If you want to travel to America, you must go through customs and immigration before you can enter the country. This can often take a long time, as the US is meticulous about checking travellers to the US. But what if you could go through security before even setting foot in the US? If you fly to the US through Ireland, it is possible. In this article, you can read more about what you need to know about preclearance and how to apply for an ESTA.
Getting ahead of the crowds
Thanks to the US preclearance facilities at Dublin and Shannon Airport, you can go through all the checks you need to enter the US before your flight departs. That means no long queues at customs and immigration after a long-haul flight. Just skip the line, grab your bag and leave the airport to go directly to your final destination. Preclearance is available on many transatlantic flights.
Preclearance, what is it?
Normally, you have to pass through customs and immigration at your destination airport in the US. In Ireland, however, there are two of the few airports outside the US where you can go through all these checks before boarding your flight. Dublin Airport has a designated preclearance facility in Terminal 2, where US border officials check all necessary documents before you board. Once you have passed through the check, you are admitted to the US. This means that no checks are necessary when you land in the US.
How does preclearance work?
To do the preclearance, you take a flight from the mainland somewhere in the EU to the US, with a transfer in Dublin or Shannon Airport. When you land in Dublin, signs will direct you to preclearance. Here you will go through the TSA security check. In order to go through it as quickly as possible, you will be asked to remove your shoes and belt and have your documents ready before it is your turn. After the baggage check and body scan, your photograph will be taken, your passport scanned and your fingerprints checked. The check itself takes about 80 seconds. You may have to wait in line for several hours, but this is relatively short compared to the waiting times for customs and immigration in America itself. To complete the preclearance, you then hand over your passport and airline ticket to a US official for a brief inspection.
Make use of the preclearance on your overlay in Ireland to save time on your arrival in the US
What are the benefits of preclearance?
So if you go through preclearance in Ireland, you wonʼt have to queue up on arrival in the US, and you wonʼt have to wait long after landing. And if you transfer in North America, your bags will also be automatically checked in at the final destination, so you wonʼt have to check in baggage again when you transfer. Without preclearance, you would have to check in and go through customs a second time. With preclearance, you save more than two hours of travel time because you are checked while waiting for your flight. So you will not have to wait long after you have landed in the US. Often, the transfers are also conveniently planned so that you have enough time to go through the preclearance.
Recently, Belgium and the US signed an agreement to open a third preclearance facility in Europe at Brussels Airport (Zaventem). This preclearance facility will probably be open to travellers in 2024. This means that travellers from the Netherlands will no longer be forced to change flights in Ireland and will be able to go through preclearance before taking a direct flight to the US.
Apply for an ESTA before departure
To pass this inspection, you must have an ESTA America (Electronic System for Travel Authorisation) or Visa America. It is important to know which travel authorisation you need for your trip and which requirements you need to comply to, so that there are no surprises when applying for an ESTA. You can apply for the ESTA online. It is valid for two years and allows you to stay in America for up to 90 days.