As a frequent traveler, I finally decided to apply for a Global Entry (GOES) Card. Global Entry is a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) program that allows expedited clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travelers upon arrival in the United States. It also provides automatic TSA PreCheck status.
The application is online and it is extensive, requiring information on past addresses and employment. Once the application is provisionally accepted, an appointment is arranged. I had to wait two month for the first available date. Before the appointment, I had to arrange to get my Live Scan Fingerprinting done. Live Scan is a biometric fingerprinting scan that is done via computer rather than with an inkpad and paper. At the appointment, I was asked some basic questions and issued my GOES number. My card arrived in the mail about a week later.
I’ve made good use of the TSA PreCheck on many domestic flights and I just had a chance to try out the Global Entry Program when I returned from the FAWCO Conference in Rome. I whisked through passport control and customs so quickly, that I was worried that I would have to wait for my ride home. Inside the terminal, I had bypassed the passport line and found myself in front of a computer kiosk. I scanned my passport and the computer read my fingerprints and asked a few questions. The printer spit out a receipt with my photo on it and I went to pick up my suitcases. They quickly spilled out onto the luggage carousel and I wheeled them over to the customs official who took the receipt from the kiosk and I was finished. From the time that I reached the kiosk to the time that I walked out to be greeted by Tony and his daughters, who had just arrived, was about 10 minutes in total. It was so quick that it was surreal.
Global Entry absolutely speeds up the travel experience and if you are a frequent traveler, you will appreciate the time saved at the airport at both arrival and departure. Unfortunately, it isn’t smooth sailing for everyone. 1.2 million People have applied for the program and roughly 3-5% of the population pays the $100 application fee and goes through the extensive background check only to be denied the Global Entry card. The reasons for denial can be as shocking as a minor brush with the law as a teenager to an apple being found in a carryon bag. Usually, applicants are told the reason for the application being denied and they can appeal the decision but dredging up paperwork for a petty infraction 30 years in the past can be a daunting task. It is also a little creepy to realize just how much information that the government actually may have on you.
Beyond extensive background checks, and the privacy issues involved in Global Entry another hurdle can be getting a good set of fingerprints. Fingerprints are a great way of identifying people because no two people have the same prints. It is also true that sometimes people lose their fingerprints through age, certain drugs like chemotherapy, dehydration or occupation.
Bad fingerprints have been a reoccurring theme for me over the years. It started when I applied for an Egate card in Dubai. I managed to get the prints for the card, but half of the time my prints wouldn’t work on the scanners at the airport and I would have to go through a regular immigration line. My fingerprints worked for my Global Entry application but didn’t work when applying for my real estate license. If you know you have a problem with bad fingerprints remember to stay well hydrated for a day or two before your fingers will be scanned. Make sure that your fingers are clean and lotioned. Most forums on this subject recommend Cornhuskers lotion for better fingerprint readings. Another trick is to rub your fingers on your forehead before using the scanner.
In the end, I am happy that I have my Global Entry Card. In about a year, I will get a new passport and I will drop my married name. The Global Entry has to be updated whenever you renew your passport but will not require the time and effort of the initial application. I fret that the name change will somehow complicate things but since I included both my maiden and married name as names used on the GOES application, it will probably be a simple fix. I travel often enough to have found value in having the card and I keep a little lotion in my plastic baggie of liquids to make sure that I reap the benefit from it. The $100 dollar fee, the background check and the tube of lotion seem a small price for keeping on my shoes and saving an hour on the front and back end of my flight. To learn more about or apply for the Global Entry Program visit their web site at: http://www.cbp.gov/global-entry/about.