NEWS

DHS To Improve Customer Service for International Travelers

By Matthew Harwood

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has launched three new initiatives to make the entry process easier for international travelers, said homeland security chief Michael Chertoff.

"Perhaps the single criticism we hear most from international travelers is frustration with the entry process," said Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff. "We're committed to a more welcoming environment for the roughly one million foreign travelers arriving at our ports each day."

The Global Entry initiative will make it faster and easier for pre-approved, low-risk international travelers to enter the country. The pilot program for the initiative began today at George Bush International, John F. Kennedy International, and Washington Dulles International airports.

International travelers that apply to the program must  voluntarily submit their biographical and biometric information, undergo a background check, and interview with a Customs and Border Enforcement official. If accepted, international travelers will be able to use kiosks at the three airports to verify their identity electronically and declare any customs, according to DHS. (You can apply for Global Entry here.)

DHS will also introduce the Passenger Service Program to its top 20 model ports. Under the program, CBP program officers will identify and resolve passenger issues and use customer service techniques when interacting with the traveling public. The program will also team up with private sector and industry stakeholders to reduce wait times through improved signage and technology.

The department, lastly, will expand its Model Ports Initiative to 18 more airports. DHS says it has already "enhanced border security with the use of the new technology while streamlining security processes and facilitating travel for legitimate visitors." On top of brochures and more signage, DHS has also produced a video in Spanish, French, German and English to help international travelers navigate the entry process by relaying practical information such as what entry documents and forms are necessary for entrance into the United States.

"These initiatives," Chertoff said, "will reduce much of the frustration and anxiety we encounter, and make it easier on our frontline personnel to focus even more on actual security and criminal risks."

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