We're always excited to get back to our home base. This time, though, we were especially eager because we were looking forward to trying out our Global Entry Trusted Traveler memberships upon landing in the United States.
Let me back up…
We had our eyes on the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Global Entry program for about a year before signing on. The program, aimed at expediting "low risk" travelers' entry into the United States, significantly curbs the hassle often associated with returning from international travel. Global Entry card holders simply interact with a passport reading kiosk rather than waiting in line to speak with an official. After scanning your passport, verifying your identity (via fingerprints) and asking a few questions, the kiosk spits out a receipt that you hand off to an officer at the exit.
Much better than nearly falling asleep in an endless line after a hellishly long flight. Or, even worse, being subjected to additional questioning for some random reason. It's happened to us, and it's awful.
We were first introduced to the program by American Express because they reimburse the $100 application fee for certain card members. Pretty cool. However – although we both have squeaky clean backgrounds – we didn't like the idea of the "rigorous" (as they describe it) background check / information collecting process that's part of the application. Being big fans of civil liberties, we weren't keen on the potential Privacy-Act-diluting elements of the program. But we'll save all that for a different post.
Ultimately, we decided to move forward. Our pal's experience and a few other extras (we'll get into below) urged us forward.
We recommend that you check out the program to see if it might work for you too. The process was relatively simple. First, you apply online and pay the fee. If your application is approved, you are e-notified and invited to schedule a face-to-face interview at a Global Entry Interview Center. At the interview, an officer collects biometrics, asks you questions and snaps a photo. At that point, you're quickly approved (or not) and you receive details on the program along with a tutorial on using the kiosk.
A few key things you should know…
- The online application is a bit clunky and tedious. We almost backed out at that point. Good thing we didn't. It's – by far – the most frustrating part of the process. Not what we expected.
- You schedule your face-to-face interview online. We were impressed to find open slots across all days and day parts. There's a Global Entry Interview Center here at Seattle's airport, so it was convenient for us. Not everyone is so fortunate.
- We were dreading the interview, thinking it was going to be uber-hardcore. It turned out to be the best part of the process. At the interview, everyone in the office was extremely friendly. Sure, they asked a lot of questions, but it didn't seem too over-the-top. Best of all, they ensured that we left fully informed regarding all elements of the program.
- We learned that U.S. Customs and Border Protection is aiming to make their department more user-friendly by, you know, treating people like humans at the interview. Refreshing. To further build bridges, we learned that officers are encouraged to speak to groups and businesses about the department and the Global Entry program.
- Approval is swift. We had our welcome packet within about 10 days of our interviews.
Here's where we were really surprised... Certain members of CBP's Trusted Traveler programs, including Global Entry members, have access to the new TSA Pre program. So, since our Global Entry membership has made us trusted travelers, we have the opportunity to whiz through security at some U.S airports. No taking off shoes, jackets, belts. No removing laptops from bags. Woohoo!
We were also happy to learn that we can use our benefits to fast track our entry – via SENTRI and NEXUS lanes – when driving back into the United States from Canada.
Okay… that's enough information for now.
What do you all think of the program? Are our international readers intrigued, laughing or horrified by all of this security theater?