New airport procedure for visitors to US

New airport procedure for visitors to US
Credit: Brussels Airport

Travellers from Belgium to the United States can look forward to stricter airport controls in the future --- but only from 2024.

The change relates to a measure agreed by the federal parliament this week, covering the issue of what is known as ‘preclearance’. In other words, passengers travelling to the US go through the checks at Zaventem that would normally take place at their destination.

The measure has its advantages, by shifting the delays from destination to point of departure, in this case in Belgium, where passengers are generally stuck in the limbo of waiting between passport control and boarding.

The airport is keenly looking forward to the change said spokesperson Nathalie Pierrard, but it will be slow in coming. Now only does the change require new infrastructure to be installed at the airport, it also requires staff from US customs to be transferred to Belgium and familiarised with the procedures.

Still to be determined, however, is the question of who will pay for the changes required to introduce the new system – expected to cost ‘several million euros’ according to source at the airport quoted by De Tijd.

The new system will not only be costly, it will also not come quickly – 2024 at the earliest, according to estimates. That, despite the idea first having been mooted in May 2015, when ten airports, including Brussels, were selected as candidates for preclearance. Of those airports, which include Amsterdam, Madrid, Tokyo and Istanbul, only Dublin has so far been able to put the system into operation.

But the despite the delays – exacerbated most recently by the Covid pandemic – Brussels is likely to be the next to put the system of preclearance into operation, though not before 2024. At present, apart from Ireland, the system is in operation at Aruba, Bermuda, the Bahamas, Canada and Abu Dhabi.

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