Security lines which at times can get very long was my first concern. The TSA Pre-Check expedited screening program would help with that. If approved, I would go through a special line where I could keep my shoes, belt and coat on and leave my laptop and 3-1-1 bag in my carry-on. I’d still have to walk through a metal detector and my bag would still be screened, but not having to undress and unpack everything was a real positive.
Another program I looked into was Global Entry which is part of the Department of Homeland Security’s Trusted Traveler Program. With Global Entry, I could bypass the long immigration and customs line, go to a kiosk, slide in my passport, let the machine read my fingerprints, answer a few questions, get a printout of my responses and then hand it to an officer at the exit. Very simple and very quick. Since Global Entry also includes TSA Pre Check privileges and is only $20 more than Pre-Check, this seemed the way to go. Both programs are valid for five years before having to renew.
I’m not going to going into each step but to get final approval, applicants have to go to a Global Entry Enrollment Center for the final interview. This interview will determine whether you get the program or not. This interview will include taking your photograph and a full set of fingerprints. It only last about 15 minutes.
The closest enrollment center to me had a three month waiting list for an appointment. The center at Dulles Airport outside Washington, D.C., the next closest center, had appointments the next day. So, earlier this week, I headed to Dulles for my interview.
It all seemed to go well. The folks working at the office were highly proficient and on time. I was called at my appointment time of 11:15 and was out by 11:30. While they can’t tell you then and there, the officer interviewing me said it all looked good and I would hear within 24-48 hours whether I got it.
Five hours later I got the message I was approved. I’m not kidding, it was five hours later.
If saving time at the airport is important to you, it may be worthwhile applying for any of these programs. The application is long and will take about 30-45 minutes to complete. There was nothing on it that I felt the government didn’t already have on file. Most questions were about your work and criminal history. Nothing political, religous or anything else that might be seen as intrusive.
Honestly, I should have done it a lot sooner.
Global Entry is not just for U.S. citizens and legal residents. Citizens of the Netherlands, South Korea and Mexico may also apply. Canadians can apply for the NEXUS program which includes Global Entry benefits