Although I’ve been aware of the Global Entry program for years, I never took the time to apply. A membership, which allows travelers to bypass the lines at U.S. Immigration and use kiosks instead, just didn’t seem to be worth the effort. But with more and more friends and colleagues giving me positive reports about their experiences, I decided the program might merit reconsidering. Now, after going through the application process and reaping the rewards of Global Entry, I regret not doing it sooner.
It took a little over an hour to fill out the online application at www.globalentry.gov. The time required will vary, depending on how frequently you’ve changed addresses and workplaces over the last five years (have this information ready before you begin). In addition to other basic information such as passport and driver’s license numbers, the application asks you to enter the countries you’ve visited in the last five years. My ridiculously long list reminded me just how lucky I am to do the work I do.
I filled out the application on February 29 and paid the $100 nonrefundable processing fee. On March 1, I received an e-mail saying that I had been approved for an interview. This final part of the application process must be completed at a major airport or customs house (you can see a full list of locations here). I scheduled my interview for March 21, a day I had to be at the airport in any case.
I expected a barrage of personal questions, but the interview turned out to be quick and painless. After greeting me on time, a TSA agent took my photo and fingerprints and explained how to enter the United States using the Global Entry kiosks. I was in and out in 20 minutes, and the membership remains valid for five years. Not a bad deal for $100.
When we arrived back in the United States, I tried an unscientific (and rather dangerous) experiment at Immigration. I asked Mrs. Harper to wait in the dauntingly long regular line while I used the kiosks, and I timed the difference.
It took me two minutes to scan my passport, scan my fingerprints and declare to customs that I had nothing to declare. I breezed through Immigration and headed to baggage claim, where luggage from our flight began to pile up, the owners caught in the interminable Immigration line. I rescued our luggage a few minutes before baggage handlers began tossing suitcases off the clogged carousel onto the floor.
A rather grumpy Mrs. Harper made it through Immigration 36 minutes after I did. As of this writing, her Global Entry application is pending approval.