Skift Take

This is a good start to making the international arrivals process fast and painless for international travelers but how welcoming CBP officers and airport staff are will also be key to positive first impressions.

From mobile apps to automated passport control kiosks and separate lanes for visitors who only arrive with carry-on bags, the U.S. federal government has abundant plans to overhaul the international arrivals crunch and meet the U.S. goal of welcoming 100 million international travelers by 2021.

Last week the departments of both Homeland Security and Commerce released a report outlining a plan targeting tech upgrades needed at the 17 U.S. airports that collectively account for nearly three quarters of all international arrivals to the U.S.

The plan involves piloting and deploying mobile passport control systems that enable passengers to use an app to fill out Customs and Border Protection declaration forms in-flight or upon landing, and installing automated passport control kiosks at these airports and adding more to those already using them.

Airports installing the 340 automatic passport control kiosks, which are geared to reduce wait times by as much as 30%, will get their share of aid from $20 million generated via  public-private partnerships.

The mobile passport control system for smartphones will roll out at 20 airports, including include Hartsfied-Jackson Atlanta International, Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International, Miami International, Orlando International, San Francisco International, Seattle-Tacoma International and Washington Dulles,  by the end of 2016.

The plan also creates a joint task force among the two government agencies examining international travelers’ thoughts on their arrivals experience in the U.S.

Other Tech to Watch for

In addition to the kiosks and mobile passport control system, some airports will pilot and install new tech meant to improve other segments of the airport experience. Dallas/Forth Worth International Airport, for example, plans on creating a mobile app for helping international passengers understand customs instructions in their own languages.

JFK will pilot a new international bag transfer program. Orlando International Airport will pilot a process involving scanning bags when they’re unloaded from aircraft and tracking them until they arrive at baggage claim areas, providing information useful to both international and domestic travelers.

A few airports will pilot and assess the CBP’s OneStop program, which provides separate customs lanes in passport control for international travelers arriving with only carry-on baggage to be processed through separate and expedited customs lanes.

Starting in July, Boston Logan International Airport will analyze the feasibility of the OneStop program and could implement it as early as December 2016 and JFK Airport will also implement the program in April.

The report builds off President Obama’s calls to expedite and improve the international arrivals process as part of his 2012 “National Travel and Tourism Strategy” in 2012.

Last year, an estimated 88.3 million international visitors to the U.S., spent about $222 billion in the country.

The Significant Goals During 2015/2016 at 17 U.S. Airports With Most International Arrivals

Airport Significant Goals for 2015/2016 Implementation, Pilot or Research Start/Completion Date
Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport Pilot MPC Pilot Started August 2014
Boston Logan International Airport Conducted assessment of APC kiosks Research Start July 2015
Analyze feasability of OneStop program Research Start July 2015
Implement OneStop program, if feasible Implementation Completed December 2016
Install 20 new APC kiosks Implementation Completed February 2015
Chicago O’Hare International Airport Install new Global Entry kiosks Implementation Completed April 2015
Install 18 new APC kiosks in Terminal 5 Implementation Completed February 2015
Implement Phase 4 of APC kiosks Implementation Completed September 2016
Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport Create mobile app for assisting passengers in their own languages Implementation Completed December 2016
Detroit Metropolitan Airport Add new signage Implementation Completed December 2016
Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport Deploy MPC Implementation Completed September 2015
Develop Phase 4 of APC kiosks Research Start October 2015
George Bush Intercontinental Airport (Houston) Improve baggage delivery times Implementation Completed December 2015
Honolulu International Airport Install 48 APC kiosks Implemenation Completed June 2015
New York JFK International Airport Implement OneStop program Implementation Completed April 2015
Implement international to intermational baggage transfer pilot Implementation Completed March 2015
Los Angeles International Airport Re-evaluate electronic signage Research Start February 2015
Miami International Airport Increase number of APC kiosks and deploy MPC Implementation Completed April 2015
Start Air Baggage Egress Pilot Pilot Start June 2015
Newark Liberty International Airport Implement APC kiosks in Terminal B Implementation Completed January 2016
Orlando International Airport Develop Phase 4 of APC kiosks Research Start October 2015
Deploy MPC Implementation Completed September 2015
Develop pilot to scan baggage upon unloading from aircraft to deliverty to baggage area Research Start August 2015
Philadelphia International Airport Implement APC kiosks for visa passengers Implementation Completed August 2015
San Francisco International Airport Implement MPC Implementation Completed December 2015
Install 40 APC kiosks in Terminals A and G Implementation Completed July 2015
Seattle-Tacoma International Airport Implement MPC Implementation Completed March 2015
Washington Dulles International Airport Implement APCs with capability for lawful permanent residents Implementation Completed August 2015
Deploy MPC Implementation Completed December 2015
Implement APCs with capability for visa passengers Implementation Completed March 2016

Note: Phase 4 allows travelers of any nationality to use the APC kiosks.

Source: U.S. Customs and Border Protection

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Tags: dhs, white house

Photo credit: A CBP officer provides training to an enrollee with the use of a Global Entry kiosk located at the Ronald Reagan building in Washington, D.C. The CBP has also reduced wait times at JFK through use of kiosks. Josh Denmark / CBP

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