What Entry Program is Good For You

Mike Shaw doesn’t want me to write about the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s new Mobile Passport app. He used it on a recent trip from Beijing to Seattle, and it worked flawlessly.

“I breezed by the line and went directly to the document-checking agent,” remembers Shaw, who works in Beijing as an operations-support supervisor for an American company. “I was through customs in 90 seconds. Amazing.”

Shaw is accustomed to three-hour waits. When he mentioned his positive experience to a customs agent recently, the officer just rolled his eyes.

“Yeah,” the agent replied, “until everybody starts using it.”

Between passports, passport cards, mobile passports and a constellation of trusted-traveler programs such as Global Entry, Sentri and Nexus, international travelers have a lot to choose from this summer. Chances are, there’s a program that will suit your itinerary and help you avoid long lines when you come home.

Passports and passport cards : If you cross the border, you’ll need either a passport book ($135 for adults) or a passport card ($55). Unless you use the Mobile Passport app, you’ll have to stand in all the usual lines. (Yes, the three-hour ones that Shaw complained about.) Which one is right for you? A passport card, while cheaper, only works when entering the United States at land-border crossings and via ports of entry from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Bermuda. It can’t be used for international air travel. Get a passport book instead.

Mobile Passport app: This free smartphone app, now in use at one cruise port and 20 U.S. airports, lets you cut some of the customs lines by filling out your paperwork in advance online. Arriving passengers can head straight to the “Mobile Passport Control” line. “This is a particularly good option for those who do not travel frequently enough to justify the cost of Global Entry,” says Gina Gabbard, vice president for leisure sales at Tzell Travel Group.

Global Entry: This is the gold standard for expedited border crossing. Global Entry lets you cut the line at customs at U.S. airports and land borders when you arrive, and includes TSA PreCheck, the Transportation Security Administration’s trusted-traveler program. A five-year Global Entry membership costs $100 and requires online pre-enrollment, as well as an in-person visit to an enrollment center for an interview, where you’ll have to verify your ID and be fingerprinted. “The application process is brutal,” says Michelle Weller, a travel agent with Travel Leaders Network in Houston, “but it’s worthwhile.” Weller says the background check is thorough: One of her clients was denied because of a bar fight in college that resulted in a misdemeanor assault charge.

Nexus: If you travel between the United States and Canada, this is the program for you. Nexus lets you cut the line at airports and land borders when entering the two countries. It’s half the price of Global Entry ($50 for five years) but the requirements are similar — pre-enrollment, an interview and fingerprinting. Nathan Smith, an American who lives in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, likes Nexus because it helps him avoid long waits at the border when he’s driving. If you’re an American, you get Global Entry benefits with your Nexus card. “Also, it automatically qualifies you for PreCheck,” he says.

Sentri: This trusted-traveler program allows expedited clearance for preapproved, low-risk travelers from southern land-border crossings. The benefits and requirements are virtually the same as for Nexus, but the cost is $122.25 for five years. If you have to cross the Mexican border in a car frequently, you should consider this program. Keith Shadle, who runs an information site called EasySentri, which helps travelers apply for trusted-traveler status, knows the benefit of Sentri well. He says it saves him hours whenever he navigates one of the world’s busiest land-border crossings at San Ysidro, Calif. But for American citizens, he says there may be a better path to the fast lanes. “Sentri benefits are included with Global Entry membership,” he says. “If you are a U.S. citizen and are thinking of using or wanting to use Sentri lanes, get Global Entry.”

By the way, if you want to figure out how much time these cards will save you, check out the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Wait Time website.

So what’s the bottom line?

If you’re an infrequent international traveler — one or two border crossings a year — get a passport and use the Mobile Passport app. If you want to avoid the intrusive questions of an in-person interview or are uneasy about a government background check, this is also the way to go. If you live near the Canadian or Mexican border and make a lot of land crossings, consider Nexus or Sentri. If you travel abroad more than a few times a year, you’ll want Global Entry. Time and again, that’s what experienced travelers recommend.

“Nothing is as time-efficient as Global Entry when returning to the United States,” says Andy Abramson, who runs a marketing firm in Los Angeles and spends almost as much time in the air as on the ground. Global Entry is even accepted in other countries, he says. He recently used it for entry to New Zealand, which saved him hours of waiting in line.

