In an average year, I travel internationally maybe three or four times. By far, one of the largest frustrations of traveling internationally has been the wait to clear immigration into the United States. Many times, I have waited well over 45 minutes to enter the country. If you’re trying to make a tight connection, this wait could mean you’re spending a night in your gateway city at your expense.
Enter the solution: Global Entry
During the last several years, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection service has been piloting a program that allows members to bypass the line at immigration. As of January 19th, 2012, the program is now permanent and will be made available to citizens or more countries soon. (Currently Global Entry is only open to citizens of the United States, Canada, Mexico and U.S. permanent residents.) I have been a member of Global Entry for three years. Over just those three years, the membership fee has more than paid for itself by allowing me to bypass the immigration line.
How it works
As a Global Entry member, whenever I enter the country, I simply look for a sign pointing me to the Global Entry kiosks. At the kiosk, I scan my passport, scan my fingerprints, and answer my customs declaration questions. The kiosk then spits out a barcoded ticket and I walk straight past the immigration officers to the luggage claim. The process takes about 40 seconds, start to finish, and I have never had to wait more than a minute for a kiosk. If I am carrying my luggage, I can be back in the terminal, ready to catch my connecting flight within 10 minutes of deplaning.
How to sign up
- Visit the Global Entry website (http://www.globalentry.gov/) to apply for the global entry. The application process can take about 30 minutes, depending on how extensively you have traveled internationally, because it asks you for a history of your previous international travel.
- Pay the $100 fee. This fee is non-refundable and due before your application is processed. If you are an American Express Platinum cardmember, American Express will reimburse this fee if you charge it to your card.
- Schedule an “interview” at a Global Entry Enrollment Center. At my interview, the agent captured my finger prints and showed me how to use the Global Entry kiosk. Your interview will take about 5-10 minutes.
For more information on the Global Entry program, visit the Global Entry website at http://www.globalentry.gov/.
Travelers, do you use Global Entry? What are your thoughts on it? Are there any downsides?