Taiwan Applies For US Pre-Clearance Facility

Filed Under: China Airlines, EVA Air

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.

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

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

Bottom line

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?

  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

  33. Now if only Delta would return to Taiwan. Sadly, Delta pulled out of Taiwan after its partnership with communist state owned-China Eastern started. Well before Narita was terminated.

  34. It is a bizarre concept that in the US a subscription makes you less likely to be a threat to the country. It is also ridiculous that you believe that paying for a service such as global entry is the right thing to do to avoid queuing – it isn’t; the queue should be short for everyone. As a non-US citizen I would go out of my way to make use of preclearance, the amount of time it would save me when landing in the US would instantly override any inconveniences of it. I have never landed in the US and got through immigration in under three hours, preclearance would be a god send.

  35. The US has no business to exercise authority on Chinese soil!

    China should flex its muscles to prevent this from happening.

  36. Why don’t we treat the US arrival airports like the US/Mexico border–if you want to enter into the US, just do it. The fact that people who cannot walk into the US just because of geography are denied free access seems very racist to me. We can have mandatory US immigration for US citizens, but every airport should have an uncontrolled area that allows non-US citizens to bypass the immigration control if they wish.

  37. Hmm a lot of “entitlement” comments here. For the general traveling public it makes sense for those who value their time in a private lounge or status dashing through lines it lessens ones time enjoying that extra bit of status time. Disclaimer I have all of those “privileges” as well however I am also in favor of pre clearance as a security matter which I am in more favor of than I am a free drink in a private lounge, I get enough of that on AF Premier.

    Travel safe.

  38. Kinda pointless to have pre-clearance in Taiwan when looking at the main use-case of Pre-Clearance. Was originally designed so that airports without international facility can recieve interantional flights. At the time this was mainly for Canada/Transs-Border Flights. I don’t see a Taiwan to MKE flight or OMA flight coming anytime in the future. Mexico would definitly be, and maybe London, a better use case for this. That being said, I can see this facility being very political as a Biden admistration will want to stand strong against China.

  39. Comments seem to fall along partisan lines.

    Those that point out that the benefits of Global Entry are less dramatic with preclearance are like those that want to protect the 1%.

    Those that want preclearance are Democrats who want to protect the rights of the poor, paid for by the rich.

    Against it, you are Trump, MAGA.
    For it, you are AOC and Bernie Sanders, maybe Biden.

  40. A colleague of mine was traveling with another colleague LHR JFK and was delayed because the 3rd colleague had no status and no GE. That caused an impatient wait.

    Preclearance also results in less stress to connect.

    If there are sufficient flights then a post Preclearance lounge is possible but unlikely.

  41. Given the relatively high volume of Asia-TPE-US transit traffic that China Airlines and EVA handle, addition of pre-clearance will lengthen the minimum connect time at TPE (while by the same token shortening it on the US side for those making onward connections, but the volume of those passengers, at least for the Taiwanese carriers, is much lower). Due to slot constraints at TPE, the airlines have limited flexibility to shift their schedules to make these connections continue to work. It made sense for places like DUB and SNN back when those airports (and Aer Lingus) saw minimal connecting traffic, but for transit heavy airports it’s more of an inconvenience than not.

  42. @derek

    Didn’t know that Senators John Cornyn (R-TX), James Inhofe (R-OK), Gary Peters (D-MI), Mitt Romney (R-UT), and Marco Rubio (R-FL) were aligned with Bernie and AOC.

    Frequent traveler biases are quite different from politics.

  43. It’s “Preclearance” on the CBP website and on the wall in the picture. It’s sloppy writing and editing that it’s “Pre-clearance” and “pre-clearance” in the post and in the comments.

  44. Even if you have Global Entry, unless your US point of entry is your final destination, you still have to wait for your luggage to come out and re-check it in. Removing that hassle would be big for a lot of passengers especially for people in the region not going to a major US destination (also it should be mentioned that TPE itself is relatively underserved when it comes to non-stop destinations in the US) or a Central/South American destination, even if they were US passengers with GE.

