Customs Process Made Easy (skip the line)

[ 0 ] July 24, 2018 |

My wife, our three girls and I recently took a trip to the Caribbean. Our return had us flying into Miami National Airport with a 2-hour layover before heading back to Denver. We assumed two hours would be plenty of time to get through customs, re-check our bags, and make our way to our gate. This assumption was tested when we found ourselves at the end of a customs line that held 6000 people (yes…six THOUSAND).

A funny thing happened, though, about ten minutes before the herd stopped us — I paid attention (no small feat). As we were landing in Miami, an informational video played on the back of the seats; but you know what it’s like as a plane is landing, we’re in a hurry, we’re anxious, and because we’ve heard it all before, we aren’t paying attention to anything. The video referenced an app, Mobile Passport, that could potentially speed up the customs process. The video wasn’t great, and I didn’t quite understand what I was doing, but I downloaded the app and started through the required steps.

I was prompted to “create a trip” — which required that I input some information from each of our passports (there was an option to auto-fill this section by scanning the passport with the app, but it didn’t work for me), select the destination airport, and answer the basic questions you get when reentering the country (are we carrying any fruits, plants, meats, animals, etc.). I then had to take our pictures (being careful not to show any teeth and being certain there was nobody else in the picture). The whole process took no more than ten minutes.

I wasn’t confident that much time, if any, would be saved by completing this process, but I figured if it saved even a little time, it would be worth it. As we got to the customs line, there was an official letting us know we were in for a LONG wait (again, we were told there were at least 6000 people in front of us). There was then an agent yelling something about “mobile passport” and once we verified that he was referring to this app, he directed us past the very, very long, winding line. We ended up directly in front of a customs agent, with only one group ahead of us in line. From the time we started to follow the official past the line of people until we made it through customs was about the same amount of time it took me to fill out the info in the app: 5-10 minutes.

Needless to say, this simple process saved us a significant amount of time, and possibly even prevented us from missing our connecting flight. If you’re going to be traveling abroad, I highly recommend looking into whether your connecting US airport utilizes this app/process. The info has to be filled out no more than (if I remember correctly) four hours before arrival at customs, so, the only downside is that you will have to wait until nearly the last minute. Good luck and hope this saves you some time!

 

Category: Did you know?, Featured

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