Last updated: 01:38 PM ET, Fri March 11 2016

US, Canada to Expand Pre-Clearance Program

Impacting Travel | Monica Poling | March 10, 2016

US, Canada to Expand Pre-Clearance Program

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Prime Minster Justin Trudeau and President Barack Obama have announced that Canada’s pre-clearance program will be expanding. The announcement came during an official state visit to the White House.

Under the current pre-clearance program, passengers at eight participating Canadian aiports and one rail station clear customs and immigration before departing Canada, cutting their wait times when arriving in the United States. The program is being expandied to include Toronto’s Billy Bishop Airport, Jean Lesage Airport in Quebec City and Montreal’s Central Station.

U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow applauded the expansion of the program.

"Pre-clearing passengers from Canada is good for our national security,” said Dow. “Canada's strong security standards ensure that travelers entering the U.S. through Toronto, Quebec City or Montreal will be thoroughly vetted prior to arrival.

Pre-clearance is currently in effect at Calgary International Airport, Edmonton International Airport, Halifax Robert L. Stanfield International Airport, Montreal Trudeau International Airport, Ottawa MacDonald-Cartier International Airport, Toronto Pearson International Airport and Vancouver International Airport, as well as at Pacific Central Station, Vancouver’s primary rail station.

Each year, some 11 million passengers are pre-cleared for flights to the U.S. at the eight (currently) participating Canadian airports. In addition to reducing wait times, the pre-clearance provides passengers with more flight options, allowing them to connect at airports such as Ronald Reagan Washington Airport, which doesn’t have in-house customs facilities.

Additionally, the pre-clearance program also helps reduce workload for DHS agents at the busiest airports across the United States.

"Today's announcement is welcome news to many domestic airports here in the U.S.,” said Dow. “These additions in Toronto, Quebec City, and Montreal will help reduce the workload for customs agents at U.S. ports of entry, allowing agents to focus resources on higher-risk targets.

Under the revised agreement, the two governments will also expand their information sharing capabilities, in particular with respect to respective no-fly lists.

Preclearance operations were first implemented in Canada in 1952, when U.S. officers began screening passengers at Toronto International Airport. A formal preclearance agreement between Canada and the United States did not exist, however, until 1974.

Trudeau’s visit to the White House marks the first time in 19 years that there’s been an official visit to the U.S. by a Canadian prime minister.

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