You get off a 10-hour red-eye from Rio, tired and cranky and just ready to get home, and upon arrival into JFK, you realize you’re stuck in the Immigration line behind passengers coming in from Dubai, Buenos Aires, and Tokyo all at the same time. You’ve got two options: 1) Wait an hour in line with the other poor souls while the immigration officer triple-checks and fingerprints a permanent resident with shaky English and three rambunctious children, or 2) Breeze right past the whole lot of ’em after a quickie automated entry procedure. Give me option #2!
That quickie automated entry procedure is called Global Entry, an expedited immigration program for US citizens who travel frequently and have gotten tired of long lines at Immigration when returning home. I travel a lot, and I’d seen the kiosks, but I remained skeptical. The application fee is $100, which you don’t get back if you’re not approved, and the whole keeping my prints on file and other Big Brother-type governmental intrusion into my life—fuggedaboutit. Besides, I’ve been living abroad for the last seven years, my passport had been stolen once before, and the replacement misspelled my name, so I figured my chances of being approved were slim-to-none. Y’all ain’t keeping my $100.
Well, my hunch is that someone must have started trying to use the stolen passport, because the immigration officers’ questions started getting funnier and funnier each time I came into the States, and I ain’t talking ha-ha funny either. Eventually, two immigration officers in a row told me, forcefully, “you need to get Global Entry.” So I scraped up my pennies and applied online. The application didn’t ask for any more information than would a potential employer with even the remotest security requirements (like an airline or bank), and the only hassle for me was trying to remember previous overseas addresses.
After a few days, my application was pre-approved and I was asked to schedule an interview within the next 30 days at one of at least 20 different airport locations. It was even easy to reschedule the interview when my travel plans changed, so the convenience factor is a plus. Once back in the States (the immigration officer looked at my record on screen and stamped me in, no questions asked—no “Welcome Home” either, but I rarely ever get that from our taxpayer-funded national gatekeepers), the interview lasted about ten minutes and consisted mostly of me verifying my whereabouts for the last five years (no use trying to be evasive—they already know where you’ve been, and how much private information have you already given up to Facebook, anyway?). The fingerprint scan and brief kiosk tutorial followed, and I was on my way.
The only thing I can say about Global Entry since using it is that I can feel people staring laser beams into the back of my head when they see me at the kiosk one minute, then walking towards Customs the next. As I usually don’t check bags, I’m already headed towards my connecting flight or into town while the first set of folks is still being asked about how much crap they brought back from Germany. Skipping the Immigration line (and the often surly immigration officers) is well worth the $100—and I’m cheap!
I’m Fly Brother, and I recommend Global Entry*.
*No, they didn’t pay me to say this, but they should!