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CBP Encourages Travelers to Prepare Ahead for International Summer Travel

Release Date: 
May 22, 2015

WASHINGTON—It’s time to break out the sunglasses and sunscreen—summer travel season is officially here. U.S. Customs and Border Protection encourages travelers to educate themselves on the rules and regulations relating to international travel before crossing the border this summer.

“This summer, travelers will notice more technology and more options to streamline their arrival or return to the United States,” said Commissioner R. Gil Kerlikowske. “CBP is transforming the international arrivals experience for travelers creating a faster and more friendly process. Programs like Global Entry, NEXUS, SENTRI, Automated Passport Control and Mobile Passport Control are speeding up travelers’ entry into the United States, while maintaining the highest standards of security.”

Travelers arriving at airports this summer will notice two different sets of kiosks to speed up their entry into the United States: Global Entry and Automated Passport Control (APC).  Global Entry, a CBP Trusted Traveler Program, allows for expedited clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travelers upon arrival in the United States. Global Entry members are able to bypass the traditional CBP inspection lines at the 54 airports the kiosks are located. U.S. and Canadian citizens, Legal Permanent Residents and returning Visa Waiver Program international travelers can utilize the more than 900 APC kiosks located at 34 airports worldwide to expedite their entry. Travelers use the self-service kiosks to submit their customs declaration form and biographic information.

Travelers arriving at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Miami International Airport, Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and Chicago O’Hare International Airport also have a mobile option to submit their customs declaration form and biographic information. Mobile Passport Control (MPC) is the first authorized app to expedite travelers’ entry into the United States. U.S. and Canadian citizens can submit their information to CBP via the app prior to arrival. Android and iPhone users can download the Mobile Passport app for free from the Google Play Store and Apple App Store.

APC and MPC do not require pre-approval, are free to use, and do not collect any new information on travelers. These program allow CBP officers to focus less on administrative tasks and more on law enforcement operations. As a result, travelers experience shorter wait times, less congestion and faster processing.

With the expansion of Trusted Traveler Programs, APC and MPC, average wait times were down 13 percent at the top 10 airports last year.

If arriving by land this summer, travelers are encouraged to download the Border Wait Time app. The app provides estimated wait times and open lane status at land ports of entry allowing travelers to make an informed decision of where and when to cross the border. Wait times for pedestrian and passenger and commercial vehicle crossings are broken down by lane type (standard, SENTRI, NEXUS, FAST, Ready Lane, etc.). Travelers can download the app for free from Apple App Store and Google Play Store.

CBP urges all foreign travelers requiring an I-94 (those planning to travel more than 25 miles from the border or stay in the United States for more than 30 days) or I-94W (visa waiver) entry document to obtain the essential document early instead of waiting until the day of their travel to avoid potential delays at the border.  Travelers are encouraged to obtain the required document as much as a week in advance for faster and more convenient processing.  All travelers requesting an I-94 or I-94W entry document may be required to establish financial solvency, proof of residency outside the United States and demonstrate that they have sufficiently strong ties to their country of origin including a home abroad they do not intend to abandon.  

Travelers are encouraged to obtain a radio frequency identification (RFID) technology-enabled travel document such as a U.S. passport card or enhanced driver’s license to be able to utilize Ready Lanes at land ports of entry. In order to use the Ready Lane, all adult passengers in the vehicle over the age of 16 must present an approved RFID-enabled travel card. Travelers using Ready Lanes experience short wait times.

Travelers can take additional steps to smooth their arrivals process by familiarizing themselves with U.S. rules and regulation before departing to avoid potential penalties and fines. And don’t forget to review the travel checklist.

Travel Requirements for U.S. Citizens

Individuals traveling abroad must have approved travel documents when returning home. The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) requires U.S. and Canadian citizens, age 16 and older to present a valid, acceptable travel document, such as a passport, a U.S. passport card, a trusted traveler card (NEXUS, SENTRI, Global Entry or FAST), permanent resident card or an enhanced driver’s license that denotes both identity and citizenship when entering the United States by land or sea. U.S. and Canadian citizens under age 16 may present a birth certificate or alternative proof of citizenship when entering by land or sea. All travelers must have a passport for international air travel.

Travel Requirements for Visitors to the United States

All nationals or citizens of Visa Waiver Program (VWP) countries are required to have an approved Electronic System for Travel Authorization, or ESTA, prior to boarding a carrier to travel by air or sea to the United States under the VWP. ESTA applications should be submitted at least 72 hours before travel, and once approved, will generally be valid for up to two years or until the applicant’s passport expires, whichever comes first. Authorizations will be valid for multiple entries into the United States. CBP recommends ESTA applications be submitted as soon as an applicant begins making travel plans.

Travel Checklist

  • Have all the required travel documents for the country you are visiting, as well as identification for re-entry to the United States. Passports are required for air travel. Visit www.travel.state.gov for country-specific information.
  • For citizens of Visa Waiver Program countries, make sure you have an approved Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) before boarding. For those traveling by air or sea on a visa, CBP has automated the Form I-94 removing the need for travelers to fill out a paper copy. Travelers will still be able to obtain their I-94 number and/or a copy of their I-94 at www.cbp.gov/i94.  
  • Have a completed Customs Declaration form (6059b) or utilize the Automated Passport Control kiosks or Mobile Passport app, where available, to submit your form for CBP processing. Declare everything you are bringing from abroad, even if you bought it in a duty-free shop. Know that things bought abroad for personal use or as gifts may be eligible for duty exemptions. If you are bringing them back for resale, they are not.
  • Know the difference between prohibited merchandise (which is forbidden by law to enter the United States) and restricted merchandise (items needing special permit to be allowed into the United States).
  • Do not attempt to bring fruits, meats, dairy/poultry products and/or firewood into the United States without first checking whether they are permitted. For more information, please visit the Bringing Agricultural Products Into the United States section of the CBP website. In addition, travelers can use the recently launched CanIBringIt.com to check which foods, plants, animals and other agricultural items are allowed to be brought into the United States.
  • Understand that CBP officers can inspect you and your personal belongings without a warrant. This may include your luggage, vehicle, and personal searches and is meant to enforce our laws as well as protect legitimate travelers.
  • Monitor border wait times for various ports of entry. Travelers are encouraged to plan their trips during periods of lighter traffic or to use an alternate, less heavily traveled port of entry. For more information, travelers can find up-to-date wait time information on the CBP website or download the Border Wait Time app. 
  • If you are a frequent international traveler and haven’t already become a member of a trusted traveler program, sign up now. For more information, please visit the Trusted Traveler section of the CBP website.
  • Familiarize yourself with the “Know Before You Go” brochure or section of www.CBP.gov.
Last modified: 
February 9, 2017