Adventures in obtaining Global Entry

By Steve Dinnen

You’ve ended a successful business trip to China and are heading home. After spending half a day on an airplane you land at O’Hare International Airport, where your jet-lagged body now has to plod through an exceedingly long line in a stuffy, cheerless arrivals hall to await a passport agent.

There should be a better way to welcome you home. In fact, there is. Global Entry will let you go to a special, shortened line because you’ve proved to authorities you can be part of what they call their Trusted Traveler program.

The qualifying process is easy. Set up an account at the Global Online Enrollment System website — — pay $100, and provide needed information such as date of birth, travel patterns, any criminal convictions, etc. If you pass, you schedule an in-person interview. This is the lone hassle, as the nearest interview sites to Des Moines are Kansas City and Minneapolis. I opted for Chicago, where a six-hour drive to O’Hare was followed by a four-minute interview. The lone query was why had I been in Tunisia (a business trip, I explained). The interviewer took my photo and immediately issued Global Entry numbers to me and to my wife, who had likewise applied.

A week later when we came through Miami on the way back from South America, 99 percent of our fellow passengers queued up at the regular passport control line while my wife and I strolled to the Global Entry kiosk. We scanned our passports, smiled for photos and handed the printouts to a passport control officer. Total time spent was less than that interview at O’Hare.

And here’s a bonus: Global Entry status includes TSA Pre-Check. So even if you never leave our shores, you get to go through that expedited security line when boarding a plane. Keep your shoes on! Don’t unpack that laptop!

Global Entry alone will not likely stir you to jet off to Bali or Rio. But it will make the return home just a little less tiring.

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