Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

April 27 2015

This New App Can Revolutionize Long Customs Lines At The Airport

By David McMillin


If you travel outside the United States, you know the joys of seeing new countries, hearing new languages and discovering new cultures. Unfortunately, you also know the pains of long customs lines when you return home.

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection and Airports Council International are working to try to eliminate those pains with a new app: Mobile Passport. The technology eliminates the need for paper customs declaration forms and whisks US and Canadian citizens through a designated Mobile Passport Control express lane at the airport. Here’s a look at the simple process.

  1. Download the app via Apple or Google.
  2. Create a personal profile with your information.
  3. When you arrive in the US, take a photo of yourself (who knew the government loved selfies?) and complete the “New Trip” section with answers to customs declaration questions.
  4. Submit the form.
  5. Use your electronic receipt with an encrypted QR code when you talk with a customs officer.

Currently, the program is only available at four airports: Hartsfield-Jackson in Atlanta, Miami International, Seattle-Tacoma International and Chicago O’Hare. However, there are plans in the works to offer the service at additional airports.

“By offering this app to passengers, we hope to build upon the success we have already experienced with Automated Passport Control, which has resulted in decreases in wait times as much as 25-40 percent, even with continued growth in international arrivals,” CBP Commissioner R. Gil Kerlikowske said when the app debuted.

SEE ALSO: 4 Tools That Can Make Your Business Travel Better

Making Life Easier For Meeting Attendees

Meeting planners and suppliers traveling abroad can clearly benefit from the convenience of Mobile Passport, but the app also holds promise for the future of the meetings industry. I caught up with PCMA’s globetrotting Michelle Crowley for her thoughts on how this type of technology will impact attendees.

“Many conference delegates find it frustrating when they arrive after overseas flights to find long lines at customs,” Crowley says. “As this technology expands, it can allow the conference experience to start and end on a pleasant note with a quick and customized experience.”

“I hope this will also lead to faster visas, allowing the electronic process to take over while still maintaining proper security standards,” Crowley adds.

The service is only available for US and Canadian citizens as of now, but the CBP will want to determine how it could expand the program to include international travelers in the equation. A 2013 survey of travelers from the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Japan, China and Brazil revealed an alarming statistic: 43 percent of international travelers recommend avoiding a trip to the US because of the entry process.

Regardless of where you’re going, the airport can be frustrating. Here’s an article to help give you a smile. Check out “7 Questions You Always Have At The Airport.”

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