I was very pleased to sign an Inter-Governmental Agreement for the provision of Pre-Clearance services at Irish airports with Secretary Chertoff of the US Department of Homeland Security in Washington last month. The agreement provides for the pre-clearance of passengers in respect of U.S. customs, immigration and agricultural matters prior to boarding of aircraft in Ireland for U.S. destinations.
I anticipate that the agreement will bring major benefits to Ireland such as under it aircraft will be able to land at less congested and less expensive domestic terminals in international airports or at domestic airports in the U.S. This will facilitate onward connections for passengers to other parts of the U.S. Passengers will also benefit from uninterrupted passage through US airports on arrival.
Under the agreement pre-clearance officers of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Service will be authorised, under Irish law, to carry out certain functions at designated pre-clearance areas of Irish airports in relation to passengers and aircraft bound for the U.S. that would otherwise be carried out on arrival in the U.S.
There is no provision in the agreement for the sharing of additional information between the Irish and the U.S. authorities.
Pre-clearance will require new legislation and Departmental officials have commenced the preparation of a general scheme of a Pre-clearance Bill with a view to having the legislation in place for pre-clearance to be operational in Shannon in the Summer of 2009.