Tue | Jan 18, 2022

Do away with immigration and customs forms

Published:Friday | March 15, 2019 | 12:00 AM


Andrew Wynter, chief executive officer of Passport, Immigration and Citizenship Agency (PICA), announced recently that a paperless passenger system would come on stream by June to allow travellers to complete customs and immigration requirements online ahead of travel.

Arriving passengers can then present their passport to an officer to be swiped and the information pulled up.

My concern has always been the length of the immigration/customs form. It is one of the longest I’ve seen in any country I’ve visited.

In many places, including the United States, Canada, and Europe, they have abandoned these forms.

What happens if a passenger completes the form online then some aspects of the information change after the form has been submitted, for example, the number of pieces of luggage, or the number of passengers in the party if someone missed the flight?

Or what happens if the flight is rescheduled to a different flight, with a different number or a different arrival date? Or what happens if the online information cannot be found due to a typo or an error? I can imagine the confusion (and further delays) if this should occur.

I think the elimination of these forms completely, or making the form more concise, would be a better move! Most of the information recorded on the form is already in the passport document, which can be accessible from an electronic swipe, for example, name, date of birth, citizenship, etc.

The key is to reduce the long lines and process passengers more efficiently. Montego Bay airport, in particular, can be extremely busy, with flights arriving within minutes of each other. I’m sure they can look at what other countries are doing and try to improve the process without compromising national security or customs concerns.

I don’t think these forms should also serve as a tourism survey.