In late 2020 I wrote about how Taipei Taoyuan International Airport in Taiwan might become the first airport in Asia-Pacific to get a US Pre-Clearance facility. Taiwan had applied for one of these facilities, and now some US politicians are speaking out in support of this.
Taipei Taoyuan may get US Pre-Clearance facility
In late 2020 Taiwan applied to offer a US Pre-Clearance facility, offering US immigration screening before passengers board US-bound flights.
Former US Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf revealed this during a virtual event in December, 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 2020, 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.
Taipei Taoyuan Airport might get a US Pre-Clearance facility
Politicians speak out in favor of US Pre-Clearance facility
Just this week several politicians have sent a letter to US Customs and Border Protection, urging “full and fair consideration of Taiwan’s application.” The letter was signed by Senators John Cornyn (R-TX), James Inhofe (R-OK), Gary Peters (D-MI), Mitt Romney (R-UT), and Marco Rubio (R-FL).
The letter claims that this facility would “improve the ease of travel between the United States and Taiwan and reinforce the importance of our relationship with Taiwan.”
The letter points out the following benefits to such a facility:
“By conducting immigration and customs screening at the point of departure, CBP is able to stop inadmissible travelers before they board the plane, and legitimate travelers are able to bypass long lines upon arrival. Airlines also are able to park precleared flights at far more gates at airports in the United States than international flights that require screening upon landing. A reduction in the number of arriving passengers who must be screened will ease crowding at domestic CBP facilities, and less busy facilities will make inbound travel easier for everyone.”
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
Taiwan has submitted an application for Taipei Taoyuan Airport to get a US Pre-Clearance facility. Now several US politicians have spoken out in favor of this concept. 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.
Personally I find the arguments made by the politicians to be rather odd, and to not address the core problem. As I view it, the only benefit of a Pre-Clearance facility that we can all agree on is that inadmissible travelers are denied before they even board a flight.
But is this really the solution to addressing “long lines upon arrival?” How about changing staffing and improving technology to make the arrivals process more seamless? And flights that use Pre-Clearance are able to park at more gates? How about investing more in US airport infrastructure?
Would you like to see TPE get a US Pre-Clearance facility?