Nothing makes the heart sink faster than seeing long lines at airports, especially when those long lines resemble a cesspool of copper headed snakes and are just as pleasant. You know the drill….whether it’s waiting to go through the tiring TSA lines or through passport control/immigration, we have been conditioned to the art of the wait.
In a rare show of common sense, the government has developed a program to alleviate this inhuman form of torture. Originally created to target frequent international travelers, the U.S. Global Entry program has been a virtual god-send for travelers who want a fast and secure way of skipping the lines altogether when re-entering the United States.
What is it exactly?
When coming back to the USA after visiting a foreign country, you will have to go through Customs. Usually the lines are long because at any given time there are many flights re-entering the USA at the same time that your flight arrives. This compounds the number of people who have to go through customs and usually end up creating interminable lines as a result. The Global Entry program is a Trusted Traveler pre-screening program that allows you to go to a computer kiosk instead of a Customs officer when you are returning home. This will significantly expedite your re-entry into the country because there will be virtually no wait since you can just walk up to the kiosk, scan your passport, let the camera scan your face and then your fingers to identify you biometrically.
A screenshot of your flight details will pop up and you will need to verify whether or not you have something to declare. If you are cleared through, a piece of paper will print out that you will need to hand over to the customs officer on your way out to baggage claim or ground transportation. Time elapse? Less than three minutes.
Is it really that easy? Surely, I can still be searched at this stage of the game.
That is correct. You know that little piece of paper that I just mentioned? If it has an X on it, you will have to see a customs official. You do not have to stand in line, just go straight to the nearest officer and they will determine why you were flagged. It could be something very simple like not declaring something that you have brought back from your travels. That officer will determine if you need to go through a secondary and more hands on screening.
Who’s eligible to sign up for this program?
Global Entry is open to U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents, Dutch citizens, South Korean citizens and Mexican nationals. Canadian citizens and residents may enjoy Global Entry benefits through membership in the NEXUS program. Applicants must be over 18 or if under the age of 18, must have parental or legal guardian’s consent.
How do I apply?
All applications must be submitted online. During the application process, you will be assessed a $100.00 non-refundable application fee. Caution: be sure to follow all instructions to the letter. Someone inputted his birthday incorrectly, so his application was denied. He could reapply, but would have to pay the fee again.
Next, you will have to submit to an in-person interview. After your application has been reviewed, you will receive a notification in your G.E. account that you need to schedule an interview at one of their Global Entry Enrollment Centers. All of the centers are located close to or within airports. If they are located inside the airport, you will never have to worry about going through TSA to get there. The offices are located outside the security area.
The actual interview consists of pointed questions (i.e. to ascertain any criminal history) and watching a short video on how to use the kiosk or they will simply demonstrate how while you are there. The interviewer (A U.S. Customs Officer) will take your picture and scan your fingerprints. Both biometric measures must match when you go to the computer kiosk when re-entering the country. All applicants must bring with them a machine readable passport or a U.S. permanent residency card. Typically, you will be done in less than 15 minutes.
Are there any conditions that may disqualify me?
According to the Global Entry site, here is their list of reasons for ineligibility for their program:
Applicants may not qualify for participation in the Global Entry program if they:
- Provide false or incomplete information on the application;
- Have been convicted of any criminal offense or have pending criminal charges or outstanding warrants;
- Have been found in violation of any customs, immigration or agriculture regulations or laws in any country;
- Are subjects of an ongoing investigation by any federal, state or local law enforcement agency;
- Are inadmissible to the United States under immigration regulation, including applicants with approved waivers of inadmissibility or parole documentation;
- Cannot satisfy the Customs and Border Protection department (CBP) of their low-risk status (e.g. CBP has intelligence that indicates that the applicant is not low risk; CBP cannot determine an applicant’s criminal, residence or employment history).
When does my ‘membership’ expire?
Your $100.00 non-refundable fee gives you five years’ access to the Global Entry program.
Are there any additional benefits that I should know about?
U.S. citizens who are members of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Global Entry, NEXUS, and SENTRI Trusted Traveler programs are eligible to participate in the TSA Pre program. Canadian citizens who are members of the NEXUS program are also eligible for the TSA Pre program. You will not be assessed any additional fees in order to participate.
This means that if you are traveling on participating airlines, after check in, you can skip the long TSA lines and head straight for the TSA Pre- approved line with your Global Entry card. At this point, you can walk through with your shoes, belt and coat on and you will not need to take any electronics out for x-ray scans. Naturally, the government reserves the right to search you anyway, for whatever reason.
Currently, the participating airlines are Delta, American Airlines, Alaska Airlines, United and US Airways but only at specific airports. Be sure to check to see which airports offer this service here.
Upon approval to the Global Entry program, you will receive an invitation to the TSA Pre program. Each airline will have to separately approve your participation. This program is still in the early stages and will become more valuable as more airlines sign on board and more airports accommodate the program.
Another bonus is that your $100 Global Entry fee allows you to use the Mexican government’s SENTRI program and the US government’s ReadyLane programs for free. Each will give you expedited entry through the Mexican or Canadian border if you are traveling via car.
How long will I have to wait before I know if I am accepted or not?
Typically, it will take about a week for your application to be approved. You will then be able to schedule your appointment online.
What if my passport expires during the five year membership? Can I transfer the time left to the new passport?
Yes! All you will need to do is go into your online Global Entry account and update your information.
- If you travel extensively for a living, your employer may want to invest the $100.00 if time is a big factor in your job. It will save an incredible amount of time for a paltry $20.00 per year.
- If you are an American Express Platinum cardholder, they will reimburse members $100.00 in fees annually. The Global Entry program would be a great way to use that benefit.
UPDATE: On May 6, 2013, The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) announced that beginning May 7, 2013, in addition to domestic travel, TSA Pre✓™ participants will be eligible for expedited screening on select international travel itineraries.
Eligible passengers traveling on Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines and US Airways will be allowed to leave on their shoes, light outerwear and belt, keep their laptop in its case, and their 3-1-1 compliant liquids/gels bag in a carry-on.
John Pistole, head of the Transportation Security Administration, stated: “We reached an agreement with the European Union, Canada and Australia for them to accept PreCheck passengers from the United States.”
UPDATE 2: Read this great article from The Points Guy that will give you more insight into the program. You can never have too much up to date info about G.E! http://thepointsguy.com/2013/08/1-things-you-didnt-know-about-global-entry
UPDATE 3: I’ve just read some disheartening news about the TSA PreCheck program from Johnny Jet. It seems that some airports are allowing anyone through whether they have been prescreened or not. If that’s the case, what’s the point? This seems to be happening in smaller, regional airports, but there needs to be consistency for this program to work: http://www.johnnyjet.com/2014/08/tsa-precheck-mean-think-means/