Passenger Controls

The Foreign Terrorist Fighters (FTFs) phenomenon is increasingly becoming a global security threat. Individuals are being lured from communities worldwide to join terrorist groups, including the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and al-Qaeda. Those who return to their countries of origin pose greater security risks of carrying out violent attacks in their home territory. The Passenger Controls initiative aims to strengthen the capacity of Customs administrations to prevent the movement of FTFs and other individuals supporting terrorism across international borders. The project focuses on the utilization of Advance Passenger Information (API) and Passenger Name Records (PNR) within administrations to improve and develop risk analysis and targeting methods for effective passenger control.

Customs’ passenger assessment functions are increasingly being driven by the use of pre-arrival and pre-departure information. The World Customs Organization (WCO), together with the International Air Transport Association (IATA), crafted the first Advance Passenger Information (API) Guidelines in 1993. These Guidelines, which are continuously updated by the WCO/IATA/ICAO API/PNR Contact Committee, have enabled Customs administrations to pursue more effective risk management practices using API and PNR data.

API has proven to be a very useful tool for Customs that have implemented passenger targeting as part of their risk management suite of tools. Similarly, API transmission has allowed Customs administrations to apply different types of risk profiles to facilitate risk-based decision-making. However, due to the ever-growing number of travellers moving across borders, the requirements and demands relating to Customs’ passenger assessment functions have increased. WCO Members have increasingly been looking at other types of information streams to further support enforcement activities, as well as the additional benefit of facilitating passengers that do not pose a terrorist threat at our borders.

Passenger Name Record (PNR) information has become a key information source which Customs administrations use as part of the arriving and departing air passenger risk assessment.o. PNR can provide a wealth of additional information about a traveller’s journey when used in conjunction with API, and provides Customs with better means of preventing and detecting smuggling of all types of contraband whilst.also promoting a more effective means of detecting other high risks, such as foreign terrorist fighters (FTFs), as stipulated in United Nations Security Council Resolutions 2178 and 2396.

Global Travel Assessment System (GTAS) and traveller risk assessment


To this end, the WCO is providing use of the Global Travel Assessment System (GTAS) to any Member that wishes to implement an automated API and/or PNR passenger risk assessment system of its own. The Global Travel Assessment System (GTAS) is a web application for improving border security. It enables government agencies to automate the identification of high-risk air travellers in advance of their intended travel. Information about the GTAS software and how to obtain it for your administration is available at the following website:

The GTAS software is available free of charge to any Member. In short, GTAS is passenger risk assessment software that allows for the ingestion of data from airlines that follows a standardized format as defined by the WCO-IATA-ICAO Guidelines. GTAS also allows the Customs officer to create risk rules based on API and/or PNR data to assist in better border risk management.

Currently, GTAS is being used by several Customs administrations as a key component of their border security management suite of tools. GTAS is also available for use by partner agencies at the national level.


Recently there has been an increased focus on potential threats to the maritime mode of transport, and in particular cruise ships. Larger ships, and therefore inherently more passengers, require Customs officials to work more effectively within the resources they have, and to seek more expeditious ways of clearing large numbers of travellers in a short space of time. As in the case of air travel, the use of advance passenger information is an effective means of facilitating controls on large volumes of low- or no-risk passengers, in order to focus resources on higher-risk passengers. The recently-formed Passenger Facilitation and Controls Working Group (PFCWG) has a mandate to develop an API and PNR global data standard for maritime passengers, similar to the one employed for air passengers, in order to assist with the pre-arrival / pre-departure risk assessment of such passengers. This global standard will be developed in close collaboration with partners, i.e., the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA).

Finally, online e-learning on the WCO CLiKC! Platform is also available for Customs officers who wish to learn more about passenger interdiction at airports. This online learning is accessible from the home administration and can be completed by officers on their own.