I’m off to Montreal this week– a much-anticipated trip– for meetings and a conference, then on to Oxford next week to give a CLE lecture. When I come back, I anticipate a bit of a smoother return because of a Customs & Border Protection program called Global Entry. The scheme is designed primarily for frequent travelers, but even for people who venture abroad only once in a while, it’s awfully handy, and if nothing else, pays for itself in time saved.
- Twenty minutes to fill out the form. Have your passport and driver’s license handy.
- $100 for a five-year clearance. Credit cards accepted (preferred?).
- A trip to the airport (at least, the nearest airport with international connections) for an interview and fingerprint scan. Yes, they’ll validate your parking. Yes, CBP’s officers are regular people just like you and me. It’s painless.
- TSA Pre-Check is automatically included. Keep your shoes on, keep your belt on, leave your laptop and liquids in your carry-on. Did I mention that TSA Pre-Check is already $85?
- No line at the port of re-entry into the United States (see the picture above). You simply scan your passport and prints, enter your declarations on the touchscreen, and doors magically open for you. This can save a half-hour’s wait (if not more) as the CBP officers process everybody else on your crowded flight. Now, to be sure, U.S. citizens usually have a shorter wait than foreign visitors anyway, but your time is still worth it.
- Partner programs for Canada and Mexico.
- Easier access to China and the Far East. As my interviewing officer explained, the People’s Republic of China and a few other east Asian nations have a comparable program, available to U.S. citizens with Global Entry clearance, that pre-clears known travelers for immigration and customs. Apparently, the lines in Beijing are nightmarish, so if you plan to go to the PRC more than once, it’s an even greater time-saver.
- Easier renewals. Much like your passport, renewing the thing is far easier than getting it in the first place. Yes, you have repeat costs, but at twenty bucks a year, it’s a slam dunk.
- Nobody from the United States government says “welcome home” to you. Seriously– that’s awfully nice to hear after a lengthy sojourn abroad. Here, it’s a touchscreen. You literally get more love from your laptop.
- That about covers it.
Even if you only fly abroad once every few years, get on this program instead of Pre-Check. In any industry that views time as a valuable commodity (I’m talking to you, lawyers), this thing pays for itself in a single trip anywhere– not just abroad. Road warriors, take note– if you spend a couple of hours of your life now, you’ll save several later on. That will make you far more willing to go abroad and look your clients in the eye.