NASSAU, The Bahamas — Official Signing of the Air Transport Preclearance Agreement between the Government of the United States of America and the Commonwealth of The Bahamas took place at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Monday, February 5, 2024.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs the Hon. Frederick Mitchell explained that this is a renewal of an agreement signed between the two countries in April 1974, which eases the flow of people between The Bahamas and the U.S. It also creates a high level of security for the two countries.
In 1974, it was signed by the then Minister of External Affairs the Hon. Paul Adderley and U.S. Ambassador to The Bahamas Ronald Spiers.
Minister Mitchell said, “As we sign this Agreement, the government and people of The Bahamas renew their commitment to strengthening our relations, security and ease of access for both countries.”
U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) Office of Field Operations (OFO) Acting Executive Assistant Commissioner, Diane Sabatino signed on behalf of the United States.
Assistant Commissioner Sabatino explained that the Agreement predates the existence of the Department of Homeland Security as well as U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
“This renewed agreement marks the opportunity for us to consider expanded opportunities to further reinforce the partnerships that we have with you in The Bahamas, and look for ways to enhance economic prosperity while ensuring safe travel between The Bahamas and the U.S.”
She noted that preclearance opens an additional gateway into the U.S. and it really maximizes the use of aircraft and gate utilization. Further, it leads to streamlining of passenger processing.
“This new agreement represents a modernized operational framework to be more flexible, to be more nimble and increase the partnership between the two countries.”
Charge d’Affaires, Embassy of the United States of America, Usha Pitts said the main point of the Preclearance Agreement is that Americans can go through preclearance in The Bahamas as if they are boarding a domestic flight.
“When they return to the U.S., they can just get onto their connecting flight and get on with their day. They do not have to wait in long lines at international terminals.
“For Bahamians they enjoy this benefit as well, but even better, it allows the U.S. to grant Bahamians U.S. Visa-free travel, which is a benefit that very few countries enjoy.”
The Charge d’Affaires said there are only six countries in the world that have this kind of Preclearance Agreement.
Minister of Tourism, Investments and Aviation Permanent Secretary, Reginald Saunders noted that this new preclearance agreement reaffirms the commitment of The Bahamas and the U.S. to further strengthening their relationship and mutual border integrity, and supersedes the existing Air Transport Preclearance Agreement signed in 1974 and amended in 2010.
He explained that apart from preclearance of all U.S. bound passengers, the new agreement also provides for the additional manpower of U.S. Customs and Border Protection Officers during peak times at the Lynden Pindling International Airport.
“With the new benchmark of nine million visitors to our country in 2023, this updated agreement will help in improving the travel experience of all U.S. bound passengers from The Bahamas.
“Moreover, as our early projections of tourists’ arrivals in 2024 continue to look impressive, having a stress-free travel experience also bodes well for both air carriers and tourism.”
PS Saunders said officials at the Ministry of Tourism, Investments and Aviation continue to negotiate with various airlines and stakeholders to increase airlift to The Bahamas which in turn increases the number of travellers.
He said, “We are also pleased that U.S. Customs and Border Protection is considering the addition of The Bahamas to the global entry list. This measure will greatly reduce the wait time at LPIA by allowing pre-approved passengers expedient clearance to bypass lines and access global processing technology.”