Skip the Immigration Lines at the Airport

New customs program aims to speed travel

By Scott Friedman
|  Sunday, Aug 23, 2009  |  Updated 7:30 PM CDT
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Skip the Immigration Lines at the Airport

NBCDFW.com

The kiosks are being rolled out this week at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.

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After a nine-hour flight from Europe or a 14-hour trip from the Far East, the last thing any international traveler wants to do is wait in an immigration line for 30 minutes or longer.

"You just learn to stand there," said Rod Stevenson who travels internationally for business. "I didn't hit anybody or throw anything, but it's not a fun experience."

To combat the long lines, U.S. Customs and Border Protection is rolling out a new weapon: kiosks that let passengers clear immigration on their own. They look like an ATM, and they allow travelers to swipe their own passport, provide a fingerprint on a scanner and re-enter the country in a matter of minutes.

The kiosks are being rolled out this week at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport and 12 other airports across the country.

Even though the process is fast, customs officials insist it's still safe. To use the machines, travelers have to pay $100 and undergo a background check.

"They're vetted through over 20 law enforcement data bases, they go through an interview with a CBP officer, and they also have an FBI fingerprint check," said Jud Murdock, the port security director at DFW Airport.

The kiosk program is open only to U.S. citizens and permanent legal residents.

Seven U.S. airports have been testing the machines for the past year, and about 16,000 travelers nationwide have already signed up for the program.

Officials at DFW said they're eager to get the machines online. In cities where the kiosks have been used, they've cut wait times by about 70 percent, according to customs officials.

"Anything we can do to shorten the lines and really cut down on the stress that any traveler experiences in the journey -- that's what we want to do," said Joe Lopano, the airport's executive vice-president of marketing.

Travelers can sign up for the program at a special Web site that includes an online application.

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