The civil aviation ministry has written to the ministry of external affairs which, in turn, will take up the matter with the US authorities, sources familiar with the development said. The immigration checks would be carried out by US Customs and Border Protection officials and aviation experts believe the facility might encourage international airlines from Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore to fly to the US via India. Approximately 1 million Indians travel to the US each year.
We want to offer the Mumbai and Delhi airports to the US border agencies for setting up an offshore immigration centre since it helps both countries given the large number of travellers. Talks are on but things will move only after the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) upgrades our air safety rating, which we expect will happen by September-October, a civil aviation ministry official said.
We have written to the external affairs ministry on the US border pre-clearance and it will be taken up with the US after the FAA upgrade, the official added. The upgrade of Indias air safety rating will delay negotiations because right now Indian and US airlines are not allowed to expand the number of flights to either country. The FAA downgrade happened in January this year with the authority citing an inadequate safety oversight mechanism of the domestic aviation regulator, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation. The DGCA has since complied with all requirements, especially hiring key safety inspectors. Last month top officials from the regulator met FAA officials to apprise them of the progress.
For the US authorities the move will help reduce congestion at some of the bigger airports like New Yorks John F Kennedy and Chicagos OHare, besides helping those passengers looking to take a connecting flight.
Around 6.2 lakh tourist and short-business visas were issued in 2013 to Indians from five centres of
Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai and Hyderabad, according to data with the US governments Bureau of Consular Affairs.
This excludes IT professionals with long-term contracts and those travelling to the US on multiple-entry 10-year visas. Currently, the bulk of the domestic air passengers going to and from the US are carried by West Asia-based carriers like Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways. Air India and United Airlines also operate direct flights between the two countries while Jet Airways routes its US flights through its hub in Brussels.
Pre-clearance only in few countries like Canada, Ireland, Abu Dhabi, Bahamas
Could boost domestic aviation industry as Asian carriers may use India as regional hub; route US-bound flights
Respite from congestion at major US airports for over 10 lakh Indians going every year
Will be finalised only after FAA upgrades Indias air safety rating by October