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Irish Voice News
U.S. Customs Pre-Clearance for Ireland
November 19, 2008
By April Drew
IRISH Minister for Transport Noel Dempsey was in Washington on Monday, November 17 to sign an agreement with U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff allowing Ireland to provide full pre-clearance for flights to the U.S. from Shannon Airport next summer and Dublin Airport in 2010.
Ireland is to become the first country outside of the U.S. to offer passengers traveling from its two main airports, either on a scheduled or charter commercial airline, full pre-clearance facilities.
Speaking in Washington at the signing ceremony on Monday, Dempsey said, “This Inter-Governmental Agreement with the United States will have major benefits for Ireland. The potential of Ireland to grow trans-Atlantic services from its airports is now very significant. In the current difficult economic conditions trans-Atlantic business is more important than ever for Ireland.”
Dempsey said the pre-clearance facilities in Ireland will save time upon entry to the U.S. and make the trip hassle free.
“Passengers from Shannon and Dublin will benefit from uninterrupted passage through U.S. airports on arrival, saving time and hassle,” he said.
Currently, passengers traveling through both airports undergo U.S. immigration clearance, but the new agreement will also allow travelers to clear customs in Ireland before boarding a flight. At the moment passengers have to queue to clear customs and agriculture inspection when they arrive in the U.S.
“Trans-Atlantic airlines will benefit from being able to fly into less congested and less expensive domestic terminals on arrival at U.S. airports. This should lead to easier access to aircraft stands thereby minimizing the time between touchdown and passengers disembarking. In the competitive field of aviation, time means money for airline operators. This Agreement will help operators save valuable time,” said Dempsey.
Dempsey is due to meet with trans-Atlantic airline operators later this week in the U.S. to explain the benefits of operation out of Irish airports now that the agreement has been put in place.
According to Dempsey, U.S. authorities have told the Irish government they currently have no plans to extend pre-clearance elsewhere in Europe.
“This should give Ireland a comparative advantage in the highly competitive trans-Atlantic aviation sector,” he said.
However, in order for Ireland to remain part of the very successful U.S. visa waiver program, which allows citizens to travel to the U.S. for up to 90 days for business or pleasure without needing to obtain a visa, Chertoff said on Monday that Ireland will have to comply with new rules on sharing criminal data with the U.S.
The new security measures, which the U.S. already has in existence with Germany and several other eastern and central European countries, would mean the exchanging of personal data, including DNA and fingerprint records. It is also believed that an individual’s political and religious beliefs as well as a persons sexual orientation may be shared in order to travel to the U.S.
Ireland’s membership of the visa waiver program is up for renewal next year, and will be allowed to rejoin if they agree on a deal. “It’s part of the law,” said Chertoff on Monday.
Dempsey, who told The Irish Times he was not involved in any negotiations about a data-sharing deal, said the visa waiver program is important to Ireland and the Irish government may have to comply.
“I think it is crucial for us. It’s certainly crucial in this context as well,” said Dempsey. “He gave you a very straightforward answer, that if you don’t agree to this, you don’t get it. I don’t think we’d be thanked for saying you can’t travel to the United States.
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