United States immigration authorities have begun high-level talks with Colombia’s Foreign Ministry to study the possibility that within the next year, Colombians heading stateside will be able to do U.S immigration on Colombian soil.
This measure in place at all airports that connect Canada with the U.S. facilitates entry upon arrival as travelers cleared by Customs Border and Protection (CBP) are able to head straight to the luggage area and walk into the United States as a domestic passenger.
If within the next four years the inter-disciplinary working sessions result in a formal decision, Colombia will become the first country in South America to adopt an immigration process that saves passengers the prospect of long queues once they have landed at airports that link Bogotá’s El Dorado International Airport with major U.S. hubs.
According to Foreign Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo, “Homeland Security will make the first meeting with each of the five working groups to explain the requirements and de- tails of the process.” Weekly sessions have been scheduled to advance the issue. In a planned visit to Colombia on December 2 (but canceled by the White House at the end of October) President Donald Trump was to sign the “memorandum of intent to formalize the working groups and reiterate the commitment of the U.S in the implementation process,” said Holmes Trujillo.
The pre-clearance requirements on Colombian soil does not guarantee a passenger will get on a U.S-bound flight, or is exempt from additional screening by law enforcement officials. Once travelers enter the special U.S designated immigration area, they are subject to the laws of the United States and could be denied boarding. The benefits of implementing a domestic immigration service also mean airlines don’t cover the cost of having to fly someone back to Colombia should they be refused entry on arrival. A close working relationship on the ground also means immigration authorities from both nations (Migración Colombia and Homeland Security) will be able to share information within the same terminal and conduct interviews with U.S visa holders in Spanish.
For airlines, a domestic arrival option signifies gate relocation, as currently, all inbound flights must disembark passengers at an international terminal. Once the pre-clearance has been sanctioned by both governments, carriers would have to dock at a domestic gate, but be towed to an international terminal to receive their out-bound passengers. The Colombian capital is connected to the United States with non-stop flights to Los Angeles, Houston, Dallas, Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, Atlanta, Washington, New York, Newark (New Jersey) and Boston. On November 17, Avianca inaugurates a new service to Chicago O’Hare. The airlines that operate these routes are Avianca, Latam, United, American Airlines, JetBlue and Spirit.
For passengers connecting to international destinations via the U.S., a pre-clearance means that they will arrive at a domestic gate, but must move through TSA security checkpoints in order to enter the international departure area.