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Cabinet approves changes to Ireland / United States Preclearance Agreement to allow for enhanced services at Dublin and Shannon Airports

The Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Mr. Simon Coveney TD and the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Mr. Shane Ross TD, have welcomed the decision of the Government earlier today to approve proposals for changes to the Ireland / United States Preclearance Agreement to allow for enhanced services at Dublin and Shannon Airports.

The changes represent agreement reached between Irish and US officials following detailed negotiations.

US Preclearance facilitates passengers of US bound flights from Dublin and Shannon Airports to fully clear all US controls before leaving Ireland. Dublin and Shannon are currently the only preclearance locations in Europe, where 1.7 million passengers availed of the service in 2017. Additional capacity and resources are now required to allow this growth to continue.

Speaking after the meeting of Government today, Minister Ross said:

“US Preclearance is a valuable asset for Ireland, allowing people move more easily between Ireland and the USA, enhancing the long and unique relationship between the two countries.

The unequivocal benefits of preclearance from an aviation perspective are recognised in the National Aviation Policy for Ireland, 2015 (NAP) and were reaffirmed in a 2017 Review of Preclearance Arrangements.

Preclearance has been a huge success, and my Department has been engaging with the US since 2015 on the need to enhance and expand services and introduce flexibilities to the Preclearance service in Ireland. The US has also been working for a number of years to expand the preclearance programme to other countries, where it is intended that a reimbursement framework for all services and facilities will be the norm.

The amendments approved by Government today allow reimbursement by the airport authorities of the costs of additional and enhanced Preclearance services in Irish airports with US authorities continuing to fund a baseline level of service, on a par with that which is offered at present. This is a good deal for airports and airlines and for the travelling public with whom Preclearance has been enormously popular. The additional costs will be borne by those benefitting from the enhanced services and will not be a charge on the Exchequer.”

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Mr. Simon Coveney TD welcomed the decision, saying that “US Preclearance is a major asset for Irish travellers and a big draw for airlines to route tens of thousands of passengers through our airports every year. We are one of the very few countries to have it, so seeing the system expand in Dublin and Shannon is a very welcome development.”

A number of other issues, including merchandise compliance agreements, the designation of preclearance areas and new signage to be placed in preclearance areas are also outlined in the Ministers’ proposals.

Note to Editors
Government has approved changes to the manner in which additional and enhanced Preclearance services will be funded at Irish Airports.

A baseline level of services will be borne by CBP with the costs associated with additional services being substantially paid for by the two airport authorities.

The amounts to be paid (and the arrangements for any variability in these amounts) will be set out in Memoranda of Understanding between CBP and each airport.

It is not proposed to fundamentally change the operation of preclearance in Ireland or to give any additional powers to US officials working at Irish airports.

US Preclearance is carried out by officers of US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) in Dublin and Shannon Airports under the terms of an international agreement between the two states, namely the US Ireland Preclearance Agreement, and in accordance with the Aviation Preclearance Act 2009.

Airlines choose to apply to have their services precleared at Dublin or Shannon Airports, on the basis that they may then offer the service as an added bonus for their customers.

The preclearance facilities are within Irish jurisdiction and the laws of Ireland apply at all times. CBP officers are not equipped with firearms or any other offensive weapons (batons, etc.). They are not considered to be law enforcement officers in Ireland.

Decisions on who may enter the United States are entirely a matter for US officials and eligibility is determined by reference to US immigration rules. No Irish official has any role to play in these decisions.

Preclearance is not compulsory. Passengers who wish to avail of preclearance do so voluntarily and on condition that they recognise and consent to the right of the US to grant or refuse preclearance in accordance with its immigration rules. Passengers retain the right to withdraw from the preclearance process.

The revised Preclearance Agreement will come into effect in the coming months after a number of further steps, including an exchange of diplomatic notes between Ireland and the United States.