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Is the Global Entry Program Worth It? Yes, and Here’s Why

Written By: jeff

Posted On: August 3rd, 2010

Back in April 2010, I was approved for admission into the US Customs and Border Protection Agency (CBP) program, Global Entry, which promises to get frequent international travelers through the immigration lines quickly.  In June, when I returned to the US for the first time since I was accepted, I was anxious to see what the user experience would really be like.  Would the program really work? Would I blaze through the immigration lines? Or would the reality fall far short of the purported benefits CBP was promoting?

I am pleased to say that not only did the program deliver on its promises, I felt it exceeded what was promised. Yes, we are talking about the same US government which often suffers from the perception that it falls short on service delivery.

global entry program

Bogota Airport. Copyright CareerBreakSecrets.com

How My Global Entry Experience Unfolded

I entered the US from Bogota, Colombia, where I now live, via Houston.  This airport is my favorite US entry point because it really seems to have been designed well to process people as quickly as possible (as opposed to Fort Lauderdale which is a true cluster*/&%).  I took the red-eye flight that night and entered the immigration processing area around 5-5:30 AM.

I walked over to the machines designed for the Global Entry program.  I entered my passport, gave my handprint, answered the required customs questions on the touch screen. Most importantly, I did NOT have to fill out the blue customs form. All of this took about a minute (first-time jitters and excitement probably made me take longer than it needed to).

Now came the moment of truth.  Just because I get through the immigration line quicker, didn´t mean that I was not subject to random bag searches.  I am still am and so would you be as a participant.  To process me through customs, the Global Entry kiosk spits out a card summarizing my information for the customs officer. If the card has a big ´X´ on it, I must submit to a full baggage check.  My concern here is the time delay that such a bag check would require.  I´ve been through one before. It´s fine and a part of the travel experience but it isn´t a fast process since it is so thorough.  A drum roll began in my head as I waited for the card to pop out of the machine. It dropped out and…no ´X´ on the card!

At this point, an immigration officer came over to double check everything. He was satisfied with my credentials and I was on my way to get my bags.

Now, what happened next exceeded my expectations.  I approached the customs desk and I saw a sign directing passengers into the appropriate lines. There were the normal lines that I always went through. But, one sign routed airline crew, diplomats and Global Entry participants through a separate line.  I was thrilled to see this benefit of the program which I had missed earlier in researching it. At this point of the morning, there were no lines overwhelmed with distressed travelers. But, I was glad to know that if I ever flew through an airport inferior in capacity to Houston´s, I would be able to get into the A-List line. Whoever on the government´s design team fought for this feature to be included, I thank you.  As Joe Biden would say, ¨It´s a big effen deal.¨

Get Enrolled in Global Entry and Get Out of Line

Granted I´ve only had one experience with the program. And, who knows what will happen on my next trip back to the US.  But, even if I had to wait in line for the Global Entry kiosk, even if I had to wait in line a bit at the customs desk, I still would be time ahead of the rest of my fellow passengers who are not Global Entry participants.

Right now, there are only 60,000 of us enrolled in the program with about 1,400 kiosk usages per day.  Given the amount of international travel into the US, I´m sure there is room to grow that number significantly.

In my last post, I gave the details on what you have to do to enroll and what that experience was like. Take a look and get enrolled.  The program is well-designed from enrollment to execution. And, I am so happy I took the time and paid the fee to become part of it.

Read Legally Skip the US Immigration and Customs Lines With The Global Entry Program

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19 Responses to “Is the Global Entry Program Worth It? Yes, and Here’s Why”

  1. Alisha says:

    Thanks Jeff for this useful information. I would have definitely doubted it’s merit so I am glad you provided insight from your experience! I will definitely check out your details on enrollment!

  2. jeff says:

    If you apply, let me know how it goes.

  3. Thanks for sharing your experiences. It gives me something to think about, however, I get weary when I think of having to enroll in a “governmental program”. Images of bureaucracy dance in my head.. Happy to hear it’s been a positive (1 time) experience for you so far.

  4. Susan says:

    The question “Is it worth it?” begs another question: What does it cost to go through the process?

    Thanks.

