Technology upgrades are simplifying the process for travelers entering the United States from abroad. Airports are increasingly making it easier for U.S., Canadian and eligible Visa Waiver Program international travelers through a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) program called Automated Passport Control (APC). It’s one more example of how the self-service trend is revolutionizing air travel.

With APC, these travelers can use self-service kiosks to submit their Customs declaration form and biographic information, leading to shorter wait times.

Speeding the Process

The kiosks allow travelers to scan passports, take photos, verify basic information and proceed to an agent with much of the work completed. Once passengers have completed the process and submitted their Customs declaration form, the kiosk issues a receipt. Travelers simply bring the receipt and their passport to a Customs officer to finalize their inspection for entry into the U.S.

Travelers using the APC kiosks are less rushed, and when they move on to the Customs agent, the interaction is quicker and less stressful. The kiosks also allow people living at the same address to be processed together, a great service for families.

Thanks to a push by the federal government, APC is now at nearly two dozen U.S. airports, including Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, Dallas, Denver and Washington, D.C.  The APC service is also available as part of U.S. CBP preclearance in major Canadian airports, as well as airports in Abu Dhabi, Aruba and Nassau. APC is free, does not require preregistration or membership, and maintains the highest levels of data security and protection when it comes to handling personal information.

Mobile Technology Next

Not satisfied with 25% to 40% decreases in wait times achieved through the APC program, CBP launched the first authorized Mobile Passport Control (MPC) app. This evolution facilitates entry into the U.S. and eases airport congestion by following well-established trends in mobile computing and in passenger self-service. With MPC, eligible travelers can submit their passport information and Customs declaration form via a smartphone or tablet before CBP inspection, show the authorization to the Customs agent and be on their way.

After downloading the free app, travelers are prompted to develop a profile using information contained in their passport. On a flight or upon arrival to the U.S., they can use the app to answer standard Customs declaration questions and submit via cell service or Wi-Fi connection.

The service is available at Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport and Miami International Airport. Plans are to roll it out to 20 airports by the end of 2016.

Designing Airports to Accommodate APC and MPC

Like other forms of self-service technology, including flight check-in and self-tagged luggage, this new way of travel requires a new approach to airport design — one that weaves self-service kiosks, digital signage and security lanes into an integrated passenger experience. If you’d like to explore how to improve the passenger experience at your airport, or find efficiencies for international travelers, feel free to comment here or reach out on LinkedIn.

And I’d love to know what you think about the new APC and MPC technology at airports. Have you used this new technology during your international travels? How has it improved your overall travel experience? Let me know what you think in the comments below.

Photo credit: GAT South eGates.jpg by Elliott Killingbeck is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

Stu Garrett specializes in aviation information technology and special systems. He has more than 17 years of experience in enhancing 16 of the world’s largest airports, helping clients find new technology solutions that provide passenger convenience and operational efficiency.