These travel programs will help you avoid long Immigration and Customs lines like this one in Dallas / Ft. Worth that took more than 2 hours to get through.
If you have ever traveled internationally, you are familiar with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). All visitors are screened upon arrival from international departures, long lines happen and will continue to happen in the future. There are several programs intended to pre-screen travelers and ease lines.
CBP is an agency that was formed in March of 2003, and it falls under the jurisdiction of the Department of Homeland Security. Having taken over some of the responsibilities of the former Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), Customs and Border Protection’s main mission is to manage the integrity of the borders of the United States and its entry ports.
During the years that the Immigration and Naturalization Service was in operation, a program titled INSPASS, an acronym for INS Passenger Accelerated Service System, was implemented. The purpose of this program was to allow pre-screened international frequent flyers to enter the United States and be processed through customs much more quickly. Since the inception of Customs and Border Protection, this program has been renamed, and other Trusted Traveler Programs have been added. Let’s examine each of these.
I personally have Global Entry, and I must say that it has saved me countless hours. I have literally walked past lines with hundreds of people and straight to the front where the kiosks are located.
The Global Entry program has taken the place of the old INSPASS system of accelerated entry into the United States. Although targeting those who travel internationally frequently, the program is open to anyone, no matter how many trips they make. A person must apply for Global Entry status and, after going through an extensive background check and providing their fingerprints, is issued a special passport or permanent resident card which is valid for five years. These passengers may then bypass the regular customs lines and proceed directly to a CBP electronic kiosk which is capable of reading the individual’s passport and fingerprints. Upon successful reading, the individual is issued a receipt, at which point they may proceed directly to the baggage claim area. Although available at most major airports, the electronic kiosks are not available everywhere and members should be aware of such availability before leaving for their destination.
Members of the Global Entry Program are able to avoid the long lines and paperwork that other passengers cannot. However, a Global Entry member is not free from declaring goods being brought into the country and may not escape a random in-depth check. Anyone found to be in violation of any of the programs conditions will have their membership terminated immediately.
U.S. citizens or someone in possession of a U.S. permanent resident card is eligible to apply. It is important to note that all individuals, regardless of age, must apply for entry into the program separately. At this time, Dutch, South Korean and Canadian residents and citizens, as well as Mexican nationals, may apply for Global Entry benefits also. As mentioned, the application process is quite extensive. Applicants must prove the following:
- They have never been convicted of a crime nor do they have charges pending against them
- They have never been in violation of agriculture, customs or immigration regulations anywhere in the world
- They are not the subject of any law enforcement investigations
Applicants must open a Global Online Enrollment System (GOES) account and complete the online form provided. A $100 processing fee must also be submitted. This fee is non-refundable, even if the applicant is not approved for the program. Once the application has been reviewed, the system will advise the applicant to schedule an in-person interview. Two forms of approved identification must be brought to the interview, at which time photos, fingerprints and any other necessary biometric information will be obtained.
This is a program coordinated by U.S. and Canadian officials to expedite admission into Canada. Holders of a NEXUS card will not have to provide a passport when entering the country either by land, sea or air. Processing by U.S. and Canadian border patrol agents at specific locations along the northern border and airports within Canada will be quick for card carrying travelers. These cards contain photo identification as well as radio frequency identification.
Similar to the Global Entry Program, applicants may apply by establishing a GOES account, or they may apply at one of the Canadian Processing Centers. A list of centers can be found at http://www.cbp.gov/travel/trusted-traveler-programs/nexus/nexus-enrollment-centers. A corresponding application form and fee of $50 must be submitted. If approved after the initial review, the applicant will be asked to schedule an interview at a NEXUS enrollment center. All required documentation will be reviewed, and the applicant’s iris will be scanned for identification purposes. If admitted to the program, the individual will receive a NEXUS card in the mail within ten days.
