What to Expect: Clearing US Immigration in Dublin, Ireland

Last Updated on August 6, 2022

As travellers, sometimes we have to get clever when it comes to finding flight deals.  Back in the summer, it was cheaper for me to fly from Chicago to London Stansted, transferring in Dublin (and even getting a hotel for the night!), than it was flying direct from Chicago into Heathrow or Gatwick. One HUGE benefit of flying through Dublin, is that Dublin airport is one of only a handful of airports in the world where you can actually cross the American border while still being in a different country. Here’s my experience of clearing US Immigration in Dublin.

Information correct at the time of writing.

Clearing US Immigration in Dublin

Borders can be so hit and miss. I remember the first time I flew into Chicago it took 1 hour 30 to get across the border (the record…3 HOURS, thanks expired Green Card…). It got to the point where I tried to fly with hand luggage every time I used that airport so I could use a smaller line which skips the baggage hall!  So imagine the joy of being able to ‘drip feed’ across the border as and when people turn up for their flight, rather than having to try and beat 500 people pouring off the same plane all at once!!

us preclearance dublin opening time

My United flight between Dublin and Chicago was scheduled for 9.20am, with boarding beginning at 8.30am.  I arrived at the airport at 6am.  At check in, a sticker was stuck on my boarding card saying:

“Please be a USPC ….ASAP….”

(USPC = US Pre Clearance)

Obviously you have to cross through the usual airport security, however at 6am the lines were all pretty small so I got through quickly.  Now, US Pre Clearance doesn’t actually open until 7am, but you can start lining up earlier.

US Pre Clearance Dublin

The problem is that there isn’t actually much after US immigration in Dublin airport. There’s a small cafe/bar and a newsagents, that’s about it.  If you want to eat, drink some Guinness, do some last minute shopping etc, your best bet is to hang around in Departures for a little while and do that.  BUT, just keep an eye on the time and remember you’re going to have to join a queue again at US Preclearance (use your innitative, I’m not responsible for you missing a flight because you spent an hour eating a burger…).

US immigration dublin airport
(Cheeky Guinness before going through US Immigration Dublin Airport!)

I joined the Preclearance line 30 minutes before it opened and by the time 7am came round the whole Preclearance hall was completely filled…it’s a lot of people to be stuck behind and it was chaos for a while. I’d imagine later on in the day it’d be slightly more enjoyable (if US immigration lines can ever be referred to as enjoyable!).

When they say it opens at 7am, it opens at 7am and not 1 second earlier!

Hand luggage bags went through a scanner again.  In all honesty I can’t remember the liquids situation…I had drunk my tiny bottle of water just in case, if they were taking liquids, it wasn’t obvious. There were no body scanners or ‘pat downs’, just the bags were checked.

I’m not sure exactly how it works when it comes to the digital kiosks (the ones where they take your finger prints and photo). There were some ‘upstairs’ before you join the line, I’m a Green Card holder and when I asked what I had to do, I was directed to go straight downstairs so I used the kiosks that came after the bag check. It could possibly be a resident/visitor divide, because it only seemed to be Americans using the kiosks after the bag check, which then lead to ‘separate’ border agents.

us preclearance dublin questions

When you reach the agent, they bring up a photo of your checked in bag on a TV screen and ask if it’s yours. (This MAGIC amazed me, I was like WOW YES! YES, THAT IS MY BAG, AMAZING!!).  They asked what food I was carrying with me either in my hand luggage or suitcase, where I lived in the USA, how long I had been visiting Ireland and why. (I explained that I was on a stopover from London after visiting my family for a month). Then I was sent on my merry way.

You’re chucked out into a hallway with only a handful of gates and as mentioned above, a newsagents, a cafe and thats about it.  BUT it’s amazing when you land back in the USA as a ‘domestic traveller’ and can walk out without a long wait at immigration (although the bags were really slow being delivered at Chicago O’hare!).

I’d be tempted to fly through Dublin more often just so I can deal with US immigration in Dublin rather than once back in the USA!

Travelling to/from Dublin

Looking for ideas for things to do or on a layover? Check out: How to Spend 2 Days in Dublin, Ireland

Do you think more airports should introduce US Pre Clearance?

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