Passport stamps used to be treasured mementos for some travelers, but they are quickly becoming a thing of the past. Instead, biometrics and electronic entry systems are being deployed. But that is not the only thing that is changing. Now, in many countries, e-Gates may take the place of customs officers.
E-Gates automate border control by comparing biometrics data found in electronic passports (ePassports) with biometrics captured “live” at the gate. Of course, not every country uses these and not everyone is eligible to use the automated “lanes.” The countries that are using e-Gate technologies at some their airports include Australia, France, Italy, Mexico, Portugal, and the United Kingdom. As these programs are rolled out, more countries are being added to the eligibility lists.
To use e-Gates, individuals generally must have:
- ePassports or a passport book containing an embedded chip with biometric data valid for 180 days from an eligible country; and
- Be of a certain age – at least 16 or 18 years of age.
At e-Gates, the “contactless” process allows travelers to be inspected and admitted to the destination in an efficient manner and significantly reduces the delay at the customs and inspection windows.
While e-Gates provide a convenience and speedy process, some individuals may still be subjected to secondary inspection if the e-Gate system deems necessary and at some airports, a quick meeting with a customs officer is still required after passing through the e-Gate.
Although the United States currently does not have e-Gates, Automated Passport Control (APC) streamlines the entry process for U.S. citizens, U.S. legal permanent residents, Canadian citizens, eligible Visa Waiver Program participants, and certain U.S. visa holders by automating the primary inspection process. Travelers scan their passports, take a photograph and answer inspection-related questions verifying biographic and flight information at a kiosk. They will receive a receipt, which must be shown to the CBP Officer, along with their passport, to finalize inspection.
APC is available at airports in Albuquerque (NM), Newark (NJ), Oakland (CA), Ontario (CA), Philadelphia (PA), Salt Lake City (UT), St. Petersburg-Clearwater (FL), Stewart (NY), T.F. Green (RI), and Vancouver Seaport (Canada).
As more and more countries start using automation to improve their customs and entry process, it is important to check your arrival airports to see if an e-Gate system is available and exactly what the eligibility requirements are for using them. If an e-Gate is not an option, you can check for registered traveler programs that could also speed your entry. These “trusted traveler” programs are also available in the United States.
Finally, since your passport will no longer have stamps documenting your exits and entries, you should follow instructions from the relevant system to obtain that documentation and maintain your travel records.
If you have any questions about requirements for travel abroad including visa requirements, Jackson Lewis attorneys are available to assist.