Up to 30 U.S. immigration officials and their families have this week commenced relocating to Clare and Limerick ahead of this month's scheduled opening of pre-clearance facilities for commercial airline passengers flying to the U.S. from Shannon Airport. 

The move comes at a time when American authorities are increasingly worried about private jets flying direct to the U.S. with little or no oversight. It is believed much of that traffic will now be asked to reroute via Shannon or Dublin. Private planes will be covered by the new arrangements starting in October.

The nightmare for Homeland Security is a private jet laden with explosives heading for America. If all such jets had to clear pre-clearance before reaching the U.S. then that would represent a valuable security gain for the U.S.

As currently constituted, passenger manifests for such jets and who is actually on board are impossible to check out. That would change with a full pre-clearance facility at Shannon and Dublin.

The new facilities at Shannon Airport are scheduled to be ready by July 29, with similar pre-clearance facilities due to be in place at Dublin airport by November 2010. Currently, only U.S. immigration clearance facilities are available at the two airports. 

According to Clare Mayor Tony Mulcahy, the new pre-clearance facilities would also present numerous opportunities to develop trans-Atlantic services at Shannon. 

"Shannon will find itself in a unique position whereby U.S.-bound passengers will be able to clear customs in Shannon before flying into any airport in the U.S. without having to unload their luggage, clear customs and have their baggage rechecked,” he said.

“Furthermore, the news that the pre-clearance service at Shannon will be available to passengers on private planes by October will further enhance Shannon Airport's ability to compete and expand in the increasingly competitive aviation sector.

“The U.S. deputy ambassador expressed his hope to me that this will lay the foundation for the opening up of pre-clearance facilities for cargo operators," concluded the mayor.