10.03.2018

Getting in and out of the country quicker and better. And getting around inside better as well.....

B. at the Met.

The last time I flew back into the U.S.A. from outside the country was in 2017. I drove back in from Mexico earlier this year but the border crossing in a car wasn't anywhere near the ordeal that coming back home on a plane was.

In the airport in Toronto there were long lines to clear customs and many delays. It seemed unusual to me since I was definitely not traveling during a peak travel season.

I've also noticed many more delays and clogs when going through security for domestic flights as well. I usually get the TSA PreCheck on my tickets though I've never signed up for the program and that's a great help but often my kid will barely make a plane because of the regular lines for airport security and that's even if he arrives an hour or two before his flight. It may be that Austin-Bergstrom airport is just getting relentlessly busier and this is part of the overall growth pains of living in a bursting city.

At any rate, I seem to be racking up travel commitments left and right. I have the workshop in Iceland coming up in late October thru early November, followed by another workshop in the U.K. the first week and a half of December. Before I go off on those fun trips though I have four or five travel days to the east coast in the last two weeks of October. That's a lot of climbing on an off planes but it's also potentially a lot of standing in TSA security lines and taking shoes off and putting them back on again.

I can't complain because the work is great and the workshops have the promise of being incredibly fun. But I've decided that I need to make the airport/Kirk interface more efficient so, after much research I decided to apply for a program called Global Entry that's run by the Customs and Boarder Security Agency. Once you sign up, have a background check and a face to face interview, turn over your fingerprints, Oh, and pre-pay a non-refundable $100 application fee you might get approved. The agency is very clear that there's no guarantee and if you don't get approved  you aren't getting your $100 back. Tough love.

But...if you do pass the background check and all the screening you become a member of this program called Global Entry which makes you a "trusted traveler" and allows you to skirt customs and get into the country in an express lane at immigration. The bonus is that the same program and fee also provides the TSA PreCheck benefit. You get to go through the short line and forgo the privilege of taking off your belt and your shoes!

So, I started the process online and filled in all the blanks. I've had the same job for 32 years with the same employer (that would be me...) and I've lived in the same house for 22 years. I have never been arrested or investigated or implicated. I'm like a darn Boy Scout. I thought the whole thing would be a slam dunk but there's always a catch. The catch here is the backlog. It's either a very popular program or one supplied with meager resources.

I'm told by the website that I should have a conditional answer within 3-4 weeks and then I'll need to schedule the face to face interview, for which there are no more open slots anywhere in the Southwest U.S. for the rest of the year. Interesting conundrum, yes? As a person with an overwhelming sense of entitlement I immediately queried whether or not I could expedite the process by paying more but that doesn't seem to be an option.

I guess I'll just have to wait out the process and use the new privileges when, and if, they become available.

I'm writing this to ask if you have applied or used the program and to hear/read your responses about it. Can you please share your actual experiences with me? It would be much appreciated. In the interim I'll head over to the DMV to practice my waiting skills.........

21 comments:

JL said...

I have used and it works quite well. You can definitely skip customs lines, and I agree that they can be nightmarish. I had the same problem as you with the interview process and my solution was to keep checking the site for cancelations. I eventually found one. Another option is to find another airport that is less busy and try to fly through there and align with the face-to-face session.

The other option to consider is the new Mobile Passport app. It is approved by CBP and seems to accelerate the process as well. Best of all, it does not require any fees or interviews and so would be great stopgap for while you wait. (I used it during a recent family trip and a nice benefit is that all family members could use it versus just me for Global Entry.) Then again, if you like it, maybe you won't need the Global Entry after all.

Anonymous said...

Kirk,

joined Global Entry over a year ago, less a wait than you are encountering (must be too many Instagrammers applying). The agent at the interview treated me like a child, lecturing down to me, but worth the biting of the tongue and getting it done., Worth its cost many times over- returning to the USA is usually a few minutes and you are on your way. The TSA Pre is also great usually- occasionally, I note the Pre line is longer wait than the regular, but 98% of the time it works very well.

