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Gazette Premium Content Kiosks arrive at Newark airport to speed customs

Associated Press Updated: July 2, 2014 at 2:31 pm

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — On her way from London to Ithaca, New York, through Newark Liberty Airport on Wednesday morning, Cindy Gration found herself spending more time talking about the new automated passport kiosk she'd just used than it took to use the machine itself.

Count it as a small piece of validation of the new system, which debuted a few weeks ago but was officially unveiled Wednesday and touted as an advancement toward reducing lines at customs for international travelers.

Twenty kiosks are set up in Terminal C for arriving travelers, with 10 more scheduled to be installed soon. They're already in use in about 20 U.S. airports including New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport. They're planned for several more airports including Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Tampa, Phoenix and Minneapolis.

"This technology allows customers to have shorter connect times so they can meet their obligations, and that's really important," said Don Wright, United Airlines' vice president for Newark.

American citizens returning from international trips and Canadian citizens arriving in the U.S. for short business trips are eligible to use the service, said Robert Perez, director of U.S. Customs and Border Protection's New York field office.

Travelers use the kiosks by scanning their passport and having the machine take a photo of them to compare the two. Then they answer several questions about whether they're declaring any goods. A law enforcement check is done electronically through the kiosk, and the traveler receives a receipt to bring to the customs line, where an agent takes over.

The whole process takes about two minutes.

Previously, those steps were performed by a customs agent, which contributed to long lines — more than an hour in places like Newark and JFK, according to Wright, who called the kiosks "a good step in the right direction."

"It seems to work well and it's fast," Gration said. "And you're still going to go through and talk to a human being, which comforts me."

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