Eco Customs Declaration Cards?

IMG_5305Ah the beloved Canadian Customs Declaration card, or any Customs Declaration card from any country.

For me, personally, I think there’s a special hate for this form. Why?

  • Despite being a Nexus card holder, I still have to fill it out
  • The little piece of paper you have to rip off before handing to the customs agent when leaving the secure area/baggage claim area

Firstly, as a Nexus card holder entering the United States, I can forego the blue form that I would normally have to fill out if I’m entering using my passport. The questions are asked on the Global Entry terminal I use. This is awesome as it saves me time, saves the US government time as my handwriting is horrible and allows for easy collection of big data.

The United States also has their ABC (Automated Border Control) stations at major ports of entry into the US from Canada. I’ve definitely seen those machines at Toronto-Pearson and Vancouver airports. Could those terminals not be used to fill out the form automatically?

I use the same argument for Canada. We now have ABC at all airports entering Canada. In Canada’s case you have to fill out the Customs Declaration, scan it and hope that it scans properly. It’s pointless. Have someone fill out the questions on the computer directly instead of wasting time scanning.

Let’s talk about the waste of paper by both governments.

  • When you use Nexus entering the US, you don’t need to fill out the blue declaration form but depending on how you’re entering the US, you either get one or two pieces of paper:
    • The equivalent to the blue declaration form that says you’re good to enter the US with your picture, or one with a big X on it to go to secondary inspection
    • The second may be a departure card, I-94 if you’re entering on work status such as an L-1A or L-1B that you keep as proof of entry into the US.
    • I see both as a waste of paper. The US government has the information it needs. The I-94 is a waste as not only can the US CBP pull up your records if you’re renewing status, you as a temporary worker in the US should be keeping track of your dates, which I do.
    • Have some form of automated system to scan a passport or Nexus/Global Entry card to direct you through security or to secondary?
  • IMG_5307When you use Nexus entering Canada, you have three pieces of paper – really two but humour me for a sec.
    • The Canadian Customs Declaration form
    • The tear away bit making the Customs Declaration form way bigger than it needs to be, which you have to throw away. The CBP folks give you attitude if you don’t do this.
    • A piece of paper with your V or R number on it.
    • What a waste! Can’t we do something similar to what I recommended above?
  • When you use a passport entering Canada
    • Not only do you have to fill out the Customs Declaration card, you scan that paper, and then the system prints, essentially, an OCRed version of the same form. It keeps the form you filled out, but you then have to hand the printed form to the guard.
    • Two pieces of paper, a complete waste.
  • I have to admit, I am not sure what happens when you enter the US using their ABC system. I simply have not had to use it.

Regardless, it’s a complete waste of paper. What happens to those forms? Are they archived? Burned? Recycled?

Other countries, I know often have multiple forms.   Usually some form of customs declaration and often a health declaration form. I think I have also seen a third form for agriculture as well. Could these not be placed on to a single form?

Given the number of people that travel around the world, that has to be a considerable amount of paper.

I liked the fact that when entering The Bahamas and Turks & Caicos that there was no need to fill in any paper. I liked the process Uruguay and Argentina used when I took Buequbus between both countries four years ago and any customs details were included on my ticket, everything was done online.

In the case of Canada, just think how much less waste we would have if we got rid of the extra piece of paper you have to tear off the form. Think of how much the government would save if they used a standard sized piece of paper, and the savings in ink alone. They’ve already made investments in automation, so can’t they take this one step further and get rid of paper all together or minimize the amount of paper used?

Governments need to be smarter with their processes.

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