U.S. immigration officers and their families have begun a 3,000-mile move across the Atlantic to prepare for the new pre-clearance facility at Shannon airport, scheduled to begin at the end of July.

Ireland is set to become the first country to have full pre-clearance facilities for travelers wishing to visit the U.S. It is envisioned that similar pre-clearance facilities will take place at Dublin airport by November 2010.

Mayor of County Clare, Tony Mulcahy, said: "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.”

Mulcahy met with Deputy U.S. Ambassador to Ireland Robert J. Faucher on Thursday to confirm the relocation of up to 30 officers and their families to the Clare and Limerick regions in Ireland.

Mulcahy, who is the town councilor for County Clare and Shannon, said: "Mr. Faucher, the Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Dublin, today informed me that the process of relocating thirty immigration officials and their families from the United States to the Mid West region of Ireland got underway this week.  Housing is presently being sourced in Counties Clare and Limerick."

After the meeting with Faucher, Mulcahy told reporters that the new pre-clearance facility at Shannon would be a “significant boost for tourism and trade between the U.S.A. and Ireland.” 

He stated: “The Deputy Ambassador informed me that Ireland is the tenth highest investment location for U.S. companies. This is especially encouraging in the current economic climate and I have no doubt that the new facilities at Shannon will further enhance commercial links between both countries.”

Mulcahy also feels the new facilities will provide several opportunities to develop transatlantic services at Shannon.
“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,” said Mulcahy.

Currently, passengers traveling through both airports undergo U.S. immigration clearance, but the new agreement will also allow travelers to clear customs in Ireland before boarding a flight. At the moment, passengers have to queue to clear customs and agriculture inspection when they arrive in the U.S.

U.S. authorities told the Irish government last year that they have no plans to extend pre-clearance elsewhere in Europe.