  5. jeff says:

    Susan, the cost of the enrollment is $100USD and is non-refundable. Check out my first post to get the details of how the process works. Hope that helps. Jeff
    http://careerbreaksecrets.com/1053/jeffs-blog/legally-skip-the-us-immigration-and-customs-lines-with-the-global-entry-program

  6. kayo says:

    Been a member since 11/2009 and have used it about 12 times (I got “x-ed” out once) and LOVE IT!!!! On about one or two occasions the machines have been out of service and I’ve been directed to skip the line and go to the next available immigration officer….it’s fantastic!

  7. cathy says:

    I’ve never dealt with a group of governement workers (or private, for that matter) so disrespectful and abusive of their positions as these Global Entry “officers.” I’d recommend it only to my worst enemy :-)

  8. Ross says:

    I have just enrolled in the program and understand the “X” on your print out to mean you must report to the Global Entry CBP office for clarification of your credentials and travels etc. I don’t believe it has anything to do with random customs searches which everyone is subject to at the point when departing the airport and is decided by the customs agent not the Global Entry kiosk.

  9. jeff says:

    @Ross, let me do some digging and see if I can get some clarification on this point.

  10. jeff says:

    Regarding Ross’s question on the meaning of the ´X´ on the white card, I received an answer this afternoon from John Wagner, Executive Director, Admissibility and Passenger Programs, US Customs and Border Protection. Here is is his response.

    ¨The kiosk receipt is to indicate to CBP that you have successfully used the kiosk. The CBP officer at the egress control point (after baggage claim) will validate the receipt belongs to you and normally clear you to depart. There should be a designated line for Global Entry members at the egress control point to exit the CBP area.

    If the kiosk receipt prints with an “X” you are to report to the nearest staffed CBP passport control “primary” booth. It should be right near the kiosk. You do not have to get back on line. The CBP officer at the passport control “primary” booth will review your documents, the reason for the “X”, and either release you from there, or refer you to “secondary” for additional processing.

    The “X” can mean many different things: random inspection; you have items to declare; you have duty to pay; you have agriculture products that need to be examined; your membership may need review; your fingerprints may not have matched, the system may have trouble completing the transaction; you may have timed out on one of the screens, or other issues.

    You must have the “X” cleared before proceeding the egress control point referenced above, or you will be directed back for processing.¨

    I hope this clears up the issue. I know it gave me more detail on how it all works. So, thanks Ross for your comment!

  11. Rob says:

    I did my interview and Kiosk indoc yesterday and Jeff is 100% spot on with the various reasonings behind the X. I also look forward to this program being the first step around assembly line airport security as I frequently travel by air for business reasons.

  12. jeff says:

    Thanks for the feedback Rob. I also just used Global Entry in Canada in Toronto when flying back through the US. So, the program is expanding to more places which is great.

  13. Lesley says:

    I’ve been in the program almost 2 yrs and have used it on numerous occasions at many different entry airports in the US. And it’s worth every penny. Have only had one problem – at Toronto Pearson about 2 weeks ago. I’m assuming the program is new at that airport, as no-one seemed to know anything about it. The Canadian Immigration officers (on the way into Toronto) didn’t know anything about it. I realise its purpose is for entry into the US, not Canada, and I wasn’t expecting to use it on the way in. But while clearing Canadian Immigration, I asked the officer whether YYZ participated in the program (just fact finding for my exit journey) and he had never heard of it. Had to ask me what it was, and told me no, it wasn’t available in YYZ. When I went back to the airport for my return flight to the US, I didn’t see any signs except for the Nexus program. As there was a HUGE line for US Immigration, I had the sense to ask at the Nexus line and was surprised to find that Global Entry is in operation there. The Immigration line looked at be at least 45 mins long, but I got through the kiosk and Customs within a couple of minutes. But then had problems at the gate for boarding. I was flying Air Canada back to the US. Went to desk at gate to see if I could change seats and thank goodness I did. When I showed my boarding pass, gate agent was suspicious because there was no Immigration stamp on it. I explained that I had used Global Entry. She didn’t know what that was. She needed some proof I had been through Immigration (like I could have gotten all the way to the gate without doing that!) but I didn’t have any as Customs retain the ticket from the kiosk. It turned into a REALLY big deal with her having to call her manager, security and Immigration. All in all it took nearly 30 mins to get it sorted out, but no way were they going to let me on the plane without getting ‘clearance’. If I hadn’t gone to the desk to change seat, and had just presented my boarding pass while actually boarding, then due to the time taken to sort it out, I would have missed that flight. I know it wasn’t the gate agents’ fault (none of them knew anything about Global Entry) and they were polite to me, but I was still made to feel like a ‘detainee’ while they sorted it out. One of them even asked me if I had a passport – as if I was an illegal entrant! It’s a great program – but ALL Immigration, airport and airline ‘officials’ need to be made aware of its availability and its procedue. COMMUNICATION – what a concept!

