US CPB Expands Global Entry Program to Public

The United States Customs and Border Patrol has opened it’s “Global Entry” program to the wider public last summer. Global Entry is a travel program that prescreens US citizens and nationals to expedite immigration and customs formalities at participating international airports. Approved travelers will be able to use designated kiosks at participating airports to electronically process their entry into the US without waiting in line with the droves of other travelers.

The problem with the program currently, is that all members are already US citizens or green card holders. It does nothing for foreign travelers that frequently visit the United States and have good rapport and an established business in the United States. From the outside, it looks like another way for Big Brother to keep an watch on its peons.

Some advocates say that the Global Entry program will allow CPB to identify those poor saps we hear a lot about lately, that have identical names with known terrorists and fugitives. The problem with this argument is that the program is only available at the destination airport and not at the origin. At the origin, screening against the Terrorist Watch-list is done by the airlines when the traveler checks in for a flight. If an innocent man with a name matching one on the list even makes it to US soil, the system has failed.

There are some things the US program may learn from similar programs around the world.

Japan has recently started a similar system, but theirs include origin screening. This way, already vetted travelers may leave and re-enter the country through an expedited process without going through that hassle of arguing with the airlines about their identity.

Hong Kong, on the other hand, has a Frequent Visitor program. This program is free to join and there are no background checks done except for proving that you are indeed a “frequent traveller”. Unlike the vetting programs, the Frequent Visitor card does not expedite the immigration and customs process. It just gets you to the head of the line at the immigration checkpoint. One must still present their passport for routine inspection by a human being.

The CBP does not provide a clear plan for the Global Entry program, but it has already merged with the existing NEXUS (US & Mexico) and SENTRI (US & Canada) prescreening program. It is interesting to see how the program develops in the future.

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