Global Entry program ‘how to’

This item appears on page 11 of the September 2012 issue.

Going through passport control and Customs when reentering the United States can involve long lines — not our favorite way to end a wonderful trip. Recently, my husband and I eliminated the need to stand in those long lines. Interested?

While in the passport control areas of airports, we had noticed the signs reading “Global Entry.” This is “a US Customs & Border Protection program that allows expedited clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travelers.” Coming back to the US from a cruise in April ’12, we decided that there are now enough participating entry points to make the cost and effort to apply worthwhile.

First, you must fill out an application; it can only be submitted online at, where you also will find a description of the program. It costs $100 (paid by credit card) to apply, and this is nonrefundable if you are not approved. If you are approved for the Global Entry program, it’s good for five years.

To apply, you will need to have a passport, birth certificate number and a list of countries traveled to in the past five years, in addition to providing personal information such as name, address, etc.

When you receive an e-mail approving your application, you need to book an appointment at an approved Enrollment Center for an in-person appointment. (The locations are listed on the website.) The e-mail explains what you need to take with you and that you will be interviewed, photographed and fingerprinted.

Our appointments, at Dallas/Ft. Worth International Airport, took 20 minutes each. My husband was asked about a traffic ticket he had received in the past, so we knew that background checks had been done on us.

Our passports now each have a special sticker in the back and we are in the system, so we can breeze up to the Global Entry kiosk in passport control and use a machine that looks like an ATM to get processed. We were briefed on how to do this and had no problems doing it our first time. We’ve used it twice, so far, most recently coming into Dallas/Ft. Worth from Paris on June 9.

We also were issued a Global Entry card to use when traveling across the borders into Canada and Mexico.

We have learned that few security personnel are trained in the program, so far, and it is up to us to ask questions and indicate we are participants in order to get through the process smoothly.

In the DFW airport, we were waved off from the crew and diplomatic line (which is what our interviewer had told us we would be using) until we told the security guard that we were Global Entry participants and showed him our passport stickers.

You still have to present a Customs declaration form to a Customs agent, but it’s not the form you normally fill out on the plane. Instead, you receive a small document from the machine that processes your passport swipe. (It also checks your fingerprints and looks at you on camera.)

The machine asks four questions. Based on the answers (or if you are randomly chosen), your Customs document may have an “X” on it in addition to your other information. If you get an X, you are directed to go for further screening. If not, you proceed to hand in your document.

Plano, TX