Go Through Customs Quickly At An Airport

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November 29, 2023
5 min read

Traveling by air can be stressful, especially when it comes time to go through customs. According to the US Customs and Border Protection, long wait times are becoming increasingly common. Of course, you can always apply for Global Entry to streamline the process but I’ll go over my favorite time saver in this article.

With aviation security measures ramping up in an effort to keep travelers safe, it's important to know how to navigate the customs process quickly and efficiently. In this article, you'll learn my number 1 tip for getting through US customs quickly and for free—regardless of your destination or flight.

When do you go through customs?

When you travel to the United States, going through customs is a necessary step that all passengers must take. Whether you are traveling by air or crossing land borders, customs will be the final checkpoint before entering into the country. 

For those who are flying into the US, going through customs will occur in two stages: when you arrive at your US destination airport or when you leave your international departure airport. Upon arriving at the US destination airport, travelers will go through passport control and immigration checks. After these steps have been completed successfully, travelers can then proceed to customs where they may be asked questions about their reason for visiting and asked to declare any items that could be subject to duty fees or taxes. 

At international airports of departure from the US, foreign passengers must also complete paperwork for Customs and Border Protection (CBP) before boarding their flight home or continuing on to another country.

How long does it take to go through customs?

When traveling, one of the most time-consuming and tedious tasks is going through customs. Whether you are returning home from a vacation abroad or just crossing the border for a short visit, it's a part of the travel process.

I recently had the experience of going through customs at an international airport. It took me nearly two hours to get through the process. The line was very long and the agents were out to ask a lot of questions of passengers before allowing them entry. 

Going through customs can be a lengthy process but understanding what to expect ahead of time can help make your journey smoother and more enjoyable overall.

That story was just anecdotal but the real factor is the time of day - airports tend to be busiest in the morning and late afternoon/evening hours due to flights arriving from abroad. Another factor is how busy the airport is at any given time will also play a role in determining how long it takes. Generally speaking you will spend at least 30 minutes on a return flight to the US.

Get through customs in a matter of minutes.

How to save time and get through customs quickly

Are you dreading the long wait times at customs? Fear no more - there is a way to save time and get through customs quickly! The trick is to download the MPC app. This app allows you to scan your passport and complete all of your necessary customs forms before arriving at the airport. All I had to do was create an account, add my passport and flight information, fill out my custom’s form, and submit them for review. All I had to do was show my QR code to the officer. It was a breeze!

The best part about this app is that it eliminates wasting time and standing in line with hundreds of other travelers. I kid you not, I was through CBP Immigration in less than 2 minutes, that’s including the time taking my photo at the custom’s booth. It was super awesome that I was able to avoid waiting altogether by filling out my custom’s form ahead of time.

The MPC app is available for download on both iPhone and Android devices, and it allows travelers to submit their passport information, answer customs questions, and receive an electronic receipt with an encrypted barcode prior to arriving at their U.S. port of entry. With this mobile application, travelers can bypass long lines at the airport and make their way directly to a Customs & Border Protection officer for processing. This saves valuable time as well as stress when returning from international trips. 

You can read more here on how to use the MPC app and avoid waiting in lines at customs and immigration in the US.


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I consider myself a world-travelling nomad and a foodie at heart. Born in Germany and raised in East Tennessee, my passion for exploration has taken me all over the planet - exploring unfamiliar lands and cultures is what truly inspires my soul!
I live outside of Doha and consider myself an inside expert on all things Qatar. I love exploring all the country has to offer and look forward to giving you valuable insights of where I call home!
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