Avoid the line at Immigration

Sometimes the government does things right

Sometimes the government does things right

Here’s the kind of letter I like to get from the federales;

Dear CHRISTOPHER PISARRA :

We are pleased to inform you that your U. S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Global Entry program membership has been approved. You may use the program as soon as you receive and activate your new Global Entry card.

Yep, Gail and I filled in the forms, paid the fees, jumped through all the appropriate hoops, but we are now officially “Trusted Travelers”, which means we get to skip the hideous lines at immigration when we return from overseas and cooly amble up to the machines that will scan our passports and fingertips and let us back into the country in a just a few seconds.

A bigger benefit, though, is that Trusted Travelers get to use the TSA Pre-Check lines all the time.  Short lines, no taking off of shoes or belts or suspenders, no digging the laptop out.  I think I’m going to like this.

Getting through the program isn’t difficult, just long.  You start online, and the hardest part is always trying to come up with a password that will satisfy them–long enough, caps and lower case, number, “special character” (@#$%^&*), three Chinese symbols, a hieroglyphic, your social security number in cuneiform, there’s always one more thing you need to add.

Then a form listing where you have lived for the last 5 or 10 years, where you have worked, every country you have visited, SSN, passport number, drivers license number, birth weight in troy ounces and carats, the middle name of the first girl you kissed, just the usual things.

Then you have to make an appointment for the personal interview.  There must be a lot of demand, because appointments are set 3 months out, are hard to get and you better take what is offered.  One of my friends had his interview at 7:30 pm on New Year’s Eve.  He made damn sure he was there.

The interview is held in a room in the International Terminal of SFO.  The  directions they provide were very, very accurate, to a very small room with and even smaller waiting area in front.  There are 4 stations, manned by SEVEN  uniformed CBP officers (at least one of whom was a trainer).

We were called right on time.  The interview is friendly and non-confrontational, just organizational details except when he was going through the list of countries I had visited.  “You visited Turkey?” he wondered.  I said I had been on a cruise with Mike Bandler, and that smoothed that issue.  Cuba got a few more questions, but we had gone on a licensed humanitarian tour leaving from Miami, so there was no real issue.

Pictures and fingerprints taken, and I was out of there in 20 minutes.  It took Gail another 5, but she had the trainee officer.  The email was in my inbox by the time we got home.

If you travel frequently, this is the only way to go.  Dealing with the government is rarely fun, but this was as efficient and easy as you could ever want, and now I don’t have to join the hoi polloi in those interminable lines coming home.

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