Thoughts on customs pre-clearance

There is a need for US Customs pre-clearance.

It already exists for the Bahamas, for Aruba and for Bermuda. For some time I have been giving silent thought to throwing out the idea for possible public consumption and feedback of why the Cayman Islands does not also seek to implement the system and enter into the necessary governmental relationship with the US Government and its Dept. of Customs and Border Protection to implement such a system for the general traveling public to the United States.

A recent discussion with a Bermuda national led me to try and obtain some additional information on how the actual system works, and although I have not been able to obtain all of the information that I would have hoped for to develop a full essay on the subject matter, I have gleaned sufficient insight to at least throw the basic idea out for further possible debate and reader feedback.

In general it would simply entail the outbound traveler to the US to possibly clear both Cayman and US Customs that would have to be stationed here (under a proper understanding of arrangement and protocols).

However once cleared in Grand Cayman, the US bound traveler would not again have to clear US Customs on arrival at their next US port of entry. Also, the aircraft would be landed at a domestic terminal or gate at the arriving US entry port and not at the international gate/ terminal that currently is the case.

An additional benefit, as is in the case of the Islands of the Bahamas, is that US bound travelers who are pre-cleared do not have to posses a US visa. This of course would have to be an issue that rests ultimately with the US Government- but suffice it to say, they have granted such a waiver to Nassau nationals travelling directly to the US (e.g. For a weekend of shopping etc.).

In terms of cost, the cost of housing and other living expenses is bourn by the US Government, while the host island/country offers general office and location facilities. I am told that the government-to-government agreement would have to be for a duration of no less than two years.

I for one have encountered many occasions when on arrival at the Miami International airport, I had to wait some two hours to just reach the US customs officer. And if you have another connecting flight, that time might be the deciding factor as to whether you catch that flight or have to remain for another flight; possibly even overnight. This is an avoidable cost if we were to investigate the implementation of US Customs pre-clearance from Grand Cayman for US bound air travelers.

In closing, while admitting that no doubt I may not have all the information to argue this issue as I would have liked, the fact that the small Island of Aruba has implemented it and are seeing quality dividends already for their outbound traveling public to the US, as have also Bermuda and The Islands of the Bahamas, leads me to think that its time for the Government here to also take a look and or revisit the idea (should the idea have been already broached).

Being able to land at a domestic gate or terminal in the US and avoid the huge crowd that frequently awaits us all as we reach our US port of entry in the international section, might yield good tourism dividends to these Cayman Islands.

George R. Ebanks

Support local journalism. Subscribe to the all-access pass for the Cayman Compass.

Subscribe now