Each year as the holiday season approaches, our airports and borders experience an influx of international travelers.  U.S. Custom and Border Protection at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport has provided some reminders and recommendations to make upcoming holiday travel more enjoyable and stress free.

Use Trusted Traveler Programs.  Programs such as NEXUS, SENTRI, Global Entry, or FAST/EXPRES significantly decrease processing wait times.  At U.S. Airports, the quickest and easiest way to go through CBP processing is to become a member of Global Entry.  Global Entry is available in 31 U.S. airports, 10 preclearance locations, and allows pre-approved travelers to by-pass traditional CBP processing and use a self-service kiosk upon arrival.  Global Entry kiosks reduce entry wait times and 75% of members are processed in under five minutes.  The program is available to U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents as well as Mexican Nationals.  Canadian citizens and residents receive Global Entry benefits through membership in the NEXUS program.  Those enrolled in the Dutch Privium program or South Korea’s Smart Entry Service may also apply for Global Entry and vice versa.  To apply, applicants must pay the $100.00 application fee and possess a machine-readable passport or U.S. permanent resident card.  More information can be found at www.GlobalEntry.gov

Be mindful of what you are bringing into the U.S.  According to CBP, during the holiday season they seize more foreign fruits, vegetables, meats, and animal/plant products coming into the U.S.  There are certain items from foreign countries that are restricted and may carry foreign animal and plant pests and diseases that could damage American crops, livestock, pets, and environment.  For a full list of restricted items, check out: CBP Restricted Item List

Nationals or citizens of Visa Waiver Program countries are required to have an approved Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) prior to traveling to the U.S. under VWP.  CBP advises that ESTA applications should be submitted when making travel plans to ensure approval prior to traveling.  Those traveling with a visa should have a completed I-94 form when approaching CBP processing.  

Have all required documents for the country you are visiting as well as identification to re-enter the U.S.  For country specific information, check out www.travel.state.gov

Complete Customs Declaration form (6059b) upon reaching CBP processing.  Declare all items from abroad, even if purchased in duty-free shop. 

Build additional time into trips during busy travel seasons in the instance of a thorough inspection by CBP.  Please be aware that CBP officers have the right to inspect you and your personal belongings including luggage, vehicle, and personal searches.

Monitor border wait times for various ports of entry and attempt to plan your trip during periods of lighter traffic or use an alternate, less traveled port of entry.

For more information regarding international travel, check out CBP’s  Know Before You Go brochure.