Fast-Track For Trusted Travelers

April 15, 2015
Global Entry expedites processing for pre-approved passengers entering the U.S.

The Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) annual aviation forecast shows that the nation’s air transportation system will continue to grow over the next two decades, with greater numbers of people expected to fly more miles each year.

U.S airlines served an estimated 756.3 million passengers in 2014, up by 2.3 percent from the previous year. The FAA forecast projects passenger growth to average 2.0 percent per year, reaching one billion in 2029 and 1.14 billion by 2035.

This steady growth in air travel, boosted by an improving economy, has caused federal officials to find new ways to help travelers get in and out of airports more quickly 

Global Entry is a program being piloted by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) that allows pre-approved, low-risk travelers to receive expedited clearance upon arrival into the United States. As of December 2014, Global Entry was available at 42 U.S. airports and 12 preclearance locations. More than 1.8 million members are enrolled in Global Entry and approximately 50,000 new applications for the program are filed monthly.

In addition, beginning in 2015, the U.S. intends to enter into negotiations in order to expand air preclearance operations to new locations. Through preclearance, the same immigration, customs, and agriculture inspections of international air passengers performed on arrival in the U.S. can be completed before departure at foreign airports instead. Currently, preclearance operations take place at 15 foreign airports in six different countries, benefitting air passengers, airports, and air carriers, in the United States and abroad.

CBP will administer a process to evaluate and prioritize an initial set of potential preclearance locations to begin formal preclearance negotiations in 2015. Foreign airport authorities that are interested in initiating the process to establish preclearance operations at their location have been asked to submit their interest. 

The Basics

The Global Entry program is operated CBP to speed up the customs clearance process. Upon returning from international travel, Global Entry-enrolled travelers can bypass the regular passport control line and proceed directly to the Global Entry kiosk. 

Program participants present their machine-readable passport or U.S. permanent resident card, place their fingertips on the scanner for fingerprint verification and complete a customs declaration. The kiosk issues a transaction receipt and directs the traveler to baggage claim and the exit. 

The Fine Print

Travelers must be pre-approved for the Global Entry program. Global Entry is open to U.S. citizens and permanent residents, citizens of Germany, the Netherlands, Panama and South Korea, and Mexican nationals. Canadian citizens and residents may enjoy Global Entry benefits through membership in the NEXUS program. Applicants cannot have been convicted of a criminal offense or found in violation of any customs regulations in any country.

All applicants undergo a rigorous background check and in-person interview before enrollment. This process consists of three steps:

1.            Complete and submit an online application and pay a $100 non-refundable fee, which covers     enrollment in the program for a five-year period.

2.            Once your application is reviewed, schedule an interview at one of the Global Entry Enrollment                Centers, which are located at many airports.

3.            At the interview, A CBP officer will ask you questions, take your photo and scan your fingertips.                You must provide a valid passport and one other form of identification, such as a driver’s license or ID card.

Global Entry is available at select U.S. airports and some preclearance locations. While its goal is to speed travelers through the customs clearance process, members may still be selected for further examination when entering the U.S.

Global Entry travelers cannot bring other passengers, such as children or spouses, through the fast-track line if they are not also members.

Why Join?

Over the past decade, airports have made significant efforts to get passengers through security and customs clearance more quickly and easily. Global Entry, especially when combined with other programs such as PreCheck, eliminates travelers’ least favorite thing about airports – waiting in line.  

As our nation plans for continued, steady growth in air travel, it’s well worth the effort to opt for Global Entry and additional international preclearance locations to reap the benefits of an expedited and efficient processing system.

Peter Aarons is West Division aviation director and associate vice president for HNTB. He has more than 25 years of experience in planning, development, design, program and project management, and construction for airports. Contact him at [email protected].