*This article has been updated for accuracy in 2018.
Global Entry – Trusted Traveler program.
The U.S. Government has introduced a program recently to make it easier and faster for citizens and permanent residents to clear Customs and Immigration when they return from an international trip. The trip is over and you want to get home – here is a way to avoid the line!
How to become a Trusted Traveler:
You go on-line and register here. If your application is conditionally approved, you will go to a short, scheduled interview. I went to JFK and met with a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer for less than 15 minutes. I was photographed, fingerprinted, and questioned about my past travels. I paid the U.S. Government $100 for the privilege of being scrutinized. That’s it. Fill out a form, pay $100, go to an interview and go to the head of the line at airport immigration. If you travel a great deal, the $100 will be a good investment.
There are a few caveats.
Only about 50 of the busiest U.S. Airports offer Global Entry. Here is a link to a list of participating airports. Because Homeland Security hires private contractors at these airports and the Global Entry – Trusted Traveler Program is new, you might enter a line being managed by a bossy official who hasn’t been briefed on the program. If so, you go to the back of the line. As the program becomes established, processing should go increasingly smoothly.
Self-conscious about jumping the line?
You are a nice egalitarian person, but you can rationalize this privilege. Homeland Security has Customs and Border Protection Officers check international passengers to keep terrorists and illegal immigrants from entering the U.S. This effort is like looking for a needle in a haystack. By paying the government to rigorously pre-qualify you, you effectively remove yourself from the haystack. Since they are searching a smaller haystack, the CBP officials have more time to be thorough with people who have not been pre-cleared.
Other streamlined international entry programs:
Canada to U.S. The NEXUS program allows travelers to apply for a card which is an alternative to the passport for air, land, and sea travel into the United States and Canada for US and Canadian citizens. The NEXUS card entitles travelers to an alternative border inspection process. Translation? You skip the regular line. We have not tried this yet, but for more information, click here.
Mexico to U.S. The SENTRI offers expedited border-crossing to pre-qualified travelers at nine of the largest points of entry. For more information, click here.