Wake County

RDU rolls out new app to streamline customs process

For international passengers frustrated by long lines at the customs desk at Raleigh-Durham International Airport, there’s now an app.

The Mobile Passport Control app streamlines the reentry process and allows passengers to bypass the normal customs line. RDU rolled out the new technology on Tuesday, becoming one of only 15 airports in the country to accept the app.

Only about 400 to 600 international travelers arrive at RDU each day. But because three of RDU’s four international nonstops flights – from London, Paris, and Cancun – arrive about the same time, it can often lead to a backup in customs. (The fourth destination is Toronto, but returning passengers clear customs in Canada before reaching RDU.)

Mobile Passport allows American and Canadian citizens to complete and verify the customs declaration form on their mobile devices.

“The way that most people do it today is fill out the customs declaration form on the plane,” said RDU spokesman Andrew Sawyer. “You can now do that right into the app.”

The app is free to download and available on the iPhone and Android app stores. Passengers can input their information mid-flight without internet access. They’ll set up a profile with their personal information as it appears on their passports, take a selfie, and answer the questions that would normally appear on the paper customs declaration card.

Once they land, they can connect to the internet via personal data or the airport’s free Wi-Fi and submit their information directly to U.S. Customs and Border Protection. They will receive a green “go” confirmation in the app if there are no errors and the agency is able to process the information.

From there, passengers can proceed down the Mobile Passport express lane to a customs officer to scan the app and go through the normal customs interview.

“It’s kind of like a fast pass to the front of the line,” Sawyer said.

Passengers will still need to have a passport on hand, but the mobile passport will free the customs officer from having to verify all of the information that would typically be on the declarations form. That’s all verified with the confirmation within the app before reaching the officer.

It’s estimated that Mobile Passport Control will shave 10 to 20 seconds from each passenger interview with the officer. That, coupled with the express lane, can allow passengers to clear customs in minutes.

Those traveling with families can set up profiles within the app, which is also available at http://mobilepassport.us.

Starting in the fall, RDU will offer automated passport control kiosks now found at larger airports. The kiosks will function much like the app, allowing passengers to input and verify their customs declaration information.

“This is going to really speed up how you go through the customs process, ” Sawyer said.

Grayson Logue: 919-829-8922