  14. Chana says:

    I was about to enroll but I’ve been told by someone who has it that you are under scrutiny all the time, like they investigate your life until the very last thing, even cracking your phone conversations,checking bank statements, your family/friends, what do you do even in spare time.
    I prefer to keep my privacy it seems to me that is trading with the devil.

  15. Matt says:

    Chana, Do you have anything to substantiate the person that told you that? I applied one evening and was approved the next morning, scheduled my interview for a week later and just had it today and am now able to use the system.

    They do run a background check I’m sure and probably do keep track of activity, but cracking your phone conversatations and the other stuff you mention? I doubt that unless there was something suspicious that raised suspicions and even then, I believe they’d need to go through normal legal channels to get that – I don’t think anything you agree to gives them full access to your entire life.

  16. MaGom says:

    I tried to use the GB (Nexus) cart this week (06/13/2012) at ATLANTA airport but unfortunately there is not kiosk !. Instead they have a small version of the TSA security. It moves fast because is not so many people but does not difference.

    Then when I was returning from CHICAGO OHARE, TSA people there does not know what the GB card is. Aparently airport in USA works like independent entities and TSA the sadly the same.!!!

  17. travelnew12 says:

    Global entry program just like anything else started out as a quick favor to expedite business travellers. But now they simply care about only collecting the $100 from you for the non-refundable processing. They do not have much interest in making sure the people who applied get it and or able to use it without isues. The global entry application approval appoinment schedule is always booked back to back for more than a month in advance. The reasonable question to ask is, has anyone seen that many people in the global entry lines in the airport? The answer is “No”. Not because they’re privileged . It’s because most of them don’t get approved and the remaining get blacklisted and their global entry revoked sooner or later. Only very few remain taking their chances of using it.

    There are major nightmare stories on the web posted by people who used global entry. Some feel it’s a nice route to turn good law abiding citizens into criminals.

    Some of our friends/colleagues also had problems (even getting approved for global entry). Even if 10,000 years ago you had commited a minor thing when you were young and stupid and even if you’re not convicted for it, they will still deny you. But not to worry. But many of them say that not to feel too bad, if you’re denied. Being denied is only a blessing not a curse. Because even if one gets approved just making a very small mistake in counting or thinking (in midst of your travels where some things usually you take for granted very easily) can get you blacklisted and turn you into a criminal in their customs records.

    See this article here: http://onyoursi.de/2011/10/whats-your-pr…

    http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/practical…

    http://www.travelunderground.org/index.p…

    Nightmare stories how how one person who used it and due to glitch /problem in their system get blacklisted for life.
    Now one has to understand that if you ever make a tiny mistake as some of these people mentioned in the links above (mistakes like failing to declare even a single count of things such as 6 sweaters instead of 8 sweaters , missing a minor minor thing you got like a chocholate box and such ) and if the customs pull you over to random check you after you used the kiosk, and find this tiny discrepancy, it’s not a easy go, like you had without global entry anymore. They will immediately consider that you’re evading the customs and black list you , revoke your global entry for ever. To make it worse, from then on even if you don’t have global entry, even on regular customs lines you will be forced to go through a seconday check (which would take upto 45 minutes every time) every single time in or out the state or country.

    Now this scenario and experience of several people who were law abiding citizens now simply for reasons turned into criminals , really make one think about if it is worth it or not. In my books, and from our and other experiences we heard being in a vast company group, absolutely not.

    Global entry is heavily marketed (even my American express Cards) all over by customs mainly for financial purposes. Do you really think they will have it approved for everyone without any issues as much as money they collect from all people? Not at all. If so, your global entry lines will be much much longer. There are so many people who apply get rejected and you’ve no legal way of appeal (they’re simply above the law just like the patriot act and using any lawyers to infrom them of your situation will simply won’t help)

    We had several friends/colleagues who had issues and decided to not use it anymore.

    There’s way too much risk than reward. And it is not worth getting black listed , if you forget one minor thing in your luggage or if their system had some issues or there was a minor communication or misunderstanding of things that most people take for granted.

    So we believe the global entry motto should be “Welcome to global entry. Turning good law abiding citizens into criminals”

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