When you get yours, important to remember how to properly place your fingers on the scanner. If you fail, then it's a talk with an agent.

There is a momentary sense of having beaten the system when you breeze through the maze. :)

I think there are some other private options available in some airports which offer the same benefits- you pay annually. Might be worth checking out if AUS and your destinations have that program.

Oh, I see Captcha is back.....

Safe travels,

Rick

adam said...

meant to say, martin parr has opened a new place in bristol (10 minutes by train from bath), they have regular events and will do talks and stuff on request (if your group has the budget)

www.martinparrfoundation.org

Mark Kirkpatrick said...

Hi Kirk,
I travel out of the country 2 or 3 times a year. I got Global Entry perhaps 3 years ago, and it's been a significant upgrade to my lifestyle. I don't think that I now wait more than 5 minutes to pass customs on re-entering the USA; most often there's no wait at all. Do get it soon as you can.
Cheers,
Mark

david myers said...

Kirk, I often use Global Entry. It does make life much easier. I have been in the program for about 3-4 years. I also participate in CLEAR, which is in some airports and relies on biometrics -- domestic only. Recognize not all airports have TSA Pre, Clear, or Global Entry. I think, in fact, that Austin is somewhat limited, at least in some parts concerning TSA Pre. Clear is helpful when TSA Pre is jammed with people. Also, none of these help when going through security outside of the US, which can often be much worse (e.g., Frankfurt, Rome, ...).

Having said all of this, these programs do help one most of the time.

Chuck Albertson said...

I've been in the Global Entry program for years, and it works well. I travel to the UK a lot, and the passport lines are something I don't miss on the return. If you have an Amex Platinum card and pay the GE application/renewal fee with it, you'll get a credit for it on your statement (though it sometimes takes a phone call to remind them of it).

Unknown said...

I got my Global Entry status about 3 years ago, and it really does work. An added bonus is that I can use the Nexus lanes to drive back to the U.S. from Canada (but not the other way).

I did have to go to the airport (SEA - ~50 miles, a ferry fare, and airport parking) for my interview. Also, at age 75, I really don't have recognizable fingerprints any more - they are all covered up by wrinkles.

David Zivic said...

Did you know that there is no law against taking photographs of the airport security facilities. Maybe you remember there weren't ANY signs NO PHOTOS.. Flying to San diego from Mexico I asked the most authority person with a Gold Badge and he smiled. "Yes, it is legal, but if we feel (At HIS descretion) that you are doing survelience, not snapshots, we can declare this "suspiscious activity". They said I could be detained for questioning.
At another time my friend and myself were going San Diego to Mexico. I slipped on my topsiders and while he was tieing his shoes. I asked him, in my lowest whisper "Peter, Have you heard any good security jokes lately". somebody heard me !!!. During the armed response it was declared that it is 'Not a security Joke", just a joke ABOUT security jokes.

James Moule said...

I have been in the program since the beginning, A few thoughts: 1. Overall it's a good idea, particularly because of TSA precheck.2. If you have checked baggage you might not save any time. You can whiz through passport control and then wait along with all the other passengers for your baggage. 3. I renewed recently. The computer said that I had to wait for a month or so for an appointment at the San Francisco Airport. However, when I dropped into their office without an appointment, I was taken care of immediately.

Bill Webb said...

Keep checking the online interview schedule site. I did and found an opening much earlier than the original date that was given to me.

David said...

It is worth getting Global Entry just for the TSA Pre. The lines for immigration control in Austin are tame compared to other airports; Chicago and Dallas can be queue nightmares. You will be glad you spent the $100 on Global Entry. All I can really remember of the interview was waiting for the computer to complete the background check, and the immigration officer approving me. I think some of these interviews are little more than to check there is a real human associated with the application.

