The agreement, which follows more than five years of negotiations, was signed in Brussels by U.S. Ambassador to Belgium Ronald J. Gidwitz and Belgian Minister of Foreign Affairs and of Defence Philippe Goffin.
Under the terms of the Preclearance agreement, CBP will station personnel at Brussels Airport to complete customs, immigration, and agriculture inspections of travelers before those travelers board direct flights to the United States. Precleared travelers will bypass CBP and Transportation Security Administration (TSA) security inspections upon arrival in the United States, saving valuable time as they proceed to connecting flights or their destination.
“This bilateral agreement strengthens the U.S.-Belgian security partnership and will help our countries stop bad actors at the earliest possible point in the travel continuum,” said CBP Acting Commissioner Mark A. Morgan. “Preclearance also increases growth opportunities for airports and air carriers in the U.S. market while improving the travel experience for lawful U.S.-bound passengers.”
Preclearance operations will commence after the signed agreement is ratified by the Belgian parliament and after the U.S. and Belgian governments and the Brussels Airport Company complete all necessary internal procedures. CBP will continue to work closely with its Belgian partners and with commercial air carriers to implement the agreement.
Preclearance increases capacity and growth opportunities for airports and air carriers in the U.S. market while improving the passenger experience for U.S.-bound travelers. To establish Preclearance operations, the host government and airport operator must implement security standards and protocols that are determined by TSA to be comparable to those of the United States and therefore sufficiently effective to enable passengers to deplane into sterile areas of U.S. airports.
Preclearance operations began in 1952 at Toronto Pearson International Airport. Today, CBP has more than 600 officers and agriculture specialists stationed at 16 Preclearance locations in 6 countries: Dublin and Shannon in Ireland; Aruba; Freeport and Nassau in The Bahamas; Bermuda; Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates; and Calgary, Toronto, Edmonton, Halifax, Montreal, Ottawa, Vancouver, Victoria, and Winnipeg in Canada. In 2019, CBP personnel stationed abroad precleared 22 million travelers, representing over 16 percent of all commercial air travelers to the United States.