If you’re planning a trip to the USA soon, don’t be surprised if security measures are more thorough than normal.
This expected boost of security is not due to a change in threat levels, and there’s no need to worry if you are searched or questioned. Rather, these efforts come following an investigation by the Department of Homeland Security. The DHS recently ran some undercover tests across 70 airports across the country, to ensure that procedure was being followed properly and efficiently. A high level of unauthorised items went through security undetected, which is the reason for the reforms. In fact, only three of these airports passed the undercover tests.
The reforms are likely to include retraining security officers and retesting scanning equipment. Naturally, this is likely to entail a seemingly excessive level of security in US airports for a while. To be on the safe side, when you are checking in for your return flight out of the USA, allow extra time in the airport so you’re not in a hurry!
There has already been a bit of a shuffle in the TSA to ensure that security is at its best, including a change in management. The measures that will be taken will also include a greater quantity of random checks, so, once again, do not be alarmed if you are thoroughly searched, this is all part of their efforts to maximize safety.
One thing that you can do to ensure a smooth process in US airports is to have your documentation and travel information at the ready. After ordering your ESTA online, print it out so that you can easily show it to security officials. Make sure you have the address where you will be staying written down when going through security, and answer any questions about your trip.
Be prepared for some rather strange questions at this stage; whilst your ESTA grants you travel to the USA for a maximum period of 90 days, it is the security officer who gets to make the final decision as to whether to let you in to the country. Therefore, this officer is likely to ask a fair few questions about your purpose in the United States. It can feel a little intimidating have to answer so many questions, but it's best to just stay polite and patient, which will make the whole process much easier.
Security measures are often changed and adapted, and these upcoming reforms are just another case of trying to maximise the safety and security of all travellers and of the country itself. Make the process easy for yourself by having all documentation ready, and allowing plenty of time to go through security checks.
Travelling to the United States? Do you have your pre-planning checklist in order? Visit our ESTA Guide for more information about obtaining your travel permit. We'd love to hear from you. Send us your comments or questions for travel assistance.