The Automated Passport Control machines at the arrival area of the Francisco C. Ada/Saipan International Airport are now in use even for afternoon flights, according to Barrie Toves, who chairs the Commonwealth Ports Authority board’s Airport Facilities Committee.
“The use of the APC machines are now expanded in the afternoon to accommodate passengers that arrive in that [time slot],” he said. The machines used to be available only for flight coming in after midnight.
“We talked with the Marianas Visitors Authority to put an ambassador in the afternoon so that machines can be utilized both in morning and afternoon flights,” Toves added. The ambassadors are MVA employees who assist tourists in using the machines.
APCs allow incoming tourists to skip the long lines at the immigration counter and just process themselves in.
In an earlier interview, Toves contradicted reports that the machines do not function. He said all seven APC machines are operational.
According to Toves, U.S. Customs and Border Protection do not allow the use of the APC machines in the afternoon when there are no ambassadors available to assist APC users.
“What happens is when the passenger needs assistance at the APC kiosk and there is no ambassador, [U.S. Customs and Border Protection for NMI director Robert] Havens is forced to pull out one of his men from duty to help the passenger when there are a good number of customs officers in the booths that are available,” he said.
Previously, the airport’s three airport ambassadors were available only from 1am to 5am, with no one in the afternoon.
MVA introduced and fielded Saipan airport ambassadors in August to assist passengers through immigration processing and customs inspections.
Recently, a Saipan Tribune source on an afternoon flight experienced using the APC machine, with passengers assisted by two ambassadors and supervised by one CBP officer. According to the source, the process was smooth and it took less than two minutes to go through immigration using the APC machines.
The APC machines can process passengers who are U.S, citizens, green card holders (with permanent resident visa), and B1-B2 (tourist/business) visa holders with the assistance of available airport ambassadors.
Passengers under different visa categories go directly to the booth of an immigration officer.
Toves said that due to the number of flights everyday, the machines help alleviate and hasten the process of passengers’ entry into the CNMI.