Last week, I set out to secure my new credentials as a frequent global traveler. Knowing now what I do about the program, it was truly worth the effort and the $$$…
Back in July 2011, the U.S. Department of Customs and Border Protection (DCBP) opened the “Global Entry” Trusted Traveler Network to all eligible U.S. citizens, in order to help expedite the clearance process for those citizens of the United States who are willing to submit to an extensive background check, be photographed and fingerprinted and pass a secondary interview process. These travelers are then issued a privileged process of clearing customs and immigration through specially designated lines and ATM-like kiosks using the passport/photo/fingerprint scans to identify the member and clear them through in a more expeditious manner.
It really wasn’t very difficult to do. And if you travel outside the United States more than 4 times a year, I’d say that the financial investment is worth your money, and definitely your time.
It begin with, you must create an account online at the DCBP website called GOES (Global Online Enrollment System) at https://goes-app.cbp.dhs.gov/main/goes. If you are already registered with NEXUS or SENTRI, please follow the links on that page for further information on transferring your registration to the GOES system for admittance into the Global Entry program.
Keep in mind that by applying for this service, you will be subjected to a thorough 10-yearbackground check. You will be asked what countries you visited for business and/or pleasure over the last 10 years and approximate date you were there. If you hold dual citizenship or have multiple passports, you MUST include all of these documents in your application. You will be asked to submit payment to the DCBP of $100.00 USD which is NON-REFUNDABLE (be very mindful of this fact: if your application is rejected for an incomplete application, or incorrect information, or for any other reason, you will have to reapply to the program and submit ANOTHER $100.00). Your application and membership in the program is valid for five (5) years from the date of your acceptance in the program.
Also, be mindful that if you have ever been convicted of a felony here in the U.S. or abroad, have been fined in the past by the U.S. Customs for violations of any type, or have any other discrepancies in your record that would flag the system, your application will be rejected and you will forfeit your application fee.
Once your application and fee has been received, the DCBP will take upwards of four weeks to process your information and perform your background check. Upon completion of this procedure, you will receive a letter (usually in e-mail form) either congratulating the acceptance of your information or you will be notified of your rejection from the program. Those who are accepted to the program must then return to the GOES system and schedule an appointment for a one-on-one interview with a DCBP officer. There are approximately 20-25 locations that you can schedule your appointment. You must schedule the appointment within 30 days of the date of your acceptance letter or forfeit your application and fee.
During the interview, you will view a video prepared by the DCBP that explains in complete details how the program works and the procedure for using the Global Entry kiosks at the airport. Afterwards, you will be asked a series of questions regarding your past, your travel, your employment and be asked to review any items on your application that the DCBP officer deems necessary to continue.
Once your interview has been completed to the satisfaction of your DCBP officer, you will be photographed and fingerprinted. Afterwards, a special sticker is attached to the inside of your passport and you are then instructed on the next steps. Basically, you will receive a letter in the mail confirming your completion and acceptance into the program. If you have any specific questions about the program or the procedures, the interview is the best time to ask.
As an added bonus, currently the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has begun the “Trusted Traveler” program at several major airports around the country, and will be rolled out to all airports as the program is fully developed. Successful applicants of the Global Entry program are currently automatically accepted into this program and you will receive a special credit-card sized card with sensitive electronics built into it (much like your passport) and a protective sleeve to store it in. This card will grant you access to the special express lines at participating airports to get through security, and allow you the ability to get through the screening process without having to remove your shoes, jackets or separate your laptop from your carry-on luggage, thus expediting getting you to your scheduled flight.
Keep in mind that, as with all security programs, you are ALWAYS subject to secondary search and screening at any time, so while you will save a lot of time and headaches most of the time, there will be times when you are required to these additional searches. Failure to comply with these requests, or discovery of your violation of any customs or immigration rules or regulations will subject you to fines, and/or imprisonment and most certainly automatic dismissal from the program without the ability to regain entry.