The Department of Home Affairs and international aviation IT group Sita are to implement a new border management system that will dramatically ease long queues at airport immigration points.

The system, called APP or Advanced Passenger Processing, will allow home affairs to conduct security checks on passengers before they board the aircraft at the departure airport. The department will begin rolling out the system in November, with full implementation expected ahead of next year’s Soccer World Cup.

The parties expected the pre- screening of passengers to reduce processing time by 20 seconds a passenger, Khodr Akil, vice-president of Sita Africa, said yesterday.

“Passengers’ passports will be scanned by airline staff at the departure airport. That information is immediately checked against various databases, including those of home affairs, the South African Police Service and South African Revenue Service,” Akil said.

“If no red flags are raised, the passenger will be given clearance to fly. That will save an enormous amount of time when passengers arrive in SA with many … checks already completed.”

SA is one of the first countries to introduce the system, following in the footsteps of Australia, New Zealand, Bahrain and Kuwait.

Akil said most of the larger airlines flying to SA were APP compliant. “Many of these airlines fly to Australia and therefore have already implemented the system.”

The challenge would be the African airlines that had yet to implement the system. Sita and home affairs held a workshop with the various airlines to assess when full implementation would be possible. “However, we are confident that by November more than 90% of airlines will be ready and the rest ready for 2010,” said Akil.

He said the system would benefit all stakeholders. “The system will eliminate repatriation fees for airlines, speed up processing times for passengers and allow airports to reclaim space designated to immigration for profit-generating activities such as retail,” said Akil.

Home affairs spokeswoman Siobhan McCarthy said APP was just the first of several technologies to be implemented by the department and Sita over the next few years. “The next step will be the implementation of a travel document reader, which would replace the manual input system used by border officials. This will result in even quicker processing times.

“Our blue-sky vision is ultimately to move towards e-passports.”

The introduction of APP will also go a long way towards addressing corruption in the department.

The system will eliminate repatriation fees for airlines and speed up processing times for passengers …