Documentation, including having an appropriate visa and other travel documents in order, is just one part of ensuring that in international trip is a safe and pleasant journey.
United States Customs and Border Protection and the Transportation Security Administration are responsible for security at nearly 440 airports, 25,000 domestic flights and 2,500 international flights every day. More than 45,000 transportation security officers’ primary mission is to ensure the safety of passengers traveling to and from the United States by screening almost two million passengers each day. As such, the TSA and Customs have developed several guidelines travelers should note:
- United States citizens must have approved and valid travel documents in hand when returning to the U.S. This includes passports and other required paperwork unique to each travel situation.
- The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative protocols demand that Canadian and United States citizens, 16 years and older, have a valid travel document that shows both the citizenship and identity of the carrier when entering the country by land or by sea. Citizens under 16 can show a birth certificate as a means of proof to meet this requirement.
- Travelers who already have a radio frequency identification-enabled travel document will enjoy an expedited entry into the United States. These documents include a U.S. Passport Card, an Enhanced Driver’s License, an Enhanced Identification Card or a Trusted Traveler Program card.
- Participants in the Visa Waiver Program must have an approved Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) before they board a carrier to the United States by air or by sea.
- Other acceptable programs allowing expedited nonimmigrant entry into the United States include SENTRI, NEXUS and Global Entry.
To move as quickly as possible through the screening process at airports, seaports and borders, Customs and Border Protection advises the following:
Check Your Eligibility
- Travelers should familiarize themselves with prohibited travel items. That list can be found of the Customs website at http://www.customs.gov/xp/cgov/travel/vacation/kbyg
Be prepared with travel documents in hand and ready to declare any items acquired while out of the country.
- When trying to meet travel schedules, make sure to build in enough time for Customs and TSA inspections at travel hubs.
- Make sure you understand the difference between goods carried for personal use versus goods carried for commercial use. For details, go to www.cbp.gov/travel.
- Passengers should be ready for random security checks that could take place throughout an airport. This could include hand screening of luggage, canine detection teams, bottled liquid screening technology and other similar safety measures.