Currently each arriving traveler to the US must fill out a paper US customs declaration form and provide the necessary information to insure that travelers are complying with the U.S. Customs, Agriculture, and Currency laws and to allow US Officials to figure out and collect the right amount of duty and tax. The current estimated burden associated with the collection of this information is 4 minutes and only ONE written declaration per family is required. What is important is the collection of information and not the means by which is collected (currently paper). Having participated in this process many times I see many opportunities not only to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of this information collection process but at the same time reduce the complete lifecycle costs of this process while improving the fidelity and clarity of the information collected, which could lead to increase collection of duty/tax revenues and data analysis. How many forms are being wasted due to excessive distribution and data entry mistakes? How many forms are not being properly processed because the analyst couldn't figure out the traveler's handwriting? Given today's technology, why are we paying someone to transcribe and reenter the travelers information into a computer system? why does the form need to be handled by several officials upon arrival, thus delaying the reentry process for everyone?
My proposed solution is to move into an integrated electronic format for the collection of this information. A lot of the required information is already collected by the airline (e.g., names, passport, flight numbers, etc.) There are several ways that this could be implemented and at various points in the reentry/returning process (i.e., while at the airport gate with the use of standalone kiosks similar to the ones used for boarding passes, or as part of the plane entertainment system, etc.)