I still remember the long lines and paper forms from my first international trip in 1999. Today things look much different at the CBP. Here’s an overview of the ways CBP is making entry into the U.S. more efficient.
Global Entry (and other trusted traveler programs)
Global Entry is a CBP program that allows expedited clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travelers upon arrival in the United States. I’ve been a member of this program for several years and love it. Rather than stand in the line for immigration for 30+ minutes, I proceed directly to a kiosk, enter my information and I am through within a matter of seconds. Global Entry isn’t the only trusted traveler program. If you travel frequently to Mexico by car, check out SENTRI. If you travel frequently to Canada, check out NEXUS.
If you have flown to the U.S. from Canada in the last several years, perhaps you were processed through one of the CBP pre-clearance locations. In several airports in Canada, CBP has pre-clearance stations where CBP officers clear travelers for entry into the United States prior to boarding their flight in Canada. The flight from Canada to the United States is then handled as a domestic flight, eliminating the need for longer connection times or to claim and recheck your luggage. Recently, the CBP announced that they are expanding pre-clearance to include more airports in Europe.
Automated Passport Control
Automated Passport Control is a CBP program that allows travelers to use self-service kiosks to submit their customs declaration form electronically. At the kiosks, travelers are prompted to scan their passport, take a photograph, and answer a series of questions verifying biographic and flight information. Once all questions have been answered, the kiosk prints a receipt, which must be presented to a CBP officer along with a passport. US and Canadian citizens and visitors from visa waiver program countries are eligible to use the kiosks. Automated passport control is currently being rolled out and is now available at most major US airports.
Passport control app
Recently, CBP released a mobile app to help speed entry into the United States. It appears that this functions similar to the automated entry kiosks, but could help reduce queuing at the kiosks if enough people use the app. I assume that, if you have a correctly filled out form, there is a way to bypass the normal immigration line, but as I have not yet used this system, I do not know. Currently it looks like only travelers arriving into the United States in Atlanta are eligible to use this app and the app is only available on iPhones and iPads. CBP has promised expansion to more airports and an Android app soon.
Readers, are you enrolled in one of the trusted traveler programs? Have you gone through immigration using one of the new automated kiosks? Or have you downloaded the app? What do you you think?