New Study Shows US Immigration Experience Might Not Be as Bad as We Think

Jun 9, 2017

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The process of going through customs and immigration on your way back to or through the United States isn’t always known as being the most pleasant experience. But is it really as bad as we think? According to a recent customer study, most travelers think the process is actually rather enjoyable.

According to a report conducted by Elevation, LTD and Deloitte for US Customs and Border Protection (CBP), most travelers said that they had a good experience. According to the report, from October to December 2016, 92% of arriving air travelers were satisfied with their general experience. The study consisted of asking 25,586 passengers at 25 of the largest airports across the country about their experience. Of the respondents, 89% said they actually felt welcomed to the US. Of those who answered, 97% said that the US entry process met their expectations, and 88% said they were satisfied with their interactions with CBP officers. The highest numbers with the latter statistic came from officer processing efficiency, clear communications and professionalism.

As for how the majority of passengers went through the immigration process, 51% used the Automated Passport Control kiosks, whereas only 28% of travelers used the inspection booths. As for those sometimes long wait times, 83% of respondents in this study waited 15 minutes or less to be processed by CBP — 72% of those travelers characterized their wait time as “short,” 22% described it as “reasonable” and 6% said the processing time was “long.” Perhaps the most shocking statistic from the report was that approximately 20% of the respondents were Global Entry members. TPG is a big proponent of Global Entry, and recommends it for all passengers — even those who travel internationally only a couple of times a year. It’s interesting to see how many of the travelers who participated in this study were members of the program.

On the same note and almost as shocking as the Global Entry statistic was the fact that only a small number of arriving passengers used CBP’s mobile app, Mobile Passport. The report concluded that if more passengers were aware of the convenience of going through immigration with Mobile Passport, they would have been even more satisfied. Interestingly enough, a significant number of travelers said that they felt their experience could have been improved by even further automation — it was available, they just didn’t know about it.

mobile passport

For those not familiar, Mobile Passport is a free app that offers travelers expedited immigration when returning to the US. I tried the app out on a recent trip back to the US from New Zealand and was very impressed with how easy it was to use. At the time I was going through immigration, there was a line for Global Entry but no one in line for Mobile Passport — I was through in a few minutes. Plus, the app is free to download on your phone. If you’re not looking to dish out the money for Global Entry (even though many credit cards offer it for free), Mobile Passport is the perfect — and sometimes quicker — solution.

While many travelers think of going through customs and immigration as a long and drawn out process, this study reaffirms how it can be much improved when using apps and services that are available. So, it begs the question: Is the immigration process really as bad as it sometimes seems? Thankfully, there are ways to make the experience as painless as possible.

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