Global Entry Program - any experience?

Has anyone enrolled in the Global Entry Program? Your thoughts/experiences? Good idea, not worth it, etc?

I realize the fact that you must get fingerprinted will be offputting to some, but mine are already on file (and not for anything bad ;>)) so that's a non-issue for me.

Posted by Angela
Chicago/Rural WI
809 posts

I'm hoping someone responds with experience, as I've considered it, too. Every time we are standing in the immigration line at O'Hare my husband and I discuss that we need to look into it and always forget. Thanks for the reminder!

Posted by Mike
Seattle, WA, USA
492 posts

Well we took the jump and entered the program. Time will tell whether it was money well spent.

The fee is $100 for 5 years. You need to decide for yourself whether the cost is worth it. The idea is that when returning to the US from overseas you get expedited through customs, though you can still be randomly chosen for questioning, baggage check, cavity search, hanging by thumbnails, etc just like any other passenger. Most people are through customs within 5 minutes, and there is no standing in line. Essentially, you are "pre-cleared" as a low-risk security threat.

To sign up, you do an online application, receive conditional approval, then go in person to your closest participating airport to be fingerprinted, photographed, and "interviewed".

I thought the interview would ask me about my patriotism, youthful indiscretions, suspicious affiliations or friendships, political beliefs, etc, but there was none of that. After all, they do a background check before the interview so they probably know what they need to already. They asked me whether I travel mostly for business or pleasure and then gave instructions on how the program works. Short, sweet, painless.

Our first chance to test this out will be early October. I'll try to remember to post our experience afterward.

Posted by Angela
Chicago/Rural WI
809 posts

Mike, thank you so much for taking the time to post on your experience! My husband and I are still in the "deliberation" phase but your additional information is very useful. The process seems pretty straightforward.

Hope you have a great trip in October!

Posted by Mike
Seattle, WA, USA
492 posts

Lola,

It is for customs. One thing to keep in mind is that there are places other than Sea-Tac to enter the US, depending where you are flying and on what airlines. The Global Entry Program works at 20 airports across the nation (the 20 with the most international flights), and their customs processing might not be as efficient or low-key as SeaTac.

I've actually come through customs at SeaTac when the lines were huge and it took seemingly forever. In that event, you can skip the line with the GEP clearance and proceed directly to an automated kiosk.

Another advantage is that, if you DO get pulled aside for something (e.g., carrying more than $10,000, carrying agricultural products, etc) you get expedited through the secondary process as well.

Like I say, people need to individually decide whether this is worth it to them. We often travel with other folks who aren't participating in the program. That'll give us a standard against which to test the benefits of the program.

Mike

Posted by Daniel
Las Cruces, NM, United States
135 posts

Thanks to both of you for the question and response. The question caused me to start researching it and the answer sounds like it is worth pursuing.

Posted by Lola
Seattle, WA
5444 posts

Could you please clarify what exactly is expedited by this program? Is it customs (a non-event at Sea-Tac airport) or immigration (showing your passport---often a long line unless you fly business class and are first off the plane)?

If it is just for "customs", it hardly seems worth it---here we just hand the customs declaration to an officer who gives it a cursory glance. The longest wait is for the baggage to come off the plane. Now, if they could just expedite that. . .

Posted by Angela
Chicago/Rural WI
809 posts

Hi Mike,

I thought the Global Entry Program was designed to expedite a traveler through Immigration along with allowing them to answer the Customs Declaration quesitons at the kiosk? The website mentions it is "an alternative Passport Control process for pre-approved, pre-screened eligible travelers." In fact, at O'Hare the kiosks are located at the entry point in Terminal 5 where they check passports, which is often a long and sometimes tedious line. Customs is the station after baggage, where usually you just hand them your landing card and they say "Welcome home."

It looks like the kiosk can handle both the Passport Control (Immigration) and the declaration process (Customs), as the information I've seen says you will not need to complete the Customs Declaration Form before arrival (just answer the questions at the machine and take your receipt through the Expedited Exit Point.

Here is a pamphlet I found online from CBP (.pdf file).

Is this contrary to what the officials told you when you registered?

Posted by Lola
Seattle, WA
5444 posts

OK, thanks for explaining. Since we are pretty well dedicated to flights through Sea-Tac exclusively, I guess it wouldn't help us much.

Posted by Ruth
Midwest, USA
79 posts

I read about this after first reading your post. I didn't see the advantage before and now that you've pointed out that it costs $100 for just 5 years, there's really no advantage at all. In my experience, the horribly long and miserable line is at the other end, not when coming home. There always seems to be two lines, one for Nationals - which moves pretty fast, and the line for everyone else. Naturally, I have to stand there for 30-45 minutes and watch one or two immigration officers have to deal with some people who speak broken English and shuffling a mountain of paperwork, while the rest of 100 people are slowly making foward with the few remaining officers. sigh

Posted by Mike
Seattle, WA, USA
492 posts

Angela,

I stand corrected. Thanks for the clarification/additional information.

Mike