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Word to the wise: automated immigration kiosks are the new hotness. These machines process the passports of US & Canadian citizens in a matter of seconds (minutes, if there's a line), and we foresee it one day pushing the Global Entry program to the curb. Oh, and it's free.
How to use the kiosks:
Simply roll up to one, scan your passport page, confirm that the screen has your ID and arriving flight info correct, tap to answer "no" to the usual "are you bringing anything weird into our country?" questions, and a camera snaps your photo and prints a receipt of the transaction. Show that receipt to a man in a booth (no waiting!), he'll stamp your passport, and you're free to enter baggage claim. You'll finally yield that receipt to the customs inspection officers after baggage claim, with minimal bother and no queuing.
Who's got them:
As far as we know, there are four US airports with immigration kiosks up and running for holders of US passports. They are:
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Pardon the slightly blurry photo, but we're beside ourselves with excitement.
Those new self-service passport processing kiosks slowly appearing at US airports to speed the re-entry process for US citizens are a godsend, and we can finally say so from experience. Already the machines are installed at Chicago-O'Hare and Dallas/Ft. Worth Airports, but encountering them ourselves at New York-JFK last week was an eye-opening surprise. It knocked our usual 40 minute wait time down to an impressive 40 seconds.
Located in Terminal 4, whose passport control area often erupts into airport hell after the arrival of foreign A380s, the 40 new kiosks were turned on October 15 to welcome travelers holding US passports...for free!
How do you use it? Well, simply roll up to one, scan your passport page, confirm that the screen has your ID and arriving flight info correct, tap to answer "no" to the usual "are you bringing anything weird into our country?" questions, and a camera snaps your photo and prints a receipt of the transaction. Show that receipt to a man in a booth (no waiting!), he'll stamp your passport, and you're free to enter baggage claim. You'll finally yield that receipt to the customs inspection officers after baggage claim, with minimal bother and no queuing.
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At the beginning of summer, the US Government launched a new way to speed through immigration at Chicago O'Hare. Self-service kiosks eliminating the need to wait in long lines for a passport stamp. Even in the midst of an embarrassing government shutdown, someone was at work long enough to declare they were a huge success, expediting their expansion.
The trial in Chicago went so well, the next airport to see the technology is Dallas-Fort Worth. Since 60% of arriving passengers cleared customs in 15 minutes or less, and 85% of the rest of travelers making their way through in no more than 30 minutes. The Texas hub will now be the next to see improved waiting times.
These three little letters, E, T and A might mean estimated time of arrival when you're talking about planes, trains and automobiles, but they also might be responsible for ruining a vacation down under. When traveling to Australia, those letters stand for Electronic Travel Authority, which is the technological replacement for the huge visa sticker you once needed in your passport. Visitors must have one if they're planning to rock-out on Aussie shores, go on walk-abouts, see the Opera House or pet a kangaroo.
The ETA is electronically stored when an immigration officer swipes your passport at the border and will provide all the juicy details of your travel to and from Oz. Sounds super cool and futuristic, but it's actually very easy to obtain and available today.
The best way to get one is to head to the Australian Immigration website to ensure you qualify for the convenience. The process is quick and cheap as you can get approved online in a few hours, and it costs just $20. The ETA is valid for 12 months, but you can only visit for three months at a time. You must also apply for it before your trip, as they do not take applications that come from within Australia.
We can't all be Beyonce. Taking a passport photo is only slightly less awkward than having a mugshot snapped, and since the person holding the camera is often an underpaid employee of a drug store photo corner, the responsibility for making you look good in the photo falls completely on yourself.
The US State Department gives a ton of photo examples for both bad and good passport photo-taking practices, but they don't address the important questions, like, "can I double down on the Applebee's margaritas the night before my photo?"
And this, reader, is why we're here to help. Without further ado, our top tips on looking good in your passport photo:
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A new international bridge is just around the corner, as the airport down in Tijuana has a plan to connect arriving passengers right into Mexico or the United States.
