At NerdWallet, we strive to help you make financial decisions with confidence. To do this, many or all of the products featured here are from our partners. However, this doesn’t influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own.
If you travel often, you know that sometimes immigration lines at U.S. airports can be painful. The long lines, stuffy air and fluorescent lights can be enough to give you a migraine.
However, U.S. Customs and Border Protection is looking to change some of that. Over the years, more and more pre-clearance facilities have been popping up at foreign airports, which allow passengers to go through customs before they board the plane.
The latest such airport will be El Dorado International Airport in Bogota, the outgoing U.S. ambassador to Colombia has confirmed.
What it means for U.S. travelers
Pre-clearance means that all passengers will go through U.S. Customs and Border Protection before they board the plane. You'll then arrive in the U.S. at a domestic gate, meaning you do not have to go through immigration lines at the U.S. airport.
This is great news for many U.S. travelers who do not have the advantage of Global Entry or Mobile Passport. You can go on your way as soon as you land in the U.S. You will likely have to arrive at the Bogota airport a little early to allow for pre-clearance and make your flight.
Pre-clearance facilities already exist at airports in the Bahamas, Ireland, Dubai, Canada and more. The idea is that pre-clearance helps ease long immigration lines that plague some U.S. airports, and it falls in line with changing immigration policies that seek to screen passengers before they land in the U.S. It’s all about preventing so-called “high-risk” travelers from reaching the U.S.
» Learn more: TSA Precheck vs. Global Entry: Which is right for you?
Benefits of using pre-clearance
One benefit of going through a pre-clearance facility before you board the plane (for U.S. or non-U.S. travelers) is that if you have a connecting flight in the U.S., you don’t have to worry about wasting precious minutes in the immigration line — even for an international flight from the U.S. onward. This is great news for some travelers who are used to dealing with U.S. customs during connections between international flights.
Travelers to Colombia should keep in mind that only Bogota’s El Dorado International Airport will be affected. If you’re flying directly from Cartagena to the U.S., for example, you will not notice any difference in the immigration process. A downside could be if you fly from Cartagena to the U.S. with a connection in Bogota. You would need to make sure you have ample time between flights, just in case the lines at pre-clearance are long.
Besides that, this new process shouldn’t change much in the way of traveling to Colombia. Colombia's long history of drug violence long deterred many from traveling there to experience its rich culture and wonderful landscapes. Now, cities like Medellín, Cartagena and Barranquilla are getting plenty of tourists each year.
Luckily for U.S. travelers, there are frequent flights to Bogota from several U.S cities, on airlines such as American, Avianca, JetBlue and Spirit
The pre-clearance facility likely won’t be open until sometime in 2020. Keep an eye on further announcements from the Department of Homeland Security, which will likely release a notice when the facility opens to the public.
Planning a trip? Check out these articles for more inspiration and advice: Find the best travel credit card for you Earn extra Orbitz Rewards when flying Avianca this summer 3 tricks for scoring cheap flights