I’d been hemming and hawing, debating the benefits of applying for Global Entry, the trusted traveler program from US Customs and Border Protection, for some time. Part of my hesitation resulted from the cancellation of the previous trusted traveler program, INSPASS. But, it looks like Global is going to stick around for the long haul, so I bit the bullet and applied.
Instead of waiting in line with the masses to clear immigration, approved Global Entry members simply make a quick stop at an electronic kiosk at major international airports. The kiosk reads your passport, verifies your fingerprints, and asks the questions that you would normally need to complete on the blue Customs declaration.
The program costs $100 and approval is good for five years. The application process involves a series of online questions about your background that took maybe 20 minutes to complete. After verifying my credentials, I received a conditional approval about two weeks later inviting me to schedule an interview with CBP at a major airport or border crossing. Interview slots were available pretty quickly, but I opted to wait until the next time I was passing through JFK (where times are available 7 days a week).
I actually showed up for my interview two days earlier than scheduled since I had time at the airport and figured I would give it a try. After the four officers processed the scheduled applicants, they called me in for an interview. The officer verified my credentials, gave me details on using the kiosks, and welcomed me into the program. Minutes later, I had an email officially approving me and instructing me to use the kiosks from this point forward.
- Never wait in long US immigration queues at pretty much every major airport
- Skip having to fill out the blue Customs declaration
- Eligibility and enhanced approval in TSA PreCheck
In case you don’t know about TSA PreCheck, it is a pilot program to exempt pre-vetted, trusted travelers from some of the annoyances of security screening – no removing your laptop, no taking off your shoes, no body scanner. Right now the program is operating in about ten airports but is slated to expand.
Elite members of Delta’s and American’s frequent flyer program are eligible, but being a Global Entry member is supposed to “enhance” your trusted traveler profile, making you more likely to be allowed to use the PreCheck line, since it is a random program.
I will post about my Global Entry experiences soon now that I’m fully enrolled!