Offshore Living

Customs Pre-Clearance: The Lowest Hassle Way to Enter the USA

As a former U.S. citizen, I still come back to the United States periodically to visit friends and family.  When I do, I always try to use the U.S. Customs and Border Protection's (C&BP ) pre-clearance facility.

Customs pre-clearance isn't a well-known concept, but it's one you should know about.  I highly recommend this option if you're visiting or returning to the United States from abroad, and your itinerary permits it.  It's a much lower hassle way to clear customs than doing so in the United States.  Both U.S. and non-U.S. citizens are eligible to use this facility.

My most recent visit to the United States came in the course of a short trip to Europe, mainly visiting Switzerland and Ireland.  On my way to Europe and back, I transited the United States.  While we have direct flights between the Caribbean region and Europe (Air France, KLM, Virgin Atlantic, British Airways, Air Caribes and Caribbean Airlines all come to mind), I chose to transit the United States in order to see friends and family, as well to take advantage of some free upgrades due to my status with the airlines.  I was fortunate as I received upgrades on every flight except one, including both trans-Atlantic segments.

On my way to the United States from Ireland, I passed through U.S. Customs and Border Protection's (C&BP ) pre-clearance facility in Dublin.   The C&BP officer swiped my (non-U.S.) passport, asked me a few basic questions, and asked me to identify my bag by a photo on another screen.  Once I did so, she clicked the "cleared" button, stamped my passport, and sent me on my way.  The entire process took no more than three minutes!

The pre-clearance concept is based on a treaty between the United States and the host country.  C&BP officials stationed in a pre-clearance country inspect passengers prior to boarding their flights to the United States to determine admissibility, accept declarations, and 'even charge duties.   Since they're stationed on foreign soil, the C&BP officials have very limited (if any) arrest authority and in my experience tend to be far more accommodating than customs officials at a U.S. port-of-entry.

Another benefit of pre-clearance is that it eliminates having to wait in long line-ups when you arrive in the United States.  The flight is considered a U.S. domestic flight for immigration and customs purposes.  That means when you arrive at your destination, you simply walk off the plane, pick up your luggage, and depart the airport, with no customs formalities necessary.

In my case, it worked like a charm.  Upon my arrival in the United States, I disembarked just as I would have for a domestic flight.  After a nice visit with my family, I was on another flight three days later to return to the Caribbean.

I gave up my U.S. citizenship ("expatriation") more than a decade ago after acquiring citizenship-for-life and a second passport from the Commonwealth of Dominica.  It's probably the best decision I ever made.  Among other benefits, I'm no longer subject to U.S. taxes on my worldwide income, and no longer have my tax dollars used to support drone attacks and what my colleague Mark Nestmann calls the "War on Everything."

The Nestmann Group, Ltd. can assist you in every phase of acquiring a second passport from the Commonwealth of Dominica or the Federation of St. Kitts & Nevis, for a total cost beginning at around $130,000.  We can also assist in every phase of your expatriation.  To learn more about these important and potentially life-saving options, please contact .

Copyright (c) 2013 by The Nestmann Group, Ltd.

P.S. Don't forget to tune in to my weekly radio show, "The Second Passport, Residency & Travel Hour," at  The show airs every Tuesday live from 3pm-4pm EST.  You can download archives of my shows at

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