New passport programs speed travelers through passport control
As we get into the spring and summer travel seasons, international travel is beginning to come into focus for some travelers. With international travel comes the need for passports and the need to navigate customs and border protection when returning to the US. Here are some passport tips to make reentry painless.
1. Enroll in Global Entry. This is the single best system for anyone who is planning to travel abroad. The time saved when arriving from overseas back to the US is amazing. Long immigration passport lines can be avoided. New flight connections come into play. Elite frequent fliers have the opportunity to stand by for earlier outgoing flights.
The steps needed for Global Entry are easy but may be a bit time-consuming. Travelers must apply for Global Entry and pay a $100 fee for a five-year membership. After a customs and border protection (CBP) review, they will go through an interview, be fingerprinted, and (hopefully) be enrolled in the system.
Another big bonus for Global Entry members is that they are automatically members of TSA’s Precheck program with their own dedicated line through airport security across the country and the ability to go through security without the full body scanner, with shoes on, and with computers left in bags. It is almost like the old days.
2. Sign up for Mobile Passport. This new program, based on a smartphone app, is now in place at 25 airports and three cruise port. The app is sponsored by the CBP and by Airport Councils International (an airport association).
Currently, the app works at the following airports as of the day of publication — Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Fort Lauderdale, Houston, Houston Hobby, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis, New York, Newark, Orlando, Phoenix, Raleigh Durham, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, San José, Seattle, Tampa and Washington Dulles. The updated list can be found on the website as well.
Upon landing, follow the Mobile Passport Control signs, set up your profile for future trips, and use a kiosk for your reentry into the US. It is easy, private, and free.
Profiles can be set up for entire families that contains everyone’s passport numbers and other necessary data. Answer some questions about your trip — the same that are asked today.
3. A new app can be used to renew a passport. This app is available for both iPhones and Android.
The app lets travelers renew their passport from home. It is registered by the US government as a safe, secure and confidential agent. Simply send your signed application and passport to ItsEasy with the included trackable shipping label and the company will pre-check all of your documents, submit government payment, print and attach your passport photo, and securely deliver your documents to the US State Department for processing.
Other issues cannot be completed from the app, but for renewals, this app will save you time.
The Automated Passport Control Program is CBP’s version of self-check-in for customs operations. American and Canadian passport holders approved for Electronic System for Travel Authorizations (ESTA) and have visited the U.S. after 2008 can use the system. Upon landing at an airport where this automatic passport control is in operation (you can see the full list here), go to an available kiosk, scan your passport and fingerprints, confirm your flight information, tap in your Customs Declaration Form information, and take a photo. Travelers will receive a receipt from the machine, which they will show, along with their passport, at the check-out point.
Getting through passport control is one of the most time-consuming exercises. These programs can be real time-savers.
Charlie Leocha is the President of Travelers United. He has been working in Washington, DC, for the past ten years with Congress, the Department of Transportation and industry stakeholders on travel issues. He was the consumer representative to the Advisory Committee for Aviation Consumer Protections appointed by the Secretary of Transportation from 2012 through 2018. He also served on the Consumer Advocacy Subcommittee of the Transportation Security Advisory Board.