US airports to automate customs for international travellers

The Department of Homeland Security said Friday it will install 340 more airport kiosks to automate passport inspections - a move the White House says will reduce wait times for international arrivals by up to 30 per cent.

The move is part of an effort by the Obama administration to double international tourism to the United States over five years.

The administration is also expanding a program, first used at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. to allow certain travellers to submit their passport information and customs declaration form through a smartphone app before their customs inspection. That program will be rolled out to 20 more airports by the end of next year.

The push to automate the customs declaration process could mean that Customs and Border Patrol will be able to completely phase out paper customs forms in the next year or two.

The Homeland Security and Commerce departments released a report on the new measures Friday. The administration is focusing on the 17 largest international airports, which welcome three quarters of all international visitors.

Travel industry groups praised the announcement. US Travel Association President Roger Dow said the moves show that the Obama administration "grasps the broader value of attracting international travellers to the US".