December 02, 2010

Program allows skipping long passport control lines

Global Entry kiosks let passengers bypass long immigration and customs lines.

Kiosks let travelers skip long passport control lines | Travel News & Features | - Houston Chronicle

By JENALIA MORENO Copyright 2010 Houston Chronicle
Dec. 1, 2010, 7:42PM
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Nick de la Torre : Chronicle
Looking over at a friend who had to get in the queue, Lizzethe Escoto of Continental Airlines uses a Global Entry kiosk to enter the country last week at Bush Intercontinental Airport.
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The US Customs and Border Protection program Global Entry allows US travelers returning from overseas to bypass immigration and customs lines at U.S. airports. Details:
• Cost: $100
• Valid: 5 years
• Qualifications: No criminal convictions; no customs, immigration or agricultural violations; not under investigation by federal, state or local agencies
Source: US Customs and Border Protection
Camille and Dan Sullivan of New Orleans once missed a connecting flight home from Italy because of long immigration and customs lines at Washington's Dulles International Airport. After more than two hours waiting to hand their passports and travel documents to government agents, they ran through the airport but couldn't make it to their gate in time.

"We missed it by four minutes," Camille Sullivan said.
That convinced the couple, who enjoy international vacations, to spend $100 each on Global Entry memberships.

Approved members can bypass long immigration and customs lines, scan their own passports at airport kiosks and continue on their way in less than a minute.

U.S. citizens and permanent residents can apply to the program if they have never been convicted of a criminal offense and pass a background check. Once approved, participants can bypass the immigration queue at any U.S. airport with Global Entry kiosks. The membership must be renewed every five years.

Mexican travelers will soon be able to participate in a pilot program version of Global Entry. If they pass a background check and provide their biometrics to the Department of Homeland Security, they too can skip the long immigration lines at U.S. airports. The program has already been extended to Dutch citizens, and about 2,000 have signed up for it. The Netherlands offers a similar service for U.S. travelers.

During a recent visit to Houston, the Sullivans signed up at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Global Entry enrollment office at Bush Intercontinental Airport. An agent interviewed and fingerprinted them, scanned their passports and marked the documents with a simple "CBP" sticker.

"This will be great if we can zip through," said Camille Sullivan, who is looking forward to touring France's wineries soon.
Houston figures highest

In June 2008, the Houston airport was one of the first to add Global Entry kiosks. Since then, the Houston office has approved more than 13,000 members, and almost 75,000 travelers have used the Houston kiosks — the nation's highest in both categories.
The program is popular in Houston with flight crews, energy workers, Medical Center employees and leisure travelers, among others.

The government promotes Global Entry by going to area companies and enrolling workers who travel internationally.
"We go to the company with a mobile enrollment unit and enroll all their members at one time," said Alma Montemayor, chief of operations of Customs and Border Protection.

There are 10 kiosks at Bush Intercontinental, and a few more will be added next month.

Read rest of article with pictures

Posted by keefner at December 2, 2010 04:45 PM