This morning at the Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House in downtown New York, I went for my “interview” to be accepted into Global Entry. Global Entry is a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) program that allows members to have an expedited customs experience when re-entering the country. Basically, you skip the regular customs line at the airport and instead put your passport in a kiosk-sized machine. You confirm your fingerprints electronically (they have your fingerprints from the initial application), fill out an electronic customs declaration, get a receipt and then head off to baggage claim – and that’s it!
I’ve seen people go through this procedure in less than two minutes and felt extremely jealous, especially when the regular line can take upwards of a half-hour. This will come in handy in June when I arrive at 9:30 pm Sunday night at Newark after a 16-hour flight from Hong Kong, as the quicker I can get home to sleep, the better.
I was expecting a 30-45 minute interview based on my application, where CBP would need to confirm personal information, ask travel questions and maybe have the good cop run a background check while the bad cop glares at me. In other words, a standard TV detective interview.
I was escorted upstairs to the CBP offices where I presented my passport, driver’s license and a piece of mail confirming my address to an officer. After a 3-4 minute wait, he called me over to have my fingerprints electronically scanned and my picture taken. In response to his final question, I told him, “No, I have never been arrested,” and so he presented me with the below document which had my new “Known Traveler” number. He then told me that I was immediately enrolled in Global Entry, my card would be in the mail within 2 weeks and I could leave.
What good, if any, is Global Entry for folks that don’t fly internationally? A ton – keep reading!
Being a member of Global Entry also means I was immediately and directly enrolled in TSA Pre-Check which is, honestly, amazing, Enrollees do not have to remove belts, shoes, jackets/light outerwear, the 3-1-1 compliant bag or your laptop. Enrollees also can go through an special security line that most usually is much shorter than the typical one. It’s a double-time saver and removes a lot of the hassle from the nonsense that is an airport security zone.
Since Global Entry membership is good for 5 years, this means I won’t have to take my shoes off at an airport until 2019. Airport floors are gross, so this is a good thing.
Global Entry application normally costs $100 and is non-refundable, so if you are rejected, you still have to pay the government. However, one of the benefits of having an American Express Platinum credit card is that AmEx will reimburse the application fee, so I didn’t have to pay anything!
A free security clearance that saves me time both coming and going? Sounds reasonable to me and even if you don’t have a Platinum card, consider applying. It’s $20 a year to skip domestic and international security. That’s a small price to pay for a much less bothersome airport experience.