Pre-travel authorization enables governments to improve border security while simplifying the border control process for passengers, airports and airlines.
International air transport has continued to show strong growth through 2016, with traffic up by 6.4% over the first seven months of the year, including a 15% increase in the Middle East and 9% in both Africa and Asia Pacific (IATA figures).
This increase in traveler numbers places strain on a broad range of systems and services, not least border control – which in many countries is exacerbated by heightened concerns over security and immigration.
A growing number of countries are finding that pre-travel authorization is the key to avoiding long wait lines at the borders and to more efficient management of border control resources.
Crucially, it ensures that those who do not match entry criteria are not permitted to travel to their destination in the first place.
At the heart of pre-travel authorization is a mix of technology, systems integration, network connectivity and processes shared between border management agencies and key stakeholders such as airports and airlines.
Of course, pre-travel authorization is not new. Visas began to be introduced from the 1920s, however, many governments still require only a minority of foreign visitors to obtain a visa in advance of travel and little is known of those not requiring a visa until they arrive at the port of entry.
This has necessitated conducting checks upon arrival, often causing lengthy delays – and leading to additional costs for detention, processing and repatriation when arriving travelers are deemed inadmissible.
In addition, many border agencies already receive some passenger data from airlines, but it is often incomplete or inaccurate – and may only be available after an inbound flight is already in the air.
Pre-travel authorization plugs this gap by providing high-quality data for governments to valídate before passengers even board their inbound flight, allowing travelers to be prevented from traveling if they would be deemed inadmissible upon arrival.
Security is improved and the reduced workload from not handing inadmissible passengers at the border frees up resources to ensure that arriving passengers are able to progress smoothly through border controls.
Pre-travel authorization is a way of collecting and distributing information that allows border agencies to assess travelers’ risk level before they travel. It also opens up the way for further automation of border control for low risk travelers.
For example, the use of Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) allows governments to vet travelers before travel, such as by checking watch lists and databases to see if there is any reason not to admit the applicant. When the traveler is cleared for travel, they will be registered on the government’s database.
SITA’s Advance Passenger Processing, or APP, solution integrates pre-travel authorization with airlines’ check-in processes for real-time clearance by the authorities of the destination country and, in some cases, those of the departure country as well.
Using APP allows governments to receive each passenger’s travel document and flight details at the time of check-in, regardless of whether the check-in is online, using a kiosk or in person. The government vets the traveler and then returns an ok-to-board or no-board instruction to the check-in agent or, if check-in is online or via a kiosk, to the check-in application, which then then instructs the traveler to speak to an airline agent.
It’s a neat way for countries to export their border, to everyone’s advantage. One SITA customer built their business case on potential savings from processing illegal migrants at the border.
“SITA is in a unique position to provide border services because we’ve been delivering border solutions both in the government and air transport industry sectors for 20 years,” according to Sean Farrell, Head of Portfolio Management, Government Solutions at SITA.
SITA is in a unique position to provide border services because we’ve been delivering border solutions both in the government and air transport industry sectors for 20 years.
“We can act as an intermediary and offer extensive experience integrating air transport and government systems.
“For example, our core pre-travel authorization system iBorders® TravelAuthorization pre-approves more than 200 million travelers per year.”
In partnership with SITA, the Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) pioneered pre-travel authorization with the introduction of the Electronic Travel Authority System (ETAS) in 1996.
ETAS enabled Australia to cope with a huge influx of visitors to the Sydney Olympic Games in 2000, without compromising border security. Today Australia processes over 2.5 million ETAS transactions a year using iBorders and 3.5 million ETAS queries. The Australia Government has also made Advance Passenger Processing (APP) mandatory in Australia.
SITA has also helped across the Middle East, at the crossroads between East and West and a strategic area for air travel, trade, tourism, business and investment.
But it’s also a target for terrorism, so while countries around the world have implemented border management systems of limited scope – often in a piecemeal fashion – SITA has helped many governments in the Middle East deploy fully integrated border management systems, allowing them to become world leaders in air transport security and facilitation.
The movement of people across the world has never been greater, but the result has been the need for increased security and border management. Fortunately, technology is delivering the means to minimize the inconvenience to passengers, airlines and airports – while maximizing the ability of governments to fulfill their primary obligation to their citizens.