The notoriously long waits at Miami International Airport’s immigration control areas have eased partly because of technological improvements like automated passport swipe kiosks and mobile phone apps that enable some passengers to breeze through immigration, a senior U.S. official said at MIA Friday.
“Even as travel volumes continue to rise, wait times at Miami International Airport are down approximately 16 percent since their peak in fiscal year 2013,” said Alejandro Mayorkas, the Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security.
Emilio González, director of the Miami-Dade Aviation Department, which runs MIA, confirmed Mayorka’s statements that immigration lines at MIA have grown shorter.
“Empirically, it is,” said Gonzalez at the Mayorkas press conference which was held in a long MIA corridor lined with electronic machines where U.S. citizens and permanent residents could swipe their passports and green cards to enter the country. “All these kiosks are for people that don’t have to make the line.”
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Miami Herald
The fact that Homeland Security and MIA officials agree that passport control lines are shorter than they used to be is a departure from the concerns that Gonzalez and other airport officials expressed publicly.
In March last year, for example, Gonzalez flew to Washington to plead with federal authorities to increase the number of passport control officers at MIA because wait times at immigration lines were too long.
Now, Gonzalez said Friday, MIA, Homeland Security and other “private partners” are working in unison to continue improving the passport control experience.
“I used to receive complaints all the time,” said Gonzalez. “Now I can’t remember the last time I received a complaint.
In March 2014, Gonzalez said before leaving for Washington that in one case a group of travelers had to wait 2 ½ hours in the immigration line before being admitted.
“In fiscal year 2014 alone only 5.6 percent of passengers waited longer than one hour, representing a nearly 50 percent improvement from fiscal year 2013 when over 10 percent of the arriving passengers experienced a wait time of over one hour,” Mayorkas said,
Mayorkas and Gonzalez attributed the improvement in part to the new machines that allow travelers to swipe their documents and in many cases skip the passport control booth.
Mayorkas cited three examples of passport control automation that have greatly contributed to ease the passenger crush .
These are the so-called global entry system kiosks for pre-approved passengers; automated passport control self-service kiosks for U.S., Canadian and visa waiver travelers; and mobile passport control phone apps.
“Currently, nearly 20 opercent of all inbound travelers to Miami International Airport use the automated passport control kiosks,” said Mayorkas.
The mobile passport application, which is currently still in pilot phase, allows travelers to complete a customs declaration, submit passport information and upload a photograph prior to inspection.
Once information is submitted, the app generates an electronic receipt sent to the traveler’s mobile device with instructions.