An applicant will be turned down for the following violations:
- False or incomplete information on the application
- Conviction of any criminal offense anywhere in the world
- Violation of any country’s agriculture, customs or immigration law
NEXUS members may use any of the Global Entry kiosks as long as they have previously provided their fingerprints and any other required documentation. There is no additional fee associated with this. Card holders are entitled to expedited processing through dedicated lanes at specific northern border points of entry, NEXUS kiosks at most Canadian airports and by calling marine reporting locations in advance of the traveler’s arrival. Those without their NEXUS cards will be able to have their irises scanned for admission to the country admission to the country.
The Secure Electronic Network for Travelers Rapid Inspection (SENTRI) program is for those individuals traveling between the United States and Mexico via land. Requirements are the same as the Global Entry and NEXUS programs with respect to compliance with other countries’ immigration, criminal, agriculture and customs regulations. Applicants can apply through their GOES account.
Once initial approval has been received, SENTRI applicants have 30 days to schedule an extensive interview with the appropriate authorities. Failure to report for an interview within the specified period of time will void the individual’s application. A new application will need to be completed along with an additional $25 processing fee and submitted for further consideration. Once the interview has been scheduled, applicants must provide the following:
- Original documents proving stated citizenship
- Originals of state immigration admissibility if applicant is not a citizen of the U.S.
- Valid driver’s license or state issued ID card from home state listed on the application
- Vehicle registration and proof of insurance
- Notarized letter authorizing vehicle’s use for those applicants whose name does not appear on the registration document
- Tax returns, direct deposit receipts, pay receipts or in the case of a business owner, a copy of the business license, to prove financial support
- Mortgage or rent receipts to prove residency
During the interview process, the applicant’s photograph and fingerprints will be taken. The application fee is $25 per person or $50 maximum for a family. However, there are additional fees associated with a SENTRI application. A fingerprint processing fee of $14.50 must be submitted for all applicants 14 years of age and older. There is also a systems cost fee of $80 per person or a maximum of $160 for a family. An additional $42 fee will be assessed for the registration of each additional vehicle or authorized vehicle user.
Once the applicant has been approved for entry to the SENTRI program, they will receive a radio frequency identification card and vehicle identification tags. The SENTRI member will then be able to approach specified lanes at the southern border of the United States and receive faster admission into their final destination. Those enrolled in the program will also face a $25 replacement fee for a lost card and $42 fee for a lost vehicle identification tag.
APEC Business Travel Card
Citizens of the United States and permanent U.S. residents are temporarily eligible to apply for the APEC Business Travel Card (ABTC). This is an authorized travel document allowing for expedited processing of those traveling between the following Asian Pacific countries:
- Brunei Darussalam
- Hong Kong
- New Zealand
- Papua New Guinea
- Chinese Taipei
Application to this program for residents of the United States began on June 13, 2014 and is only approved through September 30, 2018 at which point the program will be evaluated by U.S. officials and possibly extended. Similar to the other Trusted Traveler Programs listed above, the APEC Business Travel Card is issued to those who apply through the individual’s GOES account. The person submits the online application and, if they are already a CBP member through one of the other Trusted Traveler programs, will not need to make an appointment for an in-person interview. Those applying to Customs and Border Protection for the first time will need to appear at one of the designated locations on the CBP website.
The card is valid for three years, but its validity does not reach beyond the holder’s passport expiration date. Some travelers to participating countries may use their APEC Business Travel Card in lieu of applying for a VISA. However, travelers are advised to check with their destination country as the application process and required documentation for each country varies greatly. Currently, the United States still requires VISAS for individuals traveling to this country. The United States is new to the APEC Traveler program and as such, benefits for its citizens are currently limited to fast track passage for air crew members and expedited scheduling of VISA applications.
International travelers from the United States must take frequency of trips to particular countries, fees and time allotments into consideration before deciding whether or not to apply to one or all of the Trusted Traveler Programs. It could, however, be money well spent. For more information visit: www.cbp.gov.