While the plane is taxiing, most travelers returning home pounce on their gadgets to check Facebook or humblebrag about their foreign adventures on Instagram. A better use of time and technology: getting a jump-start on reentering the country.
Customs and Border Protection (CBP) unveiled the Mobile Passport Control app in Atlanta in August 2014; last week, it added the 14th airport — Washington Dulles — to the program. Raleigh is next in line. The agency expects the number of participants to grow to 20 by year’s end.
The free app (available at the Apple App and Google Play stores) allows U.S. passport holders to submit their personal and travel information before arriving in the customs hall, thereby speeding up the process. CBP’s D.C.-area port director, Wayne Biondi, suggests travelers download the app before they depart for their trip and input the data into their smartphone or tablet once the plane touches down or while they are transiting in a mobile lounge.
The app, which accepts up to four profiles per family, asks for basic information, such as name, date of birth and passport number. The traveler can save this information for future sojourns. The New Trip section requires details such as flight number and countries visited and includes the declaration questions found on the traditional blue customs form. The individual must also attach a photo (selfies allowed). Biondi said the task should take no more than five minutes — or less for agile typists. After submitting the form, the user will receive a receipt with an encrypted Quick Response code, similar to the bar code on a boarding pass.
In the CBP area, passengers with the app can bypass the automated kiosks and head straight for a podium. Follow the signs for Mobile Passport Control. The officer will scan the code, retrieve the information and, if all goes well, send the traveler onward — to baggage claim and the beyond.
“Mobile Passport Control doesn’t eliminate the questions. There’s still an inspection,” Biondi said. “But it makes the [customs procedure] more efficient.”
The agency’s ultimate goal is to install the program in all of the country’s major international airports.
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