Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2009 | 1:52 p.m.
For the more than 2 million people who travel on international flights through McCarran International Airport each year, there is now a faster way to get through customs.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection installed a kiosk at the airport let passengers bypass the normal passport inspection with a live security agent.
The federal agency gave the news media a demonstration Wednesday on how to use the new Global Entry kiosk, which went into service Aug. 24.
“CBP wants to make the entry process more streamlined, understandable and user-friendly,” said Carlos Martel, the port director for the area that includes Las Vegas. “Global Entry participants will be able to bypass the regular passport control lines.”
The kiosk scans the participant’s passport and confirms the person’s identity by taking a picture of his or her face and scanning the traveler’s fingers.
Some travelers who use the kiosks still are randomly selected for clearance by a customs officer.
To participate, U.S. citizens and permanent residents go through a background check after applying online and paying a $100 fee. If approved, they are interviewed at the airport and have their photograph taken and fingerprints scanned.
Once approved, travelers can use the quicker program for five years.
Martel said the program is for low-risk, frequent travelers, allowing officers to focus on higher-risk passengers and offering shorter lines for others.
Using the kiosk takes less than 60 seconds -- much less than the five minutes it takes to go through the traditional passport check. And there is usually no line to use the machine, while waiting for the traditional check-in lines can take almost an hour.
“Each person who can pass through the CBP check-in process using Global Entry makes the experience much shorter for those who must still interact with a live CBP agent,” said Rosemary Vassiliadis, deputy director of the Clark County Department of Aviation, which oversees McCarran.
“We’re pleased that McCarran is among the first airports in the United States to offer this to their customers,” she said.
Vassiliadis said the airport tries to make visitors’ first and last look at Las Vegas a pleasant one, and when people decide to come to Las Vegas, the last thing they want to do is wait in a line at the airport.
This program will benefit all of Las Vegas by encouraging international travel, Vassiliadis said.
“As new hotel-casinos open … we recognize that this community’s economic growth will be driven, in part, by international travel,” she said.
The new Terminal 3 project now under construction includes six international gates, and British Airways will begin new daily service from Las Vegas to London next month.
Since installation last month, 22 people have used the enrollment center at McCarran to sign up for the system, Area Port Director Debbie Sanders said. Some were from other states where the service isn’t offered, but came to Nevada to sign up, she said.
Since beginning at three airports in June 2008, Global Entry is now offered at 20 airports and more than 21,000 people have enrolled nationwide, Martel said.
Eventually, the agency hopes to have 10 percent of international travelers using the system, but participation will remain voluntary, Martel said.
There currently is one kiosk in the inspection area and one in the interview office at McCarran, but the agency expects to add more machines as more travelers begin using the program.