On January 19, 2015, my wife and I, Global Entry participants completed our NEXUS interviews at the Pearson Airport in Ontario, Canada, and were accepted into the program.

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In an attempt to find the right balance between enforcement and service, Customs and Border Protection (CBP), part of the Department of Homeland Security, has initiated a series of trusted traveler programs for those who do not warrant extra security. Under the Sentri program (Secure Electronic Network Travelers Rapid Inspection) expedited lanes to ease border crossing on the United States southern border are made available to qualifying participants. Under the FAST program (Free And Secure Trade), certain U.S. — Canada and U.S. — Mexico partnering importers have available expedited release of commercial shipments. Under the NEXUS program, pre-screened travelers are allowed expedited processing at northern (Canada-United States) land, air and sea ports of entry.

The most comprehensive program, however, is Global Entry, which allows expedited clearance at a number of U.S. airports and international airports for pre-approved low risk travelers.

U.S. regulations at 8 C.F.R. Section 235.12(a) describes the program as follows:

The Global Entry Program is a voluntary international trusted traveler program, consisting of an integrated passenger processing system that expedites the movement of low-risk air travelers into the United States by providing an alternate inspection process for pre-approved, pre-screened travelers. In order to participate, a person must meet the eligibility requirements, specified in this section, apply in advance, undergo pre-screening by CBP and be accepted into the program. The Global Entry Program allows participants expedited entry into the United States at selected airports, identified by CBP at www.globalentry.gov. Participants will be processed through the use of CBP – approved technology that will include the use of biometrics, to validate identify and to perform enforcement queries.

Who is Eligible?

United States citizens and permanents residents of the United States (green card holders) are eligible to participate in the program.

In addition, certain non-immigrant aliens from countries that have entered into arrangements with CBP may participate.

Currently, certain citizens of Germany, Mexico, the Netherlands, Qatar, the Republic of Korea, Panama, and the United Kingdom participate.

Is the Program Effective?

It certainly is! Global Entry participants can complete immigration processing and streamline the customs admission application process at kiosks in designated airports, which are activated by inserting your machine readable passport, followed by biometrics identification. At certain busy airports, you will have reduced your waiting time for completion of the immigration process from 45 minutes to 45 seconds!

In addition, Global Entry participants are generally eligible for TSA Pre-Check when going through security at American airports, so that you do not have to remove your shoes and belt (among other things) to get through security!

Qualifying for the Program and Remaining in the Program

It is in the sole discretion of CBP to determine whether the individual presents a potential risk for terrorism, criminality, or is otherwise not a low-risk traveler.

“Reasons why an applicant may not qualify for participation include:”

  • The applicant provides false or incomplete information on the application.
  • The applicant has been arrested for, or convicted of, any criminal offense or has pending criminal charges or outstanding warrants in any country;
  • The applicant has been found in violation of any customs, immigration, or agriculture regulations, procedures, or laws in any country;
  • The applicant is inadmissible to the United States under applicable immigration laws or has, at any time, been granted a waiver of inadmissibility or parole;
  • The applicant is known or suspected of being or having been engaged in conduct constituting, in preparation for, in aid of, or related to terrorism; or
  • The applicant cannot satisfy CBP of his or her low-risk status or meet other program requirements.

CBP is extremely serious about enforcement and even the smallest of violations can result in termination from the program. There is a story of an individual traveler terminated from the program after discovery of an open food container, slipped into her briefcase by her young son.

Children, apparently, can cause problems. One father, with Global Entry, traveling with his young son, who did not have Global Entry, was terminated from the program after he completed his Global Entry processing, and filled out a regular customs form for his son. However, he presented himself at the CBP departure inspection point with his Global Entry receipt and the unstamped form for his son, bypassing the regular inspection point that would have been tasked to process his child’s admission. The inspector was convinced that his actions were not inadvertent, even though this frequent traveler had no prior history of violations or problems at a port of entry.

In fact, we are writing to the CBP Trusted Travelers Ombudsman with reference to the father and his young son. We will let you know how it turns out.

Termination or Rejection – Can You Appeal?

The regulations provide for three possible methods of redress, for an individual whose application has been denied, or whose participation has been suspended or terminated.

“The applicant/participant may contest his or her denial, suspension or removal, by writing to the enrollment center where that individual’s interview was conducted.”

The “applicant/participant may choose to initiate the redress process through DHS Trip”. The DHS Trip website is located at www.dhs.gov/trip.

“Applicants and participants may contest the denial, suspension, or removal by writing to the CBP Trusted Traveler’s Ombudsman.”

So What Happened to My Wife and Me?

My wife and I applied for Global Entry separately. She applied at JFK International Airport and I applied at Newark Liberty International Airport. We completed the appropriate applications online after registering on the appropriate website for the Global Entry program, (https://goes-app.cbp.dhs.gov) and appeared at the airports for interviews after completing extensive applications online, and bringing to the interview documentation, including our passports and proof of where we lived. We assume, of course, that they did security checks on both of us, prior to the interviews.

The officers were pleasant, courteous, and efficient in their interview and document review.

Sometime later, we decided to apply for NEXUS and went online to complete the necessary applications from within our Global Entry accounts. There was a wait in excess of two months before we were permitted to schedule our appointments at the Pearson Airport. We scheduled our appointments together at 12:30 p.m. We appeared together, we waited together, we were interviewed together, and we left together, but, we were not together in our assessment of the experience.

We arrived at the Enrollment Center about an hour early, at 11:30 a.m. We asked a very pleasant and courteous CBP officer whether we should sign the appointment list and wait, or come back later. She suggested that we might be able to get in earlier, if we signed up right away. There were only 4 names ahead of us on the list. However, between 11:45 and 12:10, at least another half a dozen people came in and signed up for their 12 o’clock and 12:15 appointments. Those individuals who had earlier appointments and did arrive “on time” for their appointments, were seen ahead of us, and we were not called in until about five minutes to one o’clock.

As an immigration practitioner, I am familiar with this policy and practice in place at many Centers and District offices and to my mind, being called up to be processed within a half hour of my appointment time and completing the process within a half hour thereafter, was excellent service. My wife thought that once our scheduled appointment time was reached, 12:30, we should have had priority and been called in before any other registrants who came after us. My wife and I have agreed to disagree. We both agree it’s a wonderful program, and yes, our NEXUS cards came in the mail within two weeks.

Looking Ahead

CBP is continuing to negotiate in order to expand the Global Entry Program and look for other ways to provide preference to “trusted travelers”.

Ironically, a pilot program, applicable in certain U.S. airports provides expedited processing through kiosks for any U.S. citizens, perhaps making all of this processing we went through to obtain Global Entry unnecessary.

Be that as it may, these initiatives by CBP are a commendable way to try to perform a very difficult mission, guarding our borders, while at the same time, accommodating the many low risk travelers seeking entry into the United States.