Agents with international clients that have been not-so-happy with the entry process to the United States have good news to share. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced Friday a trio of initiatives intended to improve customer service for international travelers at U.S ports of entry: the Global Entry pilot program, the Passenger Service Program and an expanded Model Ports Initiative.
“Perhaps the single criticism we hear most from international travelers is frustration with the entry process,” said Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff. “We’re committed to a more welcoming environment for the roughly one million foreign travelers arriving at our ports each day. These initiatives will reduce much of the frustration and anxiety we encounter, and make it easier on our frontline personnel to focus even more on actual security and criminal risks.”
The Global Entry security program speeds up the screening of pre-approved, low-risk U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents traveling from abroad to the U.S. Applicants voluntarily provide biographic and biometric information, undergo a background check and complete an interview with a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer. Upon completing the process, Global Entry travelers can use a kiosk at George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston, JFK International Airport in New York, and Washington Dulles International Airport to electronically verify their identity and make any needed customs declarations. Global Entry applications are available now at www.cbp.gov/xp/cgov/travel/trusted_traveler/global_entry
Under the new Passenger Service Program, CBP program service managers serve as a dedicated point of contact for identifying and resolving passenger issues. The initiative promotes customer service techniques in officer interactions with the traveling public, and includes joint efforts with the private sector and industry stakeholders to reduce wait times through the use of improved signage and technology. The program will be established at CBP’s top 20 Model Ports.
The DHS is also expanding the Model Ports Initiative to 18 additional airports. Originally established in 2006 as part of the Rice-Chertoff Initiative, Model Ports has enhanced border security with the use of the new technology while streamlining security processes for legitimate visitors. In addition to brochures and increased signage, a new video, currently available in Spanish, French, German and English, will assist travelers through the customs and immigration process by providing practical information about the entry process and required entry documents and forms.
Meanwhile, in a related effort, CBP is providing wait times online for 16 of the busiest international airports and 12 pedestrian entries at land border crossings in Arizona, California and Texas. Times can be found www.cbp.gov/xp/cgov/travel/wait_times.