The plan—called Gateway to Las Californias—is made up of a 525-foot-long bridge that will connect the city’s A.L. Rodríguez International Airport directly with a US Customs station right on the other side of the border. You’d land in Mexico, get your stuff, and then walk over the bridge and arrive in the United States—assuming your visit with the customs and border protection officers goes well
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The customs and passport control process just got a little bit easier, as a slew of new kiosks have just arrived over in Chicago. The city’s O’Hare Airport is the first in the country to be hooked up with the new transportation technology, as the hope is that travelers will be able to make their way through the whole darn process just a little bit quicker.
We’ve mentioned these border protection beauties in the past, as the original test of these things was going on up in Vancouver. In total there’s like 32 of the new machines now awaiting US travelers as they make their way back home and into Chicagoland.
When it comes to international travel the most stressful part—at least to us—is trying to locate a stupid pen to fill out the arrival paperwork. Usually a fellow passenger or flight attendant has pity on us and loans us a Bic; however, the need for pen and paper might soon be a thing of the past.
Uncle Sam—through the United State Border Control—is rolling out some new technology in hopes of speeding up the border control process. Kiosks will soon be available to welcome passengers to—and back to—the United States, as paper forms are filed away forever. The first airports testing out the new procedures will be Vancouver International Airport and Chicago-O’Hare, so things won’t change overnight.
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She's been a veterinarian, an Olympic gymnast, a marine biologist, an 80s rock star, a mermaid and the president (many times over). She's Barbie, and her range is even unencumbered by nationality. The newest Barbies are additions to the classic "Dolls of the World" collection, and one in particular is causing quite the uproar.
A "Mexico Barbie," complete with a traditional Mexican dress and a pet chihuahua, has a passport has an accessory. Yikes.
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Sort out the food in your fridge
When you're about to leave for a big trip but find it hard to gobble down all the perishable food in your fridge and pantry, donate it to a local organization who'll feed it to people who aren't fortunate enough to be off on a big trip.
In big cities, Food Banks will happily accept individual donations while, in small cities, you'll have to give your local soup kitchen a call. In New York City, where residents are constantly impulse-buying yummies at Duane Reade without remembering that they're jetting off on a business trip the next day, the Food Bank of NYC has clearly outlined rules for such donations:
Spring it springing and your mind is likely on summer vacation..or even heading out far sooner than that, let's hope! Thus, it's once again time to think about keeping your passport nice. These things are valid for ten years. Ten years. That means that at no point in ten years can you spill coffee or especially Kool-Aid all over it.
Our three tips for passport care:
· Don't underestimate the power of a passport cover
Maybe this is common sense, but you'd be surprised how often we see travelers carrying their passports willy-nilly while walking through the airport. Get a passport cover...for several reasons. The "duh" reason is that it helps prolong the life of your passport, saving it from minor spills and whatnot. Other reasons for getting a cover include easy spotting it in your bag, keeping entry documents together, and not being obvious about your nationality. Just do know that you will have to remove your passport from the cover for inspection at immigration, customs, etc.
We have several passport cases, from basic and clear to leather and filled with pockets. Still, we've never found anything more easy to use than a larger wallet, where we stick the passport in the slot once used for a checkbook.
Sounds kind of like a given to ensure your travel documents are in order before handing over your boarding pass, but take it from us that you should always have another look on that tourist visa or itinerary. It's easy to overlook little misspellings or transcribed numbers, so it is even more important to have someone else look it over to give it the thumbs up.
Here is our story; any American traveler wanting to enter Vietnam needs to obtain a visa. This is not an e-visa that can be purchased online and electronically attached to your passport number. This is one of those old-fashioned, visit-a-consulate or mail-away-your-passport to the nearest embassy situations. While it's a bit of a hassle, a side perk is that you do get a pretty colorful sticker in your passport to show all your friends.