Say Goodbye to Long Customs Lines at YVR

Photo credit: lawrence's lenses | Flickr

Photo credit: lawrence’s lenses | Flickr

Anyone who travels to the U.S. frequently from Vancouver’s YVR Airport knows about the dreaded customs line.

You may have breezed through check-in and security, but you never know what’s waiting for you in customs.  Sometimes, the line zips along in five minutes.  Other times, the room is packed with hundreds of passengers and you’re nervously checking your watch as it crawls forward.

Well, it looks like those days may finally be over. Automated passport kiosks have finally been rolled out for Canadians travelling to the U.S., according to an article in the Vancouver Sun.  The kiosks are similar to those already used by Canadian travellers returning to Canada at the airport.

After scanning your passport, you answer a series of customs declaration questions using a touch screen.  The kiosk will snap a quick photo to confirm your identity, then issue a receipt, which you bring to a customs official for final approval.

The payoff for all this computerized action: dramatically shorter wait times.  Automated passport control has been shown to speed up the customs process by 89 percent and reduce wait times by 33 percent.  Customs officers using the system can handle 160 passengers an hour, compared to just 40 passengers an hour the old-fashioned way, according to the Vancouver Sun article.

Wondering why you don’t see this incredible technology at every airport?  Back in 2009, YVR was actually the very first airport to implement this kind of automated passport control for Canadians coming back to Canada (The kiosks themselves are built right next door in Surrey). Since then, the airport authority has sold the systems to Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, as well as Montreal-Trudeau Airport and even John F. Kennedy Airport in New York.

In Chicago where, incredibly, four-hour customs waits used to be commonplace, missed flight connections have been reduced by 62 percent.  Other major U.S. and Canadian airports are considering implementing the time-saving technology in the near future.

Anyone been stuck on one of those monster U.S. customs lines? What do you think of the new system? 

For more updates on travel in Vancouver and beyond, follow me on Twitter @RemyScalza.  

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19 Responses to Say Goodbye to Long Customs Lines at YVR

  1. Pingback: Say Goodbye to Long Customs Lines at YVR

  2. Teri

    Unfortunately, someone with my name has been tagged as undesirable at the US customs. Invariably, flight or cruise, I am pulled out of line while they look into this. Almost missed our flight to Disneyland when we took our granddaughter, and thank heavens the cruise was delayed as on a Sunday it was difficult to get anyone to verify. I have a nexus card, but I am still undesirable at customs, so I have given up and only drive over the border.

    • Todd


      You need to apply for a Redress Control Number. Your life will be made much easier when entering the USA:s

  3. Art

    As long as it’s not an excuse to lay people off or pay them less, then I’m all for it.

  4. Jess

    Only one kiosk was working when I went through. They sent us to the line up which was apparently only for Nexxus clients and I got yelled at for it. Not impressed.

  5. Cindy

    worked brilliantly for me, and line moved really fast!

  6. Neal

    I have used it to great success, and great frustration. If you have alcohol or cigarettes to declare, it’s better to talk to the guys, or if you’re over on budget. Even a dollar, both will be cause to pull you aside.

    If you’re a very standard entry, within budget, and just going thru, I’ve found it works out nicely.

    Ensure you write nicely on the declaration, as you need to scan it.

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