Transcriptional termination of mammalian RNA polymerase II (Pol II) requires a poly(A) (pA) signal and, often, a downstream terminator sequence. Termination is triggered following recognition of the pA signal by Pol II and subsequent pre-mRNA cleavage, which occurs either at the pA site or in transcripts from terminator elements. Although this process has been extensively studied, it is generally considered inconsequential to the level of gene expression. However, our results demonstrate that termination acts as a driving force for optimal gene expression. We show that this effect is general but most dramatic where weak or noncanonical pA signals are present. We establish that termination of Pol II increases the efficiency of pre-mRNA processing that is completed posttranscriptionally. As such, transcripts escape from nuclear surveillance.