U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is experimenting with a new smartphone app that allows airline passengers to submit their passport and customs details in advance of passing through Customs inspection.
The goal is to reduce wait times. The pilot program is available to U.S. citizens and Canadian visitors traveling through Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, the world’s busiest airport with more than 94 million domestic and international passengers in 2013.
Airside Mobile and Airports Council International-North America developed the first-of-its-kind app in partnership with the federal agency, which calls the program Mobile Passport Control (MPC). For now, the free app is available from Apple for iPad and iPhone users, but officials expect to expand the program to Android smartphone users.
More than 102 million international travelers arrived at U.S. airports in fiscal year 2013. In an August 2014 statement, CBP Commissioner R. Gil Kerlikowske said the agency continues to offer “new and innovative ways to expedite entry into the United States, while maintaining the highest standards of security.”
Kerlikowske said he hopes the mobile app will build upon the success of the agency’s Automated Passport Control, a network of self-service kiosks where travelers can submit their Customs declaration form and biographic information.
Although international arrivals have increased by 16% since 2009, the Automated Passport Control has reduced traveler wait times by up to 40% at 22 airports nationwide since being unveiled in 2013, according to Customs and Border Protection.
CBP also reports that more than 3 million travelers have been enrolled in its “Trusted Traveler” programs, including NEXUS, Global Entry and SENTRI, which seek to speed the processing of travelers, while cutting costs and bolstering security.
Travelers who download the Mobile Passport Control app will use their passport details to create a profile, which will be encrypted. Profiles can be created for up to four family members. After arriving Stateside, app users will submit their Customs declaration form wirelessly and receive an electronic receipt with a Quick Response (QR) code.
Travelers will be directed to specific CBP processing lanes where they will present their passport and iPhone or iPad with the digital receipt.