Taiwan Applies For US Pre-Clearance Facility

Filed Under: China Airlines, EVA Air

Taipei Taoyuan International Airport in Taiwan might become the first airport in Asia-Pacific to get a US Pre-Clearance facility.

Taipei Taoyuan may get US Pre-Clearance facility

It’s being reported that Taiwan has applied to offer a US Pre-Clearance facility, offering US immigration screening before passengers board US-bound flights.

US Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf revealed this during a virtual event earlier this week, stating that the US is looking at Taiwan’s application. If approved, Taipei Taoyuan Airport would be the first in the region to have such a facility.

The request for such a facility was first filed back in September, though as you’d expect everything is moving a bit slower right now due to coronavirus.

For context, Taipei Taoyuan has nonstop flights to the US on China Airlines, EVA Air, and United Airlines, and as of 2022 we can also expect nonstop flights on Starlux Airlines.

China Airlines operates several routes to the US

It’s important to note that just because an application has been filed doesn’t mean this will actually happen. In the past both Hong Kong International Airport and Seoul Incheon International Airport applied for such facilities, but ultimately abandoned the plans due to logistical challenges, as well as the potentially decreased sales at duty-free shops.

Other airports have plans for these facilities as well, ranging from Bogota to Brussels.

Taipei Taoyuan Airport might get a US Pre-Clearance facility

What exactly is a US Pre-Clearance facility?

For those of you not familiar with US Pre-Clearance facilities, the way this works is that US-bound air passengers clear immigration prior to boarding their flight to the United States.

As someone with Global Entry I selfishly don’t love the concept, since immigration on arrival takes me a few minutes at most. However, I understand the concept in theory:

  • Some US airports have long immigration wait times, so this could reduce some of the burden on US immigration facilities
  • It’s a way of screening high risk passengers before they board flights to the US, which in theory makes more sense than screening them upon arrival
  • The US is one of the few countries in the world without a sterile international transit facility; this means you have to clear US immigration even if you’re only making an international-to-international connection in the US (almost all other countries allow passengers connecting internationally to stay in transit without clearing immigration)

Airports seem to view these facilities as a competitive advantage, marketing it as a way to have a more seamless trip. However, in reality these facilities can often lead to flight delays. If someone needs to go into secondary inspection, then either the plane will be delayed for them or their bags will be offloaded, both of which can be time consuming.

Dublin Airport US Pre-Clearance facility

Bottom line

Taiwan has submitted an application for Taipei Taoyuan Airport to get a US Pre-Clearance facility. Only time will tell if this actually comes to fruition, as we’ve seen all kinds of airports state their intent to get one of these facilities, only for it not to happen.

Personally I’m not a fan of the US Pre-Clearance system, so I hope this doesn’t happen. With features like Global Entry and Mobile Passport, many of the pain-points of the immigration process can be minimized. That being said, I recognize that some people feel differently.

Would you like to see TPE get a US Pre-Clearance facility?

(Tip of the hat to Curtis)

  1. Pre-clearance makes sense for Canada. Especially considering it means the flights can land at smaller airports without those facilities. However, I personally avoid pre-clearance as it takes longer for the bags to arrive than it does to go through immigration. I tend to view pre-clearance as a negative rather than a positive.

  2. I think China will be angry (although everything makes Beijing angry nowadays). It’ll be like having American police on what they consider “Chinese soil”.

  3. I personally prefer it. Really nice to step off the flight and straight into the terminal than the speed walk to immigration even with Global Entry.

    It’s not something I would go out of my way to use but given the option to use it or not, I personally would.

  4. Access to non-international airports (those without immigration services) a plus, particularly with charter flights. This could be great for operators running package/group tours of the U.S.

  5. Long haul flights from Taiwan are not going to be landing at small “non-international airports without immigration services.” As you mention, anyone with Global Entry is not a fan because it takes all of 1 minute when you land. I don’t mind pre-clearance though.

  6. Yes.

    Other things bring equal, I choose flights offering pre-clearance so those airlines who think it offers a competitive advantage are, in my case, right.

    Lucky wrote:
    “in reality these facilities can often lead to flight delays”.
    Do you have any actual data for that assertion? If so, how do total passenger-hours of delays for pre-clearance flights compare with total passenger-hours of delays with immigration queues on non-PC flights arriving in the US?

  7. Does pre-clearance make more sense in transit hubs (Dubai, Istanbul, Frankfurt) rather than O&D airports? Seems like if you are in between connecting flights, then pre-clearance is a good use of time. Of course, that is less time spent in the lounge or airport shopping.

  8. Not a fan of pre-clearance because it cuts down on lounge time before departure and there is usually insufficient differentiation for class of service, Global entry etc.

