The challenges of clearing immigration in TT don't have to be explained to anyone who has had the misfortune of arriving in this country when another international flight has landed. The congestion that results is significant and deeply annoying for those who have travelled hundreds, sometimes thousands of miles only to be met with what might only be described as an ambiguous welcome.
The introduction of 12 automated passport control kiosks in the immigration control area of the airport counts as a significant step forward in addressing these delays and hopefully signals an effort by the Airports Authority as well as the nation's border control authorities to significantly improve the quality of our systems for clearing visitors into TT. Three of the kiosks have been installed in Tobago. The system is in limited testing this week, with a few incoming visitors being invited to use it, but from July 28, the facility is meant to go live for all qualifying passengers.
This first step at improving our welcome isn't the only reason for implementing automated border control systems, nor should it be equipment that's deployed for that singular purpose. The primary function of these kiosks is to provide a self-service option for passengers, but there are other aspects of the system which can bring additional benefits, and not just of convenience.
The Global Entry system implemented by the US Customs and Border Protection service specifically targets pre-approved, low-risk travellers for expedited entry. That system, now a mature service, has been taken to another level through the use of the Mobile Passport Control app, which further simplifies the entry process. Mobile Passport Control removes the drudgery of filling out forms on both ends of the information transaction, moving the responses to questions directly from a user's smartphone or tablet and into the country's active database of responses. This digital concierge service isn't quite VIP treatment, but it rewards frequent travellers with a history of following the rules of travel and makes their movement between nations a little easier.
TT is already a participant in the Advance Passenger Information system and deeper engagement with international policing databases, such as I-Checkit, Interpol's system for delivering live reports on the lost or stolen passports often used by terrorists, is to be encouraged.
There isn't one automated passport system available for nations, but all of these technologies are designed to marry convenience for the user with the efficient and precise collection of passenger information for improved national security and to build a resource of readily referenced data about travellers, both local and international.