates border preclearance facilities at a number of ports and airports in foreign countries. They are staffed and operated by US Customs and Border Protection officers. Travellers pass through Immigration and Customs, Public Health, and Department of Agriculture inspections before boarding their aircraft.

This process is intended to streamline border procedures, to reduce congestion at ports of entry, and to facilitate travel between the preclearance location and some US airports that may not be equipped to handle international travellers.

US preclearance at Abu Dhabi Airport is the only one of its kind in the Middle East, and the UAE’s capital is one of a small group of airports around the world to offer passengers preclearance into the US.

Preclearance exists at most major Canadian airports, enabling more convenient travel from those cities to the US. Arrangements also exist with some airports in Bermuda, The Bahamas, Aruba, two airports in Ireland, and the Abu Dhabi International Airport in the UAE.

While certain flights from Abu Dhabi have been pre-cleared since January last year, Etihad announced that, from Thursday, January 15, US preclearance will also open for the early morning EY103 to New York JFK and EY183 to San Francisco flights, both of which conveniently connect with inbound services from Mumbai, Delhi and other cities in India and the Indian Subcontinent.

The new early morning US preclearance operation complements the mid-morning one which caters for Etihad Airways passengers on flights to Chicago (EY151), Dallas-Fort Worth (EY161), Los Angeles (EY171), New York JFK (EY101), and Washington, DC (EY131), who all proceed through the facility.

“We’re delighted that from this Thursday, all air travellers flying to the United States from Abu Dhabi will enjoy the benefits that US customs and immigration preclearance offers,” said Peter Baumgartner, Etihad Airways’ Chief Commercial Officer.

“Since its opening in January last year, the US preclearance has been extremely popular with air travellers, particularly those from the Indian Subcontinent and Middle East region. More than 325,000 people have passed through the facility, arriving in the US as domestic passengers,” he noted.

The preclearance process provides passengers with the unique opportunity to pass through all required checks including US customs, immigration and security conveniently while in Abu Dhabi before they board their flight to the US, enabling them to avoid queues on arrival.

Another key benefit of US preclearance is that baggage security screening meets United States TSA security standards, allowing air travellers who connect onto a US domestic flight to have their baggage checked through from Abu Dhabi to their final destination.

During its first 12 months of operation, the US preclearance in Abu Dhabi has improved the passenger experience through the introduction of automated passport control (APC) kiosks and greater numbers of officer processing desks.

The self-service APC kiosks expedite the US entry process for American, Canadian, and eligible visa waiver program international travellers, by providing an automated process through US preclearance’s primary inspection area.