Transportation & Logistics

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Shorter Customs Lines for Sports Events? There’s an App for That

2 Dec, 2015

By: Tracey Schelmetic

Traveling internationally for sports events in a post 9/11 world is a daunting prospect, to say the least. In fact, it might be the only thing that causes more complaints than TSA and bag fees combined.

A new smartphone app that went into trial last year at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) may help take some of the pain away. The app, called Mobile Passport Control (MPC), is available on both iOS and Android platforms, and was developed by Airside Mobile in partnership with CBP and Airports Council International. The app purportedly lets travelers skip the line at U.S. airports for Custom and Border Protection (CBP).

“Just fill out your profile and answer CBP’s questions – then go straight to the ‘Mobile Passport Control’ express lane at the airport!”

This is good news, though the app still won’t allow you to skip a face-to-face question-and-answer session with a customs agent. It does, however, eliminate the time-consuming need to fill out customs paperwork by creating a QR code on the smartphone that can be scanned by customs officials. Thus far, the app has been debuted not only at Hartsfield-Jackson, one of the busiest airports in the country, but also at Miami (MIA), San Francisco (SFO), Chicago O’Hare (ORD) and Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA).

According to the app’s maker, here’s how it works:

  1. Enter your profile information as it appears on your valid, official passport. You can set up profiles for your entire family. Your information will be encrypted and shared only with CBP.

  2. Answer CBP’s four brief questions about your trip. Then carefully review ALL of your information for the trip.

  3. Once you land, connect to wireless or Wi-Fi and submit your data to CBP. Remember: when you submit, you are confirming under penalty of law that your information is correct. Within a few seconds, you will receive a CBP receipt with an encrypted barcode. Your receipt will be valid for four hours.

  4. Follow the MOBILE PASSPORT CONTROL signs and skip the lines. Show your passport to the CBP officer and scan the barcode on the CBP receipt.

According to USA Today, the app is part of an initiative by the Department of Homeland Security to automate more passport inspections and reduce wait times by up to 30 percent. Though the app is available for only the five U.S. airports today, there are plans to roll out the program at about 20 more airports by the end of next year. The plan is to focus on the busiest airports in the country for international travel. Currently, the app can be used by both U.S. and Canadian citizens.

Travel industry groups have praised the rollout of the app. U.S. Travel Association President Roger Dow told USA Today that the moves show that the Obama administration "grasps the broader value of attracting international travelers to the U.S."

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