The everyday blog of Richard Bartle.

11:25pm on Sunday, 13th March, 2005:

Paper Reduction


Every time I enter the USA, I have to fill out a Custom Declaration form (CBP Form 6095B). This is much easier than the badly-organised Visa Waiver form I94W, which I screw up so regularly that I'm almost tempted to apply for a US Visa, except then I'd have to fill in the equally bad I94.

At the bottom of the second page of CBP Form 6095B is a passage headed: "PAPERWORK REDUCTION ACT NOTICE". It begins: "The Paperwork Reduction Act says we must tell you why we are collecting this information, how we will use it, and whether you have to give it to us.". There then follow another 9 lines explaining just that. Overall, it takes up 21mm of vertical space. If it were to be removed, it would mean the form could be roughly 1cm shorter in length than it is at the moment.

In 2003, the USA had 27,849,000 non-immigrant visitors. All of these would have had to fill in CBP Form 6095B. Well, perhaps not all, as the form is used on a per-family rather than per-visitor basis, but then it also has to be filled in by returning US Nationals, and you have to fill in a new one each time you visit. I'm guessing, then, that telling CBP Form 6095B subjects about the Paperwork Reduction Act in 2003 used up some 250km-300km of card. 2003 wasn't even a good year for US tourism.

It seems, then, that the purpose of reducing paperwork isn't to reduce the amount of paper, it's to reduce the amount of work. This is a completely different set of priorities from what we see in Europe, where governments try to cut down on paperwork so they can at least give the appearance of doing their bit to save the environment. In America, they just want people to be able to fill in the form in under 4 minutes.

Way to go, U.S. Customs and Border Protection...

Referenced by Hablo Usted Español?.

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Copyright © 2005 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).