US immigration clearance planned for UK airports

An end could be in sight to the massive delays faced by up to four million British travellers who visit the US each year.

Passengers flying from Britain to the US may soon be able to avoid the nightmare delays at such airports as JFK by going through US immigration before they take off

Passengers flying from Britain to the US may soon be able to avoid the nightmare delays at such airports as JFK by going through US immigration before they take off Image by Sue Waters / CC BY 2.0

The British and US governments are now at an advanced stage in agreeing to station US immigration officers in London at Heathrow Airport and also at Manchester airport.

The upshot of such an accord would mean that once passengers had completed the immigration formalities in the UK, they would be treated by US officials as domestic arrivals when they touch down in America.

Heathrow's Terminal 5 renovated in 2008

Heathrow Airport could provide US Immigration clearance for passengers before they arrived in the US.
Image by JamesZ_Flickr / CC BY 2.0

The Daily Telegraph reports that on one day in the past month, British Airways passengers faced delays of 2 hours and 18 minutes upon arrival at JFK in New York.

In all, ten airports have been identified by US authorities as potential hosts of US immigration and customs officers.

However the new system will take up to two years to get up and running , providing there is no last minute hitches in the bilateral negotiations.

The MD of Manchester Airport, Ken O’Toole said they had been in discussion with US authorities to see if they could makes the clearance time on their 12 routes to the US more efficient for their passengers.

Implementing the new scheme at Heathrow will be a tougher challenge as the London airport caters for over seven million people who annually are bound for the USA.

The Washington administration is also planning to roll out similar arrangements in a number of European countries including, Spain, Holland and Sweden.

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