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Securing the border in times of uncertainty

Published on  10 December by Sean Farrell , Portfolio Director, Government Solution Line
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In light of recent terrorist attacks in Beirut, Kenya, Paris and other places around the world, security has become top of mind for many travelers and governments alike. Meanwhile, the growth of international air travel continues unabated, with travelers crisscrossing borders in unprecedented numbers. This is especially apparent during busy travel times, when flights are full and airports are operating at peak capacity.

Vetting such large numbers of people without increasing resources or significantly harming the passenger experience is a huge challenge for border management agencies. Recent international terrorism events only increase the stakes.

One way governments can ensure the security of their borders without increasing resources or creating long queues is pre-travel authorization. In essence, this means exporting the border back to the country of origin by processing travelers in advance of travel to prevent unauthorized persons from departing - or arriving at the destination country in the first place.

This concept is not new. For years, travelers have been required to get visas in order to visit certain countries. These are a form of pre-travel authorization. Increasingly, visas have moved from paper to digital formats, making them more secure. But many governments require only a minority of all foreign visitors to get visas in advance of travel. And, historically, little has been known about arriving passengers that are not required to obtain a visa until they arrive at the border.

While many border agencies receive some passenger data in advance from the airlines, it is often incomplete or inaccurate. And it is often available only shortly before or after the flight has left. This means the vast majority of passenger processing takes place upon arrival, and governments have to shoulder the burden of processing inadmissible travelers then and there. The costs incurred – for detention, processing, repatriation, etc. – can be in the tens of thousands of dollars for a single inadmissible traveler.

Pre-travel authorization solves this problem by providing high-quality data that governments can validate in advance of passengers boarding their flights. The government then has the option of preventing travelers from departing who would likely be deemed inadmissible on arrival. This increases security while reducing delays at the border for all travelers.

A multi-layered approach is necessary to make pre-travel authorization work in the real world. Data must be collected and distributed via a combination of technology, systems integration, network connectivity, and shared processes between border management agencies and other stakeholders (airports and airlines).

Electronic travel authorization (ETA), for example, closes the security gap by ensuring passengers from visa-waiver countries are vetted in advance by checking them against watch lists and other government databases. And the process can be made even more secure by using biometrics to verify traveler identities against their e-passports.

Another important piece of the puzzle is advance passenger processing, or interactive advance passenger information (i-API), which integrates the pre-travel screening process with airline check-in procedures. When the airline check-in agent swipes the passenger’s passport, the individual’s passport data is combined with the flight details and forwarded to the authorities of the destination country (and in some cases the departure country, as well). i-API provides the mechanism for countries to export their border, allowing check-in agents to act as a virtual primary line in another country.

To learn more about pre-travel authorization – including integration and use cases – don’t miss our latest paper, Exporting the border.

> Download the paper

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