Gaining Global Entry: A Simple Process For Frequent Fliers

global entry kioskToday’s frequent travelers are looking for any way possible to cut lines and make the travel process shorter, faster and more pleasant. Now, for just $100, this goal is easier than ever.

The Global Entry program from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency allows “expedited clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travelers upon arrival in the United States.”

The program is marketed at frequent international travelers, but there is no minimum number of trips needed to qualify for the program.

Here’s how it works:

  1. You arrive from an international flight and proceed to a small kiosk machine (located at these airports), where you’ll scan your passport, place your fingertips on a machine for recognition, and verify basic information about your flight. You’ll also make a customs declaration and have your photo taken.
  2. Next, you’ll get a receipt and head directly to the baggage claim.

Of course, travelers must be low-risk, meaning that they are U.S. citizens with no criminal or customs violations history and that they are generally upstanding citizens with no federal, local or state agency attempting to collect from them.

Sounds simple enough, right? What many travelers don’t know is that Global Entry also qualifies travelers for the new TSA Pre-Check program, which allows travelers flying certain airlines (Alaska, American, Delta, United and US Airways) to keep their shoes on and laptops and liquids in their carry-on bags at security.

After a marathon session in the customs line coming back from Toronto earlier this year, I decided to test the program for myself. The online application was no more difficult than a standard job application, and several weeks later, I was ready with a conditional approval. The fee was a non-refundable $100, which places me in the program for five years. The waiting period for an interview was long – about 60 days – but many airports do allow walk-in appointments.I watched a six-minute video about the program before a brief consultation with a security officer. The interview ran through basic background questions, I was asked if I’d ever been arrested, had moving violations other than basic traffic tickets, or had any other criminal history that they should know about. The officer took my photo, scanned my fingerprints, and sent me on my way. The next morning, my application was approved.

These simple steps could save me an hour or more in lines at the airport and cost only $100 for five years.

For frequent travelers, even those who travel out of the country only once per year, the program is well worth it.

[Image Credit: Flickr via CBP Photography]