A few months ago, I wrote about Parafe, the free fast-track customs program available in French airports to EEA & Swiss citizens. At the time, I also mentioned that US was rolling out a similar version of this program, but with a much stricter background check and a limited five year validity. And surprise, surprise - a $100 fee. But since our job requires us to travel on average two weeks per month (and my co-workers travel internationally), I was thinking it would be money well-spent for The Company, so I decided to test it out when I was back home this past trip.
According to their website, Global Entry is currently available for US citizens & residents (& minors), Dutch citizens enrolled in Privium, Canadian citizens enrolled in Nexus and Korean SES members. I also remember seeing somewhere online that UK citizens could also apply, but couldn't find that online.
I spent a fair amount of time filling out the forms on their website - you need to list all of your addresses, employers & countries visited in the last five years. Once that is done, you need to wait for them to approve your application. I applied to the Minneapolis office, and it took them a week to do so. From there, I was able to to make my interview appointment.
A lot of frequent travelers are applying to this program, so the interview wait times can be up to three months in places - for example, when I was there in early July, they were signing people up for October. But I had called for information a few weeks earlier, and the gentleman I spoke with said to check back regularly since there were often cancellations. So I did, and ended up scoring a spot for the day I was flying out back to France.
The interview itself was pretty straight-forward. I was worried they would be suspicious about me living abroad, but he just asked what my job was & why I had been to so many different countries. There were a few more questions about why I was signing up, etc and then that was it - I was approved for the Global Entry Program.
The agent then showed me how to use the automatic kiosk, which was very similar to the French one with the exception that you could also do your customs declaration on it, meaning you no longer have to fill out the blue form on the plane and you get priority processing (passing even before the flight attendants & diplomats).
Unfortunately I wasn't able to test it out since it is only for entering the US and not leaving, but I'm looking forward to seeing how it goes when I go back in September! The French version has saved me loads of time already - when I came back this past time, there was some sort of customs problem and so at least two or three hundred people were lined up waiting. I zoomed right past them to the Parafe booth and was through in under two minutes.
There is also one last benefit to this program if you do a lot of domestic US travel. Once you are approved for Global Entry, you are automatically signed up for the TSA precheck program, which means you get to go through a special security line where you no longer have to take off your coat, shoes, etc and you can leave your laptop in your bag. That in itself is almost worth it, and I hope they expand the program to international travel soon.