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Saturday, June 15, 2024

Can I Use My Cellphone within the U.S. Customs Line?

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Final month, as my worldwide flight was touchdown at San Francisco Worldwide Airport, the flight crew made an announcement to remind us to not use our telephones till after we had cleared passport management. After which on the way in which to the immigration strains, I noticed a “no telephones” signal, and I all of the sudden questioned: Why not? I imply, we use our telephones in almost each different sector of our lives. Why can’t we use them whereas ready in a painfully lengthy customs line? (Though with World Entry, I not often wait in line anymore—value each penny!)

I suspected that it had one thing to do with safety protocols. However what, precisely? To clear up the thriller, I spoke with Greta Campos, a deputy govt director at U.S. Customs and Border Safety.

Can I take advantage of my cellphone within the immigration line?

The quick reply, shockingly, is sure. Regardless of the flight crews’ warning—and the indicators—“U.S. Customs and Border Safety doesn’t prohibit use of telephones when you’re ready within the immigration line,” Campos says.

There are, nevertheless, caveats. You are prohibited from taking or making calls and from recording video or audio in restricted areas, Campos says. On the airport, restricted areas embody the sales space the place you’re really being interviewed by a CBP officer and locations the place the CBP does extra intensive exams, akin to baggage searches.

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You might be additionally not allowed to file (video or audio) these round you for causes of safety and privateness. And if a safety concern arises, a CBP officer could ask individuals to place telephones away, Campos says.

Whereas ready in line, you’re free to textual content, browse the online and social media, play video games, or anything to go the time. Campos notes that you may technically make a cellphone name if completely mandatory however asks that you simply be respectful of these round you (i.e., no speakerphone calls, which must be apparent however . . .). And if you happen to are on the cellphone, she says, please, please take note of what’s taking place round you.

“I believe we’ve all been in that scenario the place we’ve been on our cell telephones and we don’t hear directions,” Campos says. “Whereas that sounds prefer it’s not a whole lot of time, if you add that up over 20, 30, 100 vacationers . . . that additional 5, 10 seconds really makes an enormous distinction.”

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If it’s allowed, why do the customs indicators nonetheless say “no telephones”?

At one time, there could have been a restriction in place (CBP gained’t verify or deny), which is why you should still see some indicators in airports. However CBP is actively selling Cell Passport Management, an app that enables individuals to create profiles with their passport data earlier than touring in order that CBP has your passport data earlier than you get to the sales space. And for that, clearly, you’ll want to make use of your cellphone.

As for these flight crew bulletins, just like the one which I heard, airways and airports could have an ulterior motive, Campos says. When persons are on their telephones and never paying consideration, it provides that 5 or 10 seconds to each individual that must be processed. “That 5 seconds instances 30,000 individuals makes an enormous distinction,” she reiterates. Airways, after all, are likely to unload an enormous pile of individuals at one time, lots of whom have connecting flights. And so they need these individuals to maneuver by way of customs as rapidly as potential “in order that then they’ll flip round and return out.”

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Are there some other customs restrictions?

Keep in mind that Customs and Border Safety is legally allowed to go looking your cellphone even when they don’t suspect you of wrongdoing, so when you’ve got delicate knowledge or data, you’d be smart to energy down your cellphone and maintain it tucked away till you’re by way of customs.

Along with utilizing your mobile phone judiciously, ensure you have all the proper paperwork (customs types and legitimate passport), and take an excellent look over the whole lot you’re carrying with you. There are quite a few gadgets, akin to sure meals and handicrafts, that would require extra inspection and potential fines.

Ultimately, none of us desires to pay in both cash or time whereas we’re within the center, or on the finish of our travels. Which signifies that the following time I’m caught in an extended immigration line, I believe I’ll tuck my cellphone away and bust out an excellent paperback.

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