SWEETGRASS — The Sweetgrass port of entry along the U.S.-Canada border in Montana is the first in the state to use what is known as a Simplified Arrival process for people coming in to the U.S.
The purpose of the process is to help U.S. Customs & Border Patrol process people quicker and ultimately keep the U.S. safer - and getting in to the U.S. from Canada will hopefully now be a little quicker.
"Simplified Arrival is an enhanced international arrival process that uses biometric facial comparison to streamline and enhance the document inspection process that is already required by law when entering the U.S,” explained Great Falls Port Director Mark Hanson.
Anyone crossing the border into the U.S. through the pedestrian lanes at the Sweet Grass port of entry or being processed for an I-94 travel document there will have their picture taken.
"The system compares the live photo to either the photo from the travel document or the government holdings that we have,” Hanson said.
When asked how long the process takes, he said only a couple of seconds, provided the internet is working.
Perhaps more important than speeding up the entry process, however, is what it allows CBP officers to do now that they'll be spending less time verifying travel documents.
"It allows them to focus more attention to the other aspects of the inspection process such as questioning or the baggage exam, that sort of thing,” said Hanson.
According to CBP, as of Wednesday since the new technology was implemented in the U.S. it had been used on more than 100 million travelers and had proven to be 98 percent effective.
Also as of Wednesday, since 2018 it had prevented more than 950 people from entering the U.S. using travel documents issued to someone else.
The technology is being used at the Sweet Grass port first because of how busy the port typically is.
The technology comes just in time for the reopening of the border on November 8, 2021.
"We're definitely looking forward to the border reopening and getting back to work. COVID-19 has really slowed things down for us and we're really looking forward to the traffic going back to a somewhat normal level,” Hanson said.