    However, my usual international gateway is ORD and it might be a suitable tradeoff to avoid T5 international arrival. A concern is that they would still use T5 because of gate space gate space and cargo handling facilities. That would still mean a terminal transfer for me to get my connecting flight.

  9. Pre-clearance is really not something a pay much attention to. While Global Entry means I usually do not have to wait in line on arrival, if I check luggage (which is maybe 50% of the time for international trips), then I end up waiting 20+ minutes at baggage claim. Over half the time I fly into my home airport (SEA), so I am not worried about a connection. As u600213 pointed out, some terminals where they international flights arrive can be far/annoying (ORD terminal 5, TBIT at LAX). Limiting lounge time on departure can lessen the experience.

    Overall, for me there are minor pros and cons each way, and it really is not that important to me.

  10. It’s been a long time since I’ve departed from pre-clearance airport, plus it was before my Global Entry days. These days, is there a dedicated area for Global Entry at pre-clearance airports?

  11. If preclearance can screen for covid also then I think that would be wonderful! Any way to help stop covid spread is essential!

  12. I too hate pre-clearance at the point of origin, but as an Aussie who flies to the US East Coast visa Asia partly to avoid the immigration nightmare of LAX (and partly to avoid flying US carriers, especially on domestic routes after a long-haul flight), this could be a game changer. I’d rather get the hassle out of the way after a shortish flight to Taipei and then stroll straight out of the airport after 22 hours in the air.

  13. I really do not like preclearance. Right now, it is a joy to transit through TPE — good lounges, fast and efficient security lines, and easy to walk from gate to gate. Also there is no need to allow extra time for immigration and extra heavy and time-consuming US-style security (shoes off, and millimeter wave detectors). I believe that virtually no preclearance security station permits a fast track for TSA Precheck — everyone gets heavy and intrusive security treatment.

    Once I get stateside, immigration is usually not a problem. Preclearance at TPE would ruin all of that for travel to USA.

  14. Preclearance is great. International terminals in the US are in the worst airports. The more I can avoid garbage airports like LAX, the better. Granted this makes more sense with Canadian cities than Taipei, since you’re not going to have a direct flight between Taipei and Long Beach for instance even if you were allowed to, but it does make connections much easier since you don’t have to traverse international to domestic terminals and go through immigration, baggage, and back through security again upon arrival.

  15. Preclearance only makes sense if you are flying to LAX or JFK, where immigration is invariably a nightmare.

  16. Would there be lounges air-side after pre-clearance, or would they all be air-side in the general international departure area? I’m assuming that US-cleared passengers would be kept separate from the other international travellers. Ben mentioned baggage needing to be retrieved if passengers are denied clearance. How is it possible to clear US customs without having bags available to be checked or does the US forego that if passengers are not originating at the pre-clearance airport?

  17. What is the benefit to this for the airport/city that installs and operates it? Many times/places there could be logistical/physical hurdles that you point out, along with the potential for lost revenue from duty free and other retail operations. But are there any additional cost for the airport? Or rather, what are the benefits other than potentially having carriers add more flights/increase their schedules because it’s a value added benefit. Thanks.

  18. If you’re not a US citizen going through immigration in US airports is absolutely a nightmare. Wait times in line to clear immigration can take more than a few hours. Pre-clerance would be great, gating at a domestic terminal and just strolling out without that hassle of clearing immigration after a 12 hour flight.

  19. As someone who flies out of TPE frequently and have NEXUS, I selfishly hope this doesn’t happen. TPE is so compact and efficient (outside of peak summer season) that you can arrive 70-80 mins before your flight and make it to the gate with time to spare. And with NEXUS, US immigration usually only takes me a few minutes.

    That said, I can see how this would make things easier for my friends & family who are transiting onto US domestic flights or to Canada / South America. Not needing to deal with the unpredictable immigration times and rechecking bags at JFK, LAX, SFO, etc. would make the journey a lot less stressful for leisure / non-frequent travellers.

    But as Lucky pointed out, if even HKG and ICN can’t sort out the logistics, I wonder what are the chances of this actually happening.

  20. Not really sure about US Pre Clearance facilities either way.

    Does PC help passengers connecting through the US onto a third country? Say one wanted to go from Taiwan to Brazil via the US, what changes if anything thanks to PC?

  21. @seanpodge As an example, say you want to go TPE-IAH-GRU. As it stands today, you have to clear customs & immigration at IAH, reclaim bags, and then re-check for your connecting flight to GRU. With Pre-Clearance, once you reach IAH, you would simply walk off your flight and then head to your connecting gate, because you already cleared US customs before boarding your first flight (there is no “outbound immigration” at US airports). In theory, it makes those types of connections actually possible.

