25 US airports offer automated immigration checks for Koreans
South Korean travelers now don’t have to line up for immigration checks at some U.S. airports.
The two countries announced Tuesday that they have implemented an agreement signed in April last year to provide travelers from each other’s country with automated immigration checks instead of the conventional face-to-face interviews.
To use the service, people must register their fingerprints and a headshot and get approval for entry in advance.
Korea is the first Asian nation to use such a system in the U.S., which reflects growing security ties between the two allies, officials said. Seoul is also the third country in the world to implement the service with the U.S. after the Netherlands and Canada.
“The launch of the automated immigration service will help people from both nations save time at airports amid expectations that the bilateral free trade agreement will boost people-to-people exchanges,” an immigration official said.
The U.S. adopted the unmanned system, called the Global Entry Program, to allow pre-approved and “trusted” members to get faster immigration and customs clearance services at 25 international airports in the country. Korea has a similar system called the Smart Entry Service.
The implementation came after more than a year of preparations. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security signed the agreement last year with Korea’s Ministry of Justice to expand the automated immigration service to visitors from Korea.
Koreans aged 17 or older with domestic identification cards and electronic passports can benefit from the system after pre-registering at www.hikorea.go.kr. They should then visit the U.S. government website www.goes-app.cbp.gov to pay $100 for the service.
About two million people from the two nations crisscross the two countries annually. The number of Korean nationals visiting America increased to 1 million last year from 735,551 in 2009 and 975,336 in 2010. The number of American travelers to Korea rose to 694,990 in 2011 from 647,566 in 2009 and 693,892 in 2010.
Korea currently runs 31 automated immigration booths at three international airports across the nation, of which 24 are installed at Incheon International Airport, the main gateway to Korea.
All U.S. citizens who have joined the Global Entry Program are eligible for the service at Korean airports. Those who were convicted of crimes or are being investigated for criminal charges are not.
The ministry said it is seeking to sign such agreements with other countries running similar systems, including the Netherlands and Japan.