One of the worst things about international travel is the long line awaiting you at Immigration and Customs whenever you arrive at an international airport, or within the United States.
International flights tend to arrive early in the morning around the same time, which creates a rush hour through immigration. After spending all night on an airplane, more than likely in coach, the last thing you want to do is stand around for half an hour or more creeping through queue lines.
Fortunately if you are a frequent international traveler, the United States Custom and Border Protections Service (USCBP) has come up with a solution if you are willing to pay a little money up front and jump through some hoops.
The USCBP service allows preapproved travelers an expedited process through customs and immigration through self-serve kiosks located at most international airports when arriving into the United States.
The kiosks contain scanners that read your passport and finger print. Next, you declare any items before going through customs. Once all of the information is entered, the kiosk gives you a traveler’s receipt and you can proceed to baggage claim bypassing the long immigration lines typically found on early morning international arrivals.
The program requires preapproval via an application and a global entry interview process for travelers considered low risk. Once the background checks are completed you will be notified whether you are approved or not.
Global Entry Application
The Global Entry Program is open to all citizens and permanent residents of the United States.
There is a $100 non-refundable global entry application fee. You can fill out the application in the global online enrollment system.
The application process is very intensive requiring you to enter all of your past addresses and places of employment along with contact information for the last five years. The system will not allow you to have any gaps in your dates.
If all of your information is entered correctly, you will be notified of your "conditional approval" and pending an in-person interview at a Global Entry Enrollment Center, usually located in a large metropolitan airport.
The system allows you to pick an interview time and date, but the time slots can be sparse before your next international flight.
Before the interview, a thorough background check will be performed on you including a criminal and credit check.
Arriving at your appointment time, you will wait for a Customs and Boarder Protection (CBP) officer to greet you. You will not be the only person with your appointment time. For instance, all 4 pm appointment slots are called back together.
After you go back, the CBP officer takes your passport and drivers license while you watch a video on the whole process.
They will take your fingerprints at some point and another digital photo. Your interview questions will vary depending on your background or whatever you listed on your application.
- Have you ever been arrested?
- Why do you need or want Global Entry?
After that, you are approved on the spot if there are no red flags.They mail you a Global Entry card within weeks. When you receive it, you have to go online to activate it by entering your ID number and a security card information.
Reasons for Denial
The primary reasons for denial revolve around providing misleading or false information and a previous criminal history.
Citizens of Canada
Canadian citizens are covered under another program similar to Global Entry called NEXUS pass.
Once approved for the Global Entry Program, you will also be issued a Global Entry Card within 10 days which is required for expedited entry at the SENTRI and NEXUS lanes when driving in from Canada or Mexico.
However, the card does not work at the kiosks in the airport. You will still need your passport.
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A SENTRI Pass is different from the Global Entry Program. SENTRI stands for Secure Electronic Network for Travelers Rapid Inspection and is used when reentering the United States by car at a Mexico border crossing.
As you reenter the USA, you travel through the SENTRI lane. The RFID technology automatically identifies your vehicle that was registered when you were approved for the program.
The benefit of this program is that the wait time tends to be much shorter than the regular lanes so if you are a frequent traveler to Mexico, you may find this program beneficial.
Cost of SENTRI Pass
Application Fee: $25.00
Fingerprint Fee: $14.50
System Costs Fee: $80.00
Total Fee: $122.25
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If you are a frequent traveler, the Global Entry Program is worth looking into. When you arrive from a long flight, it really is a crap shoot as to how long it is going to take you to get through immigration. If you are lucky, then your flight arrives a bit early and you can breeze right through. This has happened to me several times.
However, I have also experienced long wait times around a lot of smelly people. This program allows quick passage in case everything is backed up at global entry airports.
Once you go through the kiosk process, there is a slight chance that your traveler’s receipt will issue an order requiring further inspection once you get to customs. This usually happens if you declare anything at the kiosk.
My advice is do not declare anything. More often than not, what you think you have to declare is nothing at all. If you purchased some souvenirs while you were away, those do not need to be declared. You can even bring up to $10,000 in cash with you without declaration.
In all, the program is one of my best international travel tips and worth the cost and the initial scrutiny.
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