    That said, this does seem more like a political move than anything else, trying to get DHS to ruffle China’s feathers by operating in territory that they consider to be theirs.

  45. Gary Leff’s take on this is correct. There’s a strong political element here independent of whether preclearance benefits travellers. It’s to bolster US-Taiwan ties and push back against China.

  46. This is awful news. Instead of addressing archaic customs procedures, the expansion of pre clearance continues. Not to mention this negativity impacts lounge access!

  47. So as an American does this mean when I get to TPE to come home I don’t have to take off my shoes and my electronics out of my bag when I check in or is it only for flights landing in the US?

  48. Do the countries that have this facilities help offset the costs? All of the American officers are entitled to free housing and other benefits which they would not get in the US. Undoubtedly they love the program but do we really need to waste tax dollars. I’ve only experienced this once in transit from China through Canada to the US and I was quite disappointed that all of the priority pass lounges could not be accessed as they were in other terminals.

  49. They want to add more US facilities in Taiwan to prevent China’s evasion.
    If there are more US agencies in Taiwan, it is more likely China would hit US facilities and Americans during attacks, especially airport.

    It’s not really a transportation thing. It’s a political thing.

  50. Traffic between US and Taiwan or Asia in general is not expected to increase any time soon, and there is no flight planned between Taiwan and secondary US airports. So just as some have pointed out, this is more about politics than about the actual travel experience.

  51. Yeah, this won’t help the travel experience. At least there’s space in the Bradley terminal at LAX. I hate when Air Canada lands a domestic terminal and I have to navigate the hoard sitting around the Starbucks in the baggage claim. Yes, it’s faster but international arrivals would probably like to not be in a claustrophobic domestic nightmare upon arrival.

  52. This is a significant step in eventually re-recognizing Republic of China, i.e. Taiwan, as a sovereign country.

    Formally recognizing People’s Republic of China, i.e. mainland China at the expense of Republic of China back in 1979 was perhaps the single biggest American foreign policy mistake since the end of WWII (helping PRC into WTO was the 2nd biggest).

    PRC’s narrative regarding Taiwan is full of contradictions. They call Taiwan a renegade province, but the fact is, Republic of China exists long before PRC. Truth is, PRC is the renegade regime, not ROC.

  53. Same as your thought Ben. As someone who holds GE, I really don’t want TPE opens an US Pre-Clearance facility, in exchange of possible delay of US-bound flights, and having to leave lounge early to clear US immigration.

  54. As foreigner who have crazy long lines at various US airports, I definitely welcome pre-clearance in Taiwan, both in practicality and politics. And if it’s gonna be in the new T3, I’m sure TPE will handle it well.

  55. @pkjh

    Agreed. As a non-US citizen who frequently visits the US (pre-Covid…) – mostly MIA, LAX, IAD, IAH and ORD – the wait times at US immigration are more often than not 1-2 hours, and I’ve yet to see a priority lane anywhere. More frustratingly, I would say that on average no more than 40% of counters are staffed and in-use. If the US wanted to decrease wait times for non-US citizens, it could easily do so by actually opening up all available immigration counters.

    That said, I recon that pre-clearance will probably just shift wait times from arrival to departure, as you still have to get to the pre-clearance facility way before your actual flight, so I don’t know if this is an actual improvement or not, especially for us with lounge access at departure.

  56. A lot of comments regarding pre clearance only makes sense to large (congested) airports like LAX. Most flights from Taipei arrive in large cities such as LAX and ORD. The only exception is ONT. As someone who lives in a city with no direct service to TPE. It makes sense because they are trying to cater to passenger transiting into smaller cities within the US.

  57. It may take 2 years for Taiwan Authority to arrange such a facility that they enjoy it for one month before the “change”

  58. The majority of non-US citizens are not eligible for GE, hence pre-clearance makes perfect sense. I’d rather have a mediocre lounge than a three hour wait upon arrival.

    Why can’t the US look at how all other countries do it? You know – have enough staff at immigration and customs. Problem solved, and likely far cheaper than posting CBP officers abroad.

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