Everyone who travels to the United States of America on a regular basis is quite familiar with them: queues. Building up before counters staffed with immigration officers in their illustrous uniforms. Especially at international hubs like New York, Los Angeles or Miami, they can turn out to be real time killers on any flight reaching US soil from a foreign country.
To ease this process, the US government has opened so called border preclearance facilities in three cities in two countries outside of North America: Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates as well as Dublin and Shannon in the Republic of Ireland.
What happens there can be summed up in a few words – you clear US immigration at your departure airport and your flight arriving in the USA will be treated like a domestic flight. Our authors Adrian, Patrick, Peer & Felix recently made this experience on a flight from Dublin to Newark Liberty Airport.
US Border Preclearance at Dublin Airport
First of all, it is not a question of choice, but mandatory to pass US border preclearance in Dublin. All Passengers on US-bound flights departing from Dublin have to pass it. Regardless of their citizenship or operating airline. As all flights from Dublin to US airports depart from Terminal 2, your journey will begin there.
Check-in, Pass Security and Follow the Signs
After checking in for your flight, you will proceed normally through security. From there on, you can watch out for the many signs pointing you towards the preclearance facility. Or you can just follow the lingering smell of freedom and fried chicken. Sadly, there is no fried chicken served in the waiting area after passing preclearance. So it may be better to stick with the signs. If you wish to visit a lounge of your choice or do extensive duty free shopping, you need to do this before clearing the US border.
Even if you use US border preclearance facilities – you still need an ESTA or visa to enter the United States. Don’t forget to apply in time!
Clear TSA and US Border Patrol
While most parts of Terminal 2 are located on the upper level of the building, the US preclearance facilities and subsequent gates are located on the ground level. You can find the entrance easily, it is the downward escalator surrounded by an impressive number of US flags. At the bottom of the escalator, you’ll have to pass another security screening, this time conducted by the TSA (US Transport Security Administration). There is no TSA Pre-Check available at Dublin airport.
You continue to a second room full of counters, manned by US immigration officers. There are three lines – one for US Citizens, one for all other nationalities and a third one that leads to a row of US Global Entry kiosks. Here, the officer will ask the usual questions about the nature of your trip. It is here you will get your passport stamped. Congratulations, you just entered America! After that, you proceed to the waiting area that includes several gates, restrooms, small shops, a restaurant/bar hybrid and another lounge.
The lounge 51st&Green is for business class passengers only, who are not allowed to bring guests. If you wish to enjoy lounge access based on your frequent flyer tier or Priority Pass, you need to do this before clearing the US border. The only exception are Oneworld Sapphire or Emerald members flying on Oneworld metal.
Departure Time is an Important Factor
If you google the question “How much extra time does US border preclearance take?” you will get the answer “Between 2 minutes and 2 hours”. This is as true as it is spectaculary unhelpful. While there is no general answer, a look at your departure time can give you some clues. If you get an isolated flight like we did with United’s 9.00 departure to Newark, the facility has to deal with just one planeload of passengers (approx. 300 persons). Things go quick (in our case about 20 minutes). The same goes for departures after 13.00.
If your flights leaves around 11.00, when most Aer Lingus flights depart for their trip across the pond, waiting times skyrocket. Even worse, the comparatively small part of the terminal dedicated to US departures may get crowded and uncomfortable.
To round things up, a small step-by-step summary of how US border preclearence in Dublin works:
- Check-in in Terminal 2.
- Pass security normally.
- NOW is the time for extensive duty free shopping or tier based lounge access.
- Proceed to the US border preclearance facility.
- Pass TSA security screening.
- Pass the US border patrol.
- Wait for your departure in the dedicated waiting area.
- Arrive in the USA like you would with a domestic flight.
The Benefits Of US Border Preclearance
The benefits of the US border preclearance program are amazing – as long as your flight departs in one of the aforementioned time frames. After arrival, you are able to leave the airport as quickly as you please (given your bags arrive in time). It worked brilliantly in our case – barely 90 minutes after touchdown in Newark, we stood at the One World Trade Center in Manhattan without any hurry.
Even if you don’t arrive at your final destination instantly, you drastically increase the choices of making your connection flight. This makes consciously routing your flight to America via Dublin an attractive alternative. Given that the price is right.
Further US Border Preclearance Airports
You may find a total of 15 US border preclearance facilities in 6 countries around the world:
- United Arab Emirates
- Abu Dhabi
Cover Picture: Johannes Kinast