In January 2006, the Departments of Homeland Security and State began working together to improve the arrivals process for visitors to the United States. The Model Ports initiative was launched to present a warmer welcome to travelers and provide a more intuitive process by improving signage, communications, and using technology to facilitate entry.
The goals of Model Ports are straightforward:
- Ensure that passengers entering the United States are welcomed by Customs and Border Protection officers who treat them with respect and understanding;
Provide the right information to help travelers, at the right time and in a hospitable manner;
- Create a calm, pleasant Customs waiting area;
- Streamline the Customs process.
To achieve these goals, the Model Ports program has launched several initiatives.
Improved signage communicates important information to passengers as they enter the CBP area. The new signs speed the entry process and improve the passenger experience by providing clear, accessible instructions to incoming travelers.
A new, improved Airport Wait-time monitoring system gives the traveling public better information on expected wait times upon arriving at the airport.
In 2008, 205 additional officers were deployed to the Model Ports. In addition to the staff increase, a series of professionalism musters were conducted and telephone etiquette reminder cards were distributed to all employees. Training at the officer academy has been redesigned to improve the "welcome" both residents and visitors alike experience when they arrive at the Model Ports.
Passenger Service Managers have been deployed to the 20 Model Ports to ensure that officers are greeting and working with travelers professionally as well as to serve as a point of contact right at the airport to deal with passenger complaints, compliments, and concerns.
In five of the Model Ports, audio and video equipment has been installed in the passport control primary. This equipment displays a welcome video donated by Walt Disney Parks and Resorts called "Welcome: Portraits of America" In addition, CBP's instructional video called "Welcome to the United States: Simple as 1, 2, 3," which was recently updated, is displayed. Several other airports are in the process of installing this equipment, and expect to fully deploy the monitors by September 2009.
Partnerships with airport authorities, municipalities, and air carrier are the cornerstone of the Model Ports initiative. It is the shared responsibility of the private sector, municipalities, and the federal government to improve the entire arrivals process, including making the queuing area more welcoming, improving wait-times and baggage delivery and being available to address travelers' questions and concerns. The collaboration with both the public and private spheres has yielded unique, valuable insight into how to improve the arrivals process, and, ultimately, better results.
In 2007, the program initially was launched in two of the nation's busiest airports: Washington Dulles International Airport and George Bush Intercontinental Airport.
The Model Ports program is now fully implemented at the following airports: Atlanta, Boston, Dallas/Ft.Worth, Dulles, Chicago, Detroit, Ft. Lauderdale, Honolulu, Houston, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, Newark, New York (JFK), Orlando, Philadelphia, Sanford (FL), San Juan, San Francisco, and Seattle.