Trusted Traveler Programs

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Trusted Traveler Programs have been instituted by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Patrol. There are three different programs as of this writing; all are attempts to save you time.

They provide expedited travel for pre-approved, low risk travelers by allowing them to pass through special lanes and kiosks at certain airports and border crossings.

The Global Entry Program is a Trusted Traveler Program that is your express pass to get quickly through the United States' international arrival areas. Automated kiosks are designed to process pre-approved, low risk international travelers who qualify.

This U.S. Customs and Border Protection program is still designated as a pilot program. They hope it allows them to get trusted travelers through the airports faster and concentrate their resources on higher risk travelers. The plus for you is that it allows you to bypass the regular passport processing lines.

If you apply, you will be fingerprinted, photographed, and questioned about your past, and there will be an FBI background check. You will pay US$100 for this, and that fee is non-refundable should you be denied Trusted Traveler status.

In most participating airports there is a special kiosk.... Global Entry members insert their passport into a document reader and provide digital fingerprints for comparison with fingerprints on file (biometric verification). They snap a picture of you; you then answer customs declaration questions on the touch screen and get a transaction receipt.

Your through! You will be directed to baggage claim and the exit unless chosen for a selective or random secondary inspection. Just present the receipt to the Customs officers before leaving the inspection area.

The Global Entry Program is currently only open to citizens and permanent residents of the United States. The Netherlands has a reciprocal arrangement, so citizens of the Netherlands may also apply (through their Privium program in Amsterdam).

The NEXUS Program that expedites travel between the United States and Canada. NEXUS cards are WHTI (Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative) compliant documents. The cards are used for land and sea travel, as well as air travel when traveling to and from airports using the NEXUS programs. Note that airports must be among the ones who are using the NEXUS program. The application fee for this card is US$50.

SENTRI stands of Secure Electronic Network for Travelers Rapid Inspection. (Do you think they stay up nights trying to think these names up?) SENTRI cards are also WHTI compliant. This is a United States-Mexico border crossing program. It serves the largest points of entries into the U.S. There are several fees involved because there is a FRID (radio frequency identification)card issued for vehicles.

There is one other program which mostly applies to truck drivers. FAST stands for Free And Secure Trade. It allows expedited release to approved commercial truck drivers making fully qualified FAST trips between the US and Canada or the US and Mexico.

For details on all of these Trusted Traveler Programs, check the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Patrol website.

All of these programs will be most useful to frequent and business travelers, but anyone can apply for them. It may be that in the future Trusted Traveler Programs will be expanded to include reciprocal agreements with more countries, and we will be encouraged to enroll in programs like this.

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Jeff Halter has 1 articles online

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This article was published on 2010/12/25