An earlier post suggested checking for cancellations. This is true of any appointment system related to immigration, visas, green cards, etc. You should check first thing in the morning daily, and don't give up.

On a positive note, when you renew you don't have to go for another interview.

EdPledger said...

Went to Iceland two years ago with a pack full of lenses and a couple camera bodies. Quick lines and no issues at all leaving Houston, or leaving Minneapolis, or arriving in Reykjavik. No problem in leaving Iceland, except they were more careful by far in inspecting luggage. But that process didn’t take long and was done courteously and responsibly. Now arriving in Minneapolis was a different story. The customs lines were ridiculous, the employees unprofessional, and the entire experience was totally exasperating. And just how stupid is it to perform all these checks AFTER you have arrived and obviously not blown up any planes? Later, coming back from Canada, same thing. Understaffed, and unprofessional folks on the U.S. side had everyone very angry. If you travel very often the mordita process you describe might make sense, but if an infrequent traveler, then just chill. It’s not much worse than the traffic around Austin, eh? As a side note, the long flight and plane vibrations worked a screw loose inside my 300mm telephoto and the helicoid jammed while taking puffin pics. Grrrrr. Reykjavik is a great place to walk around. Food is pricey and the best I had was lobster bisque down by the harbor. Had cooking facilities in our rental and got some great fish in the better groceries. Read a few icelandic murder mysteries, like those by Arnaldur Indridason, before you go to take the edge off one’s naivete and learn about the underbelly of Reykjavik. Enjoy your trip.

Anonymous said...

I applied a few weeks ago, haven't heard back at all so far.

Sanjay said...

Jay L mentioned it above but until you get Global Entry the Mobile Passport app can be a godsend. I don't think Austin uses it unfortunately. Houston does. Sometimes likes can be as short as Global Entry. The combination of Global Entry/TSA Pre are well worth it. Check if your credit card pays for it (some do).

Edward Richards said...

Since you will be traveling to other places in the US, check to see if you can find an interview slot outside of Austin when you are on the road.

Unknown said...

I'll third the recommendation of the Mobile Passport app while you wait. It might not be in use in Austin yet, but it might help at your actual port of entry if you're not flying direct. It worked like a charm for us a couple years ago on our return from Italy - breezed past two lines of hundreds of people at JFK and were first in line for both Customs and Immigration.

Re said...

I have Global Entry and did my Interview. The questions were about where did I live, how long and similar. The interview, with photo taken and passport reviewed, lasted about 3 minutes.

I believe that once you have been approved for an interview, on your return to the USA from an overseas flight, you can walk into that airport's Customs and Boarder Security office and do your interview right then on the spot. You might want to confirm this before you try it.

Kirk Tuck, Photographer/Writer said...

Already conditionally approved and have a confirmed appointment here in Austin on Monday. I guess getting secret service clearance to photograph three former presidents helps to fast track this process... Yay.

Nooluk said...

I have been a member since 2009. It's a lifesaver. Nothing like arriving at a Canadian airport at 10:00 pm when three international flights have arrived around the same time and the line up for Customs and Immigration seems to go on forever. Scan your retinas at the Nexus kiosks and your're done. Same with entering and exiting the US. Much, much faster.

scott kirkpatrick said...

As a frequent flyer I had TSA Pre-Check for many years, but that was stopped about three years ago when it became a side effect of Global Entry. So I applied for Global Entry to recover it. I paid the $100, got a preliminary approval, and have been trying ever since to find an appointment time. The problem is that I live outside the US but frequently visit. I did try the walk-in route once, but no appointments were available. In the mean time, my $100 pre-approval has expired twice. I've given up.

neopavlik said...

Before I traveled last year to Toronto I got TSA Precheck which was really good and then hit that same bogdown for the customs process. I looked at the Nexus but there isn't enough locations for that yet. Global Entry seems to have a lot more locations to start the process.