Customs officials try to minimize border wait times

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(Host)  The summer months mean an increase in traffic at border crossings between the U.S. and Canada. 

Customs officials have been looking at ways to minimize wait times at the land ports of entry.

VPR’s Neal Charnoff reports.

(Charnoff) Last year, travelers looking to enter the U.S. during the Fourth of July holiday weekend experienced lengthy delays. 

U.S. Customs and Border Protection has been looking at ways to ease congestion at the border this year.

Field Operations Director Steve Farquharson says there are several ways travelers can help themselves reduce the wait, and in turn, help customs officials.

Farquharson recommends having the necessary documentation ready when you arrive at the port of entry.  

(Farquharson)  “Of course, the best document that I recommend to travelers is to have the passport from their home country. It serves as both their identity and their citizenship document.  If they do not have their passport, generally we recommend to have a valid ID issued by a federal, state, local or provincial authority, along with their birth certificate, or certificate of citizenship. And be prepared to present those when they arrive at the border, actually have them out of their purse, out of their luggage, ready to give to the officer.”

(Charnoff) Farquharson says travelers should also be ready declare what they’re bringing with them into the country. 

He acknowledges that there were problems that led to lengthy delays last summer.

He says his department has taken steps to minimize delays this year. 

(Farquharson) “One of the things that we’ve really looked at is opening all of our primary passenger lanes early enough in the travel day, so that the traffic does not build up perhaps as it’s sometimes done in the past. Also, having two officers work out of that primary inspection booth, to help with obtaining the declarations, helping run the various queries on the people.”

(Charnoff) Farquharson says travelers can also check the Customs Web site to see how long the wait will be at the border.

Farquharson says that his agents currently have limited flexibility on allowing travelers through the border even if they don’t have all of their documentation. 

He warns that restrictions will tighten when the full Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative is implemented in June 2009. 

For VPR News, I’m Neal Charnoff.

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