  22. @MeanMeosh That’s what I was thinking too. Would fix a lot of the problems transiting the US, even if only one way.

  23. Preclearance sucks. Will never forgive it for making me leave the Etihad First lounge an hour early for no reason whatsoever.

  24. “If someone needs to go into secondary inspection, then either the plane will be delayed for them or their bags will be offloaded, both of which can be time consuming.”
    This is completely inaccurate. In all Canadian airports, passenger luggage on precleared flights to USA are NOT loaded onto the plane until the passenger is completely through US customs and immigration. This means that if a passenger is sent to secondary inspection and does not make their flight, no luggage needs to be offloaded as there is never a situation in which a passenger stuck in secondary inspection’s luggage would be on the airplane.
    Even under Pearson’s (and other airports like Vancouver’s) new baggage system in which you drop off your bag prior to joining the U. S. customs and immigration line, your bag is under the control of U.S. immigration until they clear you into the United States. So while it may appear that your bag is already released to be loaded onto the plane, your bag is in fact in the direct physical possession of the U.S. customs until you are cleared into the USA. You can read all about this baggage system at: https://airportimprovement.com/article/baggage-identification-system-eases-connections-toronto-pearson
    Again, the point is that there is a never a situation in which a flight would be delayed by a passenger stuck in secondary inspection because the airline need stop remove his baggage from the plane since asaid passengers bags would still be in the possession of U.S. customs as I’ve just explained. This is the system in all Canadian airports with US preclearance and I imagine the same system applies to other US preclearance facilities around the world as well.

  25. No. I hate pre-clearance. That means I need to go to the airport earlier, I won’t be able to enjoy lounge, shopping or in my case the HK airport express where I can check-in easily right in the city. Also, I don’t know if I am lucky or what, but my past trips to the US (from HK) I never encounter any immigration long lines at the destination and I don’t even have a global entry. I remember when I’ve arrived to Los Angeles one time, it only took me about 20 minutes from stepping out of the plane til I pick up my luggage.

  26. I don’t like this idea. The lounges for US-bound flights will likely suck big time. Just take a look at the AC lounges for the pre-cleared flights. They are horrible.

  27. When China introduced pre clearance in HK west kowloon station, the hongkies and westerner (a lot of Europeans) were angry. Lol
    Meanwhile, Gare du nord has UK immigration and US (which protester hail as their freedom fighter partners) has immigration in Other countries…
    smh… dumb youth. Be like singapore. No freedom but smart.

  28. In DUB and SNN there are lounges and duty free and food places in the post pre clearance section of the airport. Until called for your flight you remain in main departures with access to lounges and a fuller range of shops etc etc

    You aren’t expected to spend hours in the post pre clearance departures area. At SNN they have people checking what flight you are on and will turn you back to main departures until it’s time for them to start processing your flight.

    GE is also operational but you still need to show your BP to an officer to scan so they can show you a photo of your bag so you can verify that it’s yours. If they want to do a physical inspection of the bag they can still do that. Remember not every bag gets inspected when you arrive normally in the US so why would they suddenly want to inspect every bag at a pre clearance station? They have gone through the approriate security scans.

    And the only passengers in the post pre clearance area are those flying to the US.

    As to baggage delivery on arrival into the US I don’t think it takes any longer than if you arrive from a non pre clearance airport. It just seems that way because you aren’t waiting in a CBP queue. The wait time is the same it’s just a different part of the process as to where you do the waiting!

  29. Greater Chinese (including HK, MO and TW) and SE Asian carriers still rely on duty-free shopping as its mainstream income flow, and fly to major gateway American airports with less frequency. Not to mention China Airline is playing SE Asia-Taipei-US transfer biz model and the abundant choices of Taiwanese goods. In all, I do not see any merit in starting preclearance site at TPE even without Chinese interference.

  30. Well, Taipei already has flights to Ontario, and Taoyuan Terminal 3 is currently under construction with pre-clearance in mind. Knowing Taiwan, duty free and lounges should not be an issue.

  31. Preclearance absolutely wrecks the transit experience in Canada. Flying from Europe transiting through YUL, for example, you first have to go into a barren holding room to wait for your checked bags to show up on some screen, at least 20 minutes. Then on to dedicated transit-only US immigration with only a few booths and no global entry option. Finally you get into the boring US gate area, with fewer shops and restaurants. Didn’t have lounge access at the time but I doubt it would be their flagship experience.

  32. TPE is overcrowded far before COVID-19 and the new T3 keep delaying due to contract issue

    So i dont think it will happen for next few years

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