Sequestration Cuts Likely to Mean Longer Wait for Foreign Tourists

Saturday, 18 May 2013 09:49 PM

By Todd Beamon

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Budget cuts at U.S. Customs and Border Protection have sharply increased airport queues — and as many as 27 million foreign travelers expecting to visit the United States this summer can expect to wait more than three hours to be processed by immigration officials.

“The effects of sequestration will continue to have serious impacts on U.S. Customs and Border Protection, including increased wait times for customs inspections at airports,” the agency told the London-based Independent newspaper.

The worst delays are expected in Florida, where the longest maximum average wait time for foreign arrivals at Miami International Airport rose last month to three hours and six minutes.

That’s up by nearly a half-hour over March, the Independent reports.

Travelers to John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York and Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport can expect to wait more than two hours.

A record 27 million people are expected to visit the United States from overseas this summer, the Independent reports.

The longer wait times have particularly infuriated Virgin Atlantic Airways.

“At a number of U.S. airports, there are clear resourcing issues at immigration, which in recent years have been getting worse — not better,” a spokeswoman told the Independent. “We are very concerned about this and have made these concerns clear to the U.S. authorities.”

The carrier, owned by British entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson, uses Terminal 4 at JFK, where delays are the longest in the New York City region.

British Airways, the largest carrier between the United States and the United Kingdom, serves seven major U.S. airports, including those in San Francisco, Houston, Orlando, and Washington, D.C.

The maximum average wait is over 100 minutes, the Independent reports.

A British Airways spokesman told the Independent that the carrier was “in regular contact with the relevant authorities in the U.S. in order to minimize immigration delays for our customers.”

Customs said it hopes to resolve staffing issues with the recent passage of the Fiscal Year 2013 Appropriations bill by Congress.

It “allows CBP to mitigate to some degree the impacts on CBP's workforce,” the agency told the Independent.

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