Airport Passport Queues Cut in U.S. With Revolutionary System

airport securitySimon Veness, The Daily Telegraph, February 20, 2014

Travelers arriving in Orlando International Airport can expect a shorter and smoother process at customs and immigration thanks to a revolutionary new automated passport control system.

The notorious wait times for arrivals on a nine-hour transatlantic flight are often cited as a drawback for those keen to get straight Disney or Universal, but Orlando Airport is confident the new system will go a long way to easing the process. It has been in test mode on a limited basis for the past month but went fully live February 19.

Orlando is the first U.S. gateway to install the Automated Passport Control (APC) kiosks for visitors from Visa Waiver countries like Britain and early trials show it can cut down time in the customs hall by 25-35 per cent. At Chicago, where the kiosks are in place purely for U.S. and Canadian citizens, waiting times have been almost halved.

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The new concept – called ‘Land, touch, go’ – allows visitors to input their own customs details, swipe their passport through an automated reader, give their fingerprint scan and have their photo taken, all while waiting in the customs hall. All the family (above 13 years of age – see below) can complete the process, which ends with them being issued a paper receipt.

This receipt is taken to a Passport Control officer for confirmation and a final check, which should take around 30 seconds per family, instead of two to three minutes. When applied to a 400-passenger 747 arrival, it should mean a saving of half an hour or more – especially for those towards the back of the queue.

The APC kiosks are not available to all visitors, however, and anyone new to the US will still have to complete the usual process with a passport officer (although everyone should still benefit with the queues moving quicker overall).

The system is geared up only for those with a previous USA arrival since 2008 who will have provided a previous finger-scan that can be matched on the new kiosks, and for those aged between 14 and 79. Children under 14 can still go through the process with their parents but their passport cannot be scanned and will need to be checked by the Passport Control officer.

As the kiosks are set up for Visa Waiver programme arrivals, the usual Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (or ESTA) will also have to have been completed in advance of travel to the US. Those who don’t want to use the machines still have the option to queue up for a traditional passport officer.

The system is only being trialed at the moment and as yet there is no timetable for when it could be rolled out elsewhere.

Frank Kruppenbacher, chairman of the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority, said he wanted to make Orlando International one of the world’s most welcoming airports. “We are confident the APC kiosks will make the arrivals process a much better one for all concerned – and especially our friends from Britain."

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