Passengers departing from Brussels Airport to the US will be able to clear US customs before boarding, a procedure that could each passenger precious time upon arrival in the US. The news was announced on September 28th, following a deal between the Belgian and US governments.
There are currently 16 pre-clearance sites for travel to the U.S in six different countries, but only the controls at Dublin and Shannon in Ireland are in the EU. Brussels would be the first airport in continental Europe to have such a system in place.
Belgian Foreign Minister Philippe Goffin and the US Ambassador to the Kingdom of Belgium Ronald J. Gidwitz signed the pre-clearance agreement in the presence of Arnaud Feist, CEO of Brussels Airport Company.
The Belgian government released a statement specifying some of the details pertaining to the agreement, such as the fact that staff from U.S. Customs and Border Protection will be deployed at Brussels Airport to carry out checks.
“This agreement, which has been under discussion for several years, will help further strengthen the already substantial trade and investment between the two countries and promote Brussels Airport as a trans-Atlantic hub,” expressed Minister Goffin.
With pre-clearance, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers in Brussels will conduct the same immigration, customs, and agriculture inspections of international air travelers currently performed upon arrival in the United States. Under pre-clearance, travelers arriving in the United States on flights from Brussels will be able to bypass CBP and Transportation Security Administration inspections and proceed directly to their connecting flight or destination.
U.S. Ambassador Gidwitz framed this as an historic deal that will enable Brussels Airport to bolster its position as a leading commercial hub in Europe and serve as an important pillar in the recovery for the aviation and tourism sectors.
The Belgian parliament still needs to ratify the deal, and the technicalities for running the system need to be worked out by the company running the airport.