Whatever Happened to Those Self-Service Passport Kiosks at Airports?


Sort of. The mobile passport program is here to stay, though lines are getting added to some airports and removed from others, said Matt Cornelius, the executive vice president of Airports Council International-North America, a trade association representing around 300 airports in the United States and Canada.

For those who have not heard of the mobile system, it is essentially an alternative to the more established line-skipping system, Global Entry. In order to utilize Global Entry, you must go through a $100 nonrefundable application process. If accepted, you look for a Global Entry kiosk upon arrival. (These are sticking around, though they are being transitioned to facial verification.)

With the mobile passport system, there is no application process or fee. Instead, travelers download an app and input their passport information. Upon arrival, they look for a mobile passport line, which is typically quite short.


As to why mobile lines disappeared recently, some locations “felt Simplified Arrival was going to be quicker,” Mr. Davies said, referring to the C.B.P.’s facial comparison system.

Other airports may have phased them out temporarily while making them more compatible, Mr. Davies said. Recently, the mobile passport system has begun relying on the same facial comparison program.


Around 85 percent of the 221,000 daily visitors arriving from abroad are now verified by face, according to C.B.P. officials. Passengers on around 26 percent of departing international flights are also photographed, with the goal of processing travelers this way on 50 percent of flights by the end of 2023 and, according to Mr. Panetta, “100 percent of flights within the next three years.”

On entry, when you get to an agent, if you are over the age of 14, a camera photographs your face. Technically, Americans can opt out, while foreign nationals are required to participate. But critics say that the agency has failed to make it clear that you can ask an agent to verify your identity the old way. On a recent evening, at John F. Kennedy International Airport, this alternative was outlined 16 lines down on a piece of paper taped to the side of the customs booth. The exemption for some minors and elders — travelers over 80 are not required to participate either — was not posted.

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