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
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