Totally Frenched Out

From the blogger formerly known as Samdebretagne

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Global entry

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.

Happy Travels!

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Blogger Global Librarian said...

Fred loves Global Entry. From the time his plane lands at O'Hare until he walks through the front door is on average about 20-25 minutes, depending upon Chicago traffic. So nice! When he applied back in January, it was only a 2 week wait for an interview.

August 2, 2012 at 8:24 PM  
Blogger Mary Kay said...

I LOVE using the PARAFE line and whizzing past all of the people standing in immigration line at CDG. Unfortunately, I don't have Global Entry and will have to wait along with everybody else when I fly to Boston next week.

August 3, 2012 at 11:06 AM  
Blogger Sara Louise said...

That will definitely make your life easier!
Not to sound like a worry wart, but it does concern me that you (not specifically you) don't have to take off your shoes, coat, etc... Call me paranoid but i would be nervous that somehow the program was compromised and some nut job gets approved and then doesn't have to be searched.

August 4, 2012 at 8:01 AM  
Blogger The Paris Chronicles said...

I agree with Sara Louise, above. It would be extremely easy to compromise this program. All you need is a bad-intentioned person with a clean background (and they all have that at the beginning of their endeavors) to apply.

I actually can't believe France participates in this scheme, which is essentially something favoring the Rich. I suspect they will soon be shutting down the quick track programs run by the five-star hotels (if you stay at the George V, for example, you speed thru all the immigraton and customs lines--you bypass them, in fact). I can't see Hollande supporting something so classist as that.

August 17, 2012 at 4:20 PM  
Blogger Ksam said...

Wow, I had no idea they had fast-track lanes for people staying at the fancy hotels....that certainly doesn't seem the safest consider where a lot of those guests are coming from!

August 23, 2012 at 10:03 AM  
Blogger Joan said...

How on earth did you get through PARAFE? My husband, a Brit, came back from a trip raving about how great it was. So the next time I travelled I built extra time into my schedule in order to apply. After fifteen minutes trying to get my American passport through the scanner, I was told that it was too big and I would therefore not be eligible. This happened in February, and I have not attempted to use PARAFE since. Grrr!

September 16, 2012 at 12:54 PM  
Blogger Ksam said...

Hi Joan,

The program is currently only available to EU & Swiss citizens, so that is why your American passport did not work. :(

September 16, 2012 at 1:05 PM  

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