This summer, there are more ways than ever to avoid long waits at the airport or at land-border crossings. But don’t wait too long to decide. The application process can take weeks, and in some cases, months for some of these trusted-traveler programs. If you take too long to decide, you could find yourself stuck in a line.

Elliott is a consumer advocate, journalist and co-founder of the advocacy group Travelers United. Email him at chris@elliott.org.

Read more from Travel:

TSA Precheck verses Global Entry

If you have flown any in the past couple of years you might have been granted a TSA Precheck on your boarding pass.  Apparently that is ending so if you still want to sail thorough security at the airport you may need to invest in a TSA Precheck card.

You can get one right here on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.  They have an office in Gulfport right off of Hewes Avenue.  The cost for a card that you can use for five years if $85.00.

The TSA Precheck is really good if you are just going to fly within the United States.

However if you are going to fly a few times overseas then you might want to invest in a Global Entry card.  The cost for it is $100.00 for five years.  You can also use your Global Entry card within the United States as a way to get thorough the airport lines quicker.

However, where the Global Entry really works is when you are coming back into the United States and you have to go thorough Customs.  With the Global Entry you just go to a Kiosk and put your card in and answer a few questions and you are on your car.

To get the Global Entry Card you can go out to the Gulfport Airport.  You will need to set up an appointment and submit your finger prints and a few other security items.

It is nice that we have the Global Entry booth here on the coast.  When I purchased mine I had to drive over to New Orleans to make the application.

While they are bit expensive they are a nice convenience and keep you from standing in long lines that seem to never move.

Have any questions about the two different types of cards write me at tourwithdave@gmail.com

Global Entry

Now you don’t have to travel to New Orleans to obtain a Global Entry card.  This is helpful if you want to clear custom with ease when you come back from overseas.  Also you can use it as a TSA precheck within the United States.  I have one and have used it a couple of times.  Below is the news release that was put out by the U.S. Government about the program.

While it is a little expensive it is good for five years.

GULFPORT, Miss. – U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will open a Global Entry enrollment center at the Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport on January 11, 2017. Conditionally-approved Global Entry applicants can begin scheduling interviews for the Gulfport-Biloxi Enrollment Center on the Global Online Enrollment System (GOES) website.

Travelers use Global Entry Kiosks
Travelers use Global Entry Kiosks to speed
their entry process when arriving in the U.S.

Global Entry, a CBP Trusted Traveler Program, allows for expedited clearance of pre-approved, low-risk travelers.

“There is enormous demand for the Global Entry trusted traveler program,” said Steven Stavinoha, Director of Field Operations. “CBP wants to make it as convenient as possible for those hoping to join the Trusted Traveler ranks to be able to finalize their application process in a relatively close location, so they can start enjoying expedited processing benefits.”

Currently, the New Orleans Global Entry Enrollment Center is the nearest location for residents in Mississippi and Alabama.

The enrollment center  located at 14035-L Airport Road in Gulfport initially will open on Wednesday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. CBP officers will only interview Global Entry applicants with appointments.

Frequent travelers are encouraged to apply for Global Entry where members bypass the traditional CBP inspection lines and use an automated kiosk to complete their admission to the United States. Travelers scan their passport and fingerprints, answer customs declaration questions using the kiosk’s touch screen and proceed with a receipt to the exit—the whole process takes only about one minute.

Currently available at 52 U.S. airports and 15 preclearance locations, Global Entry streamlines the arrival process at airports for trusted travelers. The program has more than 3.6 million members enrolled, and CBP receives approximately 100,000 new applications for Global Entry each month. As an added benefit, Global Entry members are also eligible to participate in the TSA Pre✓™, the Transportation Security Administration’s expedited security program.

U.S. citizens, U.S. nationals or U.S. Lawful Permanent Residents may apply for Global Entry as well as citizens of certain countries with which CBP has reciprocal agreements, including Colombia, Germany, Mexico, the Netherlands, Panama, the Republic of Korea, Singapore, and the United Kingdom. Canadian citizens and residents enrolled in NEXUS may also use Global Entry. Persons under the age of 18 who meet the general eligibility criteria must have the consent of a parent or legal guardian in order to apply.

Interested individuals may apply online at CBP’s Global Online Enrollment System.  Applicants must possess a machine-readable U.S. passport or permanent resident card, pay a non-refundable $100 application fee, undergo a background investigation with fingerprint check, and complete an in-person interview with a CBP officer. Global Entry membership is good for five years.