“Automated Passport Control” expedites USA arrivals

Australian travellers to the United States will be pleased to know that “Automated Passport Control” (APC) kiosks can now be used when entering the country. APC machines have now been installed at many major airports in the United States, including Los Angeles, Dallas/Fort Worth, Miami, San Francisco and both of New York’s international airports. This could make the process of clearing US immigrations and customs much quicker and more pleasant.

US & Canadian citizens, as well as passengers using the Visa Waiver Program (with an ESTA) can use the machines. Most Australian travellers should have an ESTA, or Electronic System for Travel Authorization, so will be eligible. The only other criteria is that you need to have been to the USA at least once, using your current passport, since 2008.

If you use an APC kiosk, you will still need to see an officer to have your passport stamped. However the overall process should be significantly faster. A number of members have reported recent success with the system.

Just arrived into DFW no waiting at kiosk and through in 2 minutes, collected luggage and in our room at the Grand Hyatt DFW 20 minutes after landing…pretty impressive

Some members have reported that the machines didn’t work and that they needed to be processed manually. For example, this may occur if your fingerprints cannot be scanned correctly. One member has a piece of advice to (hopefully) avoid this.

you need to hold your fingers together with no gaps between for best results – I was shown how to do this by an attendant last year. It still did not work for me last time and I ended up with a bid cross on my slip.

One member reported experiencing delays recently in Los Angeles as each passenger was directed to scan their fingerprints and have their photograph taken twice. It seems the whole process was not as efficient as it could have been on this occasion.

In June, I used the machine again and got everything done quickly with the machine but they still directed everyone through the custom officer and had to re-do the finger prints and photos again. There was a MASSIVE delay there (at least 45 mins). Then we had to go through security again, everyone was in the same queue (express, premium or general). The LAX-NY flight ended up being one hour late because people couldn’t get through the queues. Talking to the Qantas staff, it happens everyday. It’s very stupid!

While experiences have been mixed, they have been largely positive… which comes as a welcome sigh of relief to regular travellers to the United States. The US immigration process has long had a reputation of being slow and inefficient, so any improvements are welcome.

Australian travellers can also enjoy access to smart gates in Singapore.

Share your experience HERE.

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Matt Graham
The editor of Australian Frequent Flyer, Matt's passion for travel has taken him to over 60 countries… with the help of frequent flyer points, of course!
Matt's favourite destinations (so far) are Germany, Brazil, New Zealand & Kazakhstan. His interests include economics, aviation & foreign languages, and he has a soft spot for good food and red wine.

You can contact Matt at [email protected]