Last year, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) announced a significant country-by-country expansion of the Global Entry international trusted traveler program; most recently in June and August 2013, respectively, extending the nascent program's reach to more than 30 major U.S. airports as well as to citizens of Korea, Germany, Qatar, and the United Kingdom.
One year later, this expansion has yielded substantial growth in the program. Indeed, this past August, CBP estimated that it would receive over 630,000 annual applicants and that 2.2 million participants would be processed through Global Entry airport kiosks. The program's growth, however, has also spurred a corresponding uptick in preliminary rejections, often of ultimately eligible participants.
What is Global Entry?
Tested as a pilot program in 2008 and established in 2012, Global Entry is a voluntary program that pre-approves "low risk" travelers to expedite Customs clearance upon arrival at U.S. airports using automated kiosks. The stated purpose is "to provide prescreened travelers expedited entry into the United States."
Program members reduce their waiting time at the airport by avoiding Customs processing lines and paperwork. CBP estimates that the average kiosk processing time is one minute per traveler.
Participating countries offer reciprocity, so U.S. travelers may access benefits in foreign airports.
How do I apply?
Travelers must submit an online application and $100 non-refundable fee to the Global On-Line Enrollment System (GOES). Once the application is processed, applicants receive notice to schedule an interview with a CBP officer at one of the regional Global Entry Enrollment Centers, located at most international airports.
If approved, Global Entry membership is authorized for five years and may be renewed thereafter. Under the program, CBP may revoke membership at any time as warranted, although the agency states that less than 1% of Global Entry memberships are revoked.
Can I appeal if my application is rejected?
If CBP rejects the application, the applicant will be notified in writing. Denied applicants may request that the CBP Trusted Traveler Ombudsman reconsider the initial decision. In doing so, the applicant may correct inaccurate information or present additional documentation to supplement incomplete information relied upon in denying the application.
Currently, requests for reconsideration by the Ombudsman's office are taking approximately six months to process.
Is a prior conviction an outright bar to membership?
Applicants should understand that certain facts submitted in an application, confirmed by CBP's background check, or identified in the interview may disqualify an applicant, while others must disqualify the applicant from the program.
Absolute bars to membership include, for example, providing false information in the application or being otherwise inadmissible to the U.S. under immigration laws or regulations.
Potential bars to membership include prior criminal convictions, prior violations of Customs, immigration, or agriculture regulations, or being the subject of an ongoing investigation by any federal, state, or local law enforcement agency. While not dispositive, these factors contribute to CBP's overall assessment of the applicant's risk status. For instance, a drunken-driving arrest divulged during the Global Entry interview couldlead to a rejection, as such an arrest is considered in the totality of the risk factors analyzed, which can vary based upon the level of the conviction under applicable state law and when any conviction occurred.
Often, applicants with a criminal history will be automatically rejected upon initial review; however, additional information and documentation may be provided as evidence that an applicant with a dated prior conviction, along with recent favorable attributes, is in fact "low risk."