CBP Launches Nation’s First ‘Model Port’ at Houston Airport
Yearlong efforts to establish products and processes to make international travel into the United States more welcoming has resulted in Houston’s airport becoming the nation’s first model port of entry.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), which welcomes more than 400 million travelers into the U.S. each year, spearheads the model port effort.
The concept is a joint initiative between Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
The program introduces improved signage, multi-lingual explanatory videos and modernized procedures designed to ease the process of arriving in America.
The CBP has also implemented a systems upgrade in which “false-positive” matches will no longer result in travelers being referred for additional inspection, once it has been confirmed that they are not the person of interest. Since February of 2005 this upgrade has resulted in avoiding more than 25,000 subsequent inspections, saving time for travelers and CBP officers.
While security will always be CBP’s primary mission, the model port project seeks to make the process of entering the U.S. more streamlined, user-friendly and understandable.
“We want the world to know that America remains a warm, welcoming nation,” says CBP Commissioner W. Ralph Basham. “CBP has the dual mission of securing America from those who would do us harm while facilitating legitimate travel and trade. Our model port project is about reaching a hand out to our friends and neighbors around the world.”
A new video, narrated in Spanish, French, German and English, guides travelers through the customs and immigration process.
A “Welcome to the U.S.” brochure and a variety of new bilingual directional signs have also been added to point the way and lessen confusion.
Another example of the government’s commitment to traveler facilitation is the new Traveler Redress Inquiry Program, DHS TRIP, a Web site enabling travelers to address watch list misidentification issues and other problems with any of the department’s travel-related agencies. It can be accessed at www.dhs.gov/trip.
According to Basham, Houston Intercontinental, the nation’s sixth busiest airport, was selected for the project because of its status as a gateway for foreign travelers and its diverse and vibrant economy.
The U.S. Department of Commerce projects a record number of international travelers to the United States in 2007, breaking the historical record set in 2000. The department also reports that 51.1 million international visitors traveled to the United States in 2006, an overall increase of four percent over 2005.
The processes implemented at George Bush Intercontinental in Houston will be replicated in Washington-Dulles International Airport later this spring and will serve as a prototype for international airport operations around the U.S.