My Favorite Accessory For International Travel

by Mike on March 1, 2012

There’s an unspoken race upon deplaning from an international flight.  You get sense of it from the commotion of passengers rushing to gather their stuff and to get off the plane.

That’s only part of the race.  The complete unspoken race is to get through passport control before you do.

Logically speaking, passengers siting in business class or first class are better positioned to egress the plane first than someone sitting back in cattle class, thus getting to passport control quicker.  I’ve been on both sides of this spectrum and it does help to some degree.

However, just because you beat out passengers on your plane doesn’t mean you’ll beat out the competition on other arriving international flights.

Getting through passport control is paramount for those that have connecting domestic flights.  When connection times are cut short due to delays, you get see desperation in the form of parents dragging their comatose children and carry on luggage all in an effort to get through passport control as fast as possible.  Every step counts, being minutes or even second late could mean standing behind fifty people or ten people in line.  Compound the long line with Customs and Border Patrol agents being indifferent about adding more agents to severe the people on the line, you could be standing for a while.

KEEPING MYSELF FROM JOINING THE RACE

To keep myself from participating from the festivities fresh off an international flight, I’m enrolled in the Global Entry Trusted Travel Program.  With enrollment into this program, you’re agreeing to a rigorous back ground check to be deemed a trusted traveler by the US Custom and Border Protection.

What this allows me to do is bypass the long lines at passport control and head directly to a Global Entry self serve kiosks, where I scan my passport and finger prints.  The kiosk will acknowledge me and ask a few questions pertaining to the declarations of goods I may be bringing into the country.  When the kiosk is all done with the questionnaire, it will print my Customs Declaration form.

I can then proceed to baggage claim, pick-up any checked luggage, and head to the Global Entry line at customs, thus avoiding another line.  Assuming I check no luggage, it literally takes 2-minutes to go through passport control and customs.  Contrast this to a travel without Global Entry who maybe waiting anywhere from a half hour just to go through passport control.

Since the self-kiosk has done all the necessary steps of the customs declaration, so I no longer have to manually fill out those blue customs declaration forms that you see flight attendants distributing in flight.

HOW TO ENROLL IN GLOBAL ENTRY

You can apply online at globalentry.gov.  The cost of the application is a non-refundable $100.  If you make a mistake or if they can’t verify some information, you’ll have to apply again, meaning you’ll have to fork over another $100.

Alternatively, one could sign-up for the American Express Platinum card, which has a steep $450 annual fee.  From an initial glance at the annual fee, you would have to be out of your mind to pay that kind of money just to have a credit card.  To refute this argument, the card does come with a slew of benefits, one of which is having the $100 application fee for Global Entry waived.

Once your application is accepted, you’ll have to bring your passport to an in-person appointment at one of the Global Entry Enrollment Centers typically located at an airport.  Mine was conducted at New York’s JFK Airport.  I tried to do it as a walk in during a long lay over in DFW(Dallas) prior to my appointment date at JFK, but their schedule was too busy to take any walk-ins.

During your in person interview, you’ll have your finger prints scanned and instructed on using the self-service kiosk.  The agent will then affix a “CBP” sticker to the back cover or inside back cover of your passport.  From there you’re good to go.  You’re passport will officially be pimped out for the next five years.  In which, you’ll have to re-apply for the Global Entry program again.

Global Entry Sticker in your passport

Global Entry Sticker inside my passport

IS IT WORTH IT? 

On my long haul trips, I usually have someone drop me off and pick me up at the airport.  With that being the case, I don’t want to keep them waiting at the mercy of passport control and customs.  So having Global Entry is not only a convenience for me, but also for the person picking me up at the airport.  I much rather be in the good graces of the person doing me a favor by being promptly at the meeting area after my flight has arrived.

As always the case, it all depends on person to person.  Keep in mind, being stuck in an unforgiving line coming off a vacation, could leave unpleasant memories on what otherwise could have been a memorable trip.

If you travel internationally several times a year, I would definitely recommend Global Entry.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Aaron Woolsey October 2, 2014 at 11:32 pm

Somehow stumbled on your post. I was convinced to get Global Entry after an experience arriving on an international flight at Dulles with a three hour layover that was cut down to about 30 minutes due to immigration/customs having to deal with about 8 plane-loads of passengers arriving in the same arrival window. I had never considered it previously since my home airport (SFO) usually has reasonable immigration lines, but it’s also been a lifesaver when traveling through airports like JFK, BOS, or LAX where your connection departs from a different terminal than your arriving flight.

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