WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Department of Homeland Security said on Friday it is considering expanding airline preclearance operations to 10 new foreign airports in nine countries, most of them in Europe.
The department said it was entering negotiations to add preclearance programs in Belgium, the Dominican Republic, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Turkey and the United Kingdom, where Heathrow and Manchester airports are on the list.
Pre-clearance allows U.S. customs officers stationed in other countries to decide if travelers and their baggage can be permitted into the United States. That alleviates the crush of people attempting to clear customs after arrival.
"Preclearance is a win-win for the traveling public. It provides aviation and homeland security, and it reduces wait times upon arrival at the busiest U.S. airports," Homeland Secretary Jeh Johnson said in a statement.
Airlines for America, the industry trade organization for U.S. airlines, applauded the move.
"U.S. airlines drive $1.5 trillion in economic activity, and by improving the passenger experience for visitors or those returning to the United States, while improving security, we can build on that," said A4A President & CEO Nick Calio.
(Reporting by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Sandra Maler)