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I know there are a couple of questions addressing the pre-clearance at Abu Dhabi (and they cleared most of my doubts) but I need a few other details which were't addressed.

  1. What is the exact immigration process like at the Abu Dhabi pre-clearance counter? Do passengers have to fill out the same customs form as they would have in the US? And if yes, would any of the answers change? Like last visited country or airline number?

  2. When passengers disembark at the arrival gate in Abu Dhabi (in the case of connections) are there any instructions that direct US-bound people to the appropriate pre-clearance counter? Or is it up to them to find the gate and the counter and go there themselves like other connecting flights?

  3. Is there any difference from domestic passengers once they arrive in the U.S? For example, international passengers are expected submit their approved customs form as they are walking out in to the general area of the airport. Does something like this apply here?

For context: My parents are visiting US (JFK) from India (MAA) and transiting through Abu Dhabi (~3 hours connecting time - EY271 to EY103). This's their first international travel and I've never traveled Etihad so I want to give them as much details as possible.

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U.S. Preclearance is in Terminal 3 at Abu Dhabi. There will be signs both landside and airside in arrival areas showing the way. Just follow the Flight Transfer signs. If you don't have your boarding pass, stop at the airline's transfer desk. If you need to transfer from Terminal 1 to Terminal 3, the airport has provided a video showing how this is done.

The preclearance area is next to gates 58-61 at the far end of Terminal 3. Once you enter, you can pick up landing cards here to fill out. Your airline's check-in and transit desks may also be able to give you a landing card. The flight number you should write on it is the flight which lands at the first US airport on your itinerary, that is, the one you are about to board.

Once you arrive at preclearance and fill out the landing card, you queue to speak to immigration/customs. Here, you will present your documents and be asked some questions. You will also be asked to identify your checked baggage on a TV monitor.

You should plan to be speaking with US immigration no later than 60 minutes before departure.

You will also go through a security screening in the preclearance area, in addition to the security screening you go through if you changed terminals.

Once you arrive in the US, there are no further formalities; your plane arrives the same as a domestic flight, because you were admitted to the US back in Abu Dhabi. At JFK, you will simply pick up your baggage and go straight to ground transportation.

Etihad Airlines has some more details on the preclearance process at Abu Dhabi.

  • Great answer! What I want to know is that if I have a connecting flight from Abu Dhabi to Charlotte, NC with a layover in Frankfurt, can I avail preclearance at Abu Dhabi? Or I will have to go through immigration at Charlotte? – nabeel Dec 20 '17 at 9:35
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    @nabeel Preclearance is available only to flights from Abu Dhabi directly to the US. If your flight goes elsewhere than the US, such as Frankfurt, you won't go through preclearance. – Michael Hampton Dec 20 '17 at 18:15

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