CBP Increases Use of Mobile Applications

U.S. Customs and Border Protection is transitioning certain inspection processes and public-facing functions to mobile applications. CBP’s website currently introduces five different applications in its “Mobile Apps Directory”:  CBP One, CBP ROAM, CBP Border Wait Times, Mobile Passport Control, and MyCBP.

CBP One™ is the agency’s primary traveler application, intended for widespread use.  Currently, it allows travelers to apply for provisional I-94 entry documents in advance of reaching border. The application also allows customs brokers, carriers, and forwarders to request appointments for the inspection of perishable cargo. The app provides land border wait times from their mobile device. The app allows foreign organizations to verify enrollment in Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP).

The app also has a Self Reporting Mobile Exit (SRME) feature, which is being tested with the Canadian Border Services Agency tracking, for tracking exits and compliance with periods of authorized stay. Blaine has been a test site for the pilot program and privacy impact assessments. The agency says that the self-reporting feature will allow persons to provide affirmative evidence of compliance with authorized stays.

CBP has for several years operated an online preclearance program for Visa Waiver travelers, referred to as ESTA, short for Electronic System for Travel Authorization. This system is used by non-Canadians who are in certain pre-cleared countries (e.g. much of Europe, Australia, Japan, Taiwan, Chile). Information is provided and fees are paid in advance under this system, and visitors are permitted to come in for business or pleasure for 90 days, with strict limitations on the stay. This system allows people to avoid consular appointments and pre-clear quickly, and the initial process takes place online.

Canada introduced its ArriveCAN application during the pandemic, which requires uploading vaccination records due to COVID travel restrictions. Recently I noted the I-5 readerboards are warning travelers of the need to have the application. Similarly, in Europe, a mobile app is planned for the ETIAS visa waiver program, to “further facilitate the application process of third-country nationals traveling to the European Union once the EU visa waiver is implemented in may 2023.” See https://www.etiasvisa.com/etias-news/etias-mobile-app.

The agency says additional services for the CBP One app will be rolled out over the next year.

CBP ROAM stands for “Reporting Offsite Arrival-Mobile”. This app is for pleasure boaters and other eligible travelers who arrive at remote locations, and here I’m reminded of the B-52s song. The app allows persons to report arrivals online, remotely. Some are allowed to submit to a remote video inspection. Pleasure boaters may also enroll in the Trusted Traveler Program, Local Boater Option. The “other remote locations” in the agency’s description is curious to me, as a sometimes backpacker, and our remote mountain crossings. CBP hopes to merge ROAM into CBP ONE by the end of the year.

The CBP Border Wait Times (BWT) app is what it sounds like. The app provides estimated wait times for reaching the primary inspection booth, the first point of contact with CBP when crossing the U.S./Canada and U.S./Mexico land borders. Updates are hourly. CBP One also offers wait time features, which may be why they’re calling in “One,” as they seek to consolidate things. 

The Mobile Passport Control app permits U.S. citizens and Canadian passport holders (on B1 or B2 status) to submit passport information and customs declaration information via a smartphone or tablet and then bypass the regular line to enter the United States. CBP says the app doesn’t require pre-approval and is free to use. The app is only utilized in designated airports—Sea-Tac and Portland are on the list.

CBP says myCBP allows persons to follow CBP’s Frontline Magazine, social media, and public messages. Much of this is also available at www.cbp.gov. By the way, CBP is hiring, here and elsewhere. This is one app that may be used for recruiting.

While not an app, CBP introduced facial recognition technologies for inspection at airports. The program is called “Simplified Arrival” and is described as a faster, paperless means for processing. Facial recognition has raised some concerns. CBP says they discard photos of U.S. citizens and exempt foreign nationals within 12 hours. The agency encrypts pictures and says it has other built-in security features. Apparently, the process is a bit of a surprise to frequent travelers, but clearance is said to be quicker.