If you're returning through Chicago O'Hare from a foreign trip, newly installed kiosks in the international arrivals area will allow you to skip much of the usual desks and paperwork. Just head to one of 32 self-service kiosks, scan your passport, get your picture taken, answer some questions, and get receipt and show it to the customs official.
According to reports, the average wait time has dropped from 50 to 34 minutes, but some travelers report no wait at all. You can even ignore the customs handouts that airline flight attendants offer to passengers before landing. For now, the kiosks work only for U.S. citizens; future extension to other citizens is unclear.
Clearly, this is great news for citizens entering the U.S. through O'Hare. Long processing times for international arrivals are among the biggest headaches travelers encounter throughout the air transport system. They're also annoying: Queuing for as much as an hour for a routine two-minute face-to-fare transaction seems absurd. And it is absurd, given that the process is so easily automated.
The only downside to this story is that, so far, only O'Hare has the kiosks. Let's hope the Customs and Border folks get busy and install them at every international gateway ASAP.
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