Is there any downside to traveling? Well, If I had to think of one, it would be getting in and out of the airports. Even the normal two hour window for international flights is sometimes not enough anymore. Getting through security, immigration, or even customs can take hours if they're backed up.
|Photo (c) https://www.flickr.com/photos/oddharmonic/ License: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/|
Here are a few options that'll get you through this process much faster:
Global Entry – Great for International Travel - My favorite! Like skipping lines? I do! Global Entry allows you to do just that. This program allows for expedited clearance, upon arrival into the United States. Who wants to stand in a long Immigration line and then a long Customs line at the end of a vacation? Not me! I want to get home and unwind. For years I stood in lines, sometimes over an hour, upon arrival back into the US, until I got Global Entry. Now I'm out of the airport in 15 minutes, if that long, making this one of the best purchases I've ever made.
Once you've exited the plane, proceed to the Global Entry Kiosk area to scan your passport or resident card, scan your finger prints, and complete a short customs declaration. No need to fill out the paper form on the airplane upon re-entry. It literally takes 2 minutes or less. Then proceed to the baggage claim (if you checked in luggage) and through a designated Global Entry exit.
|By US Customs and Border Protection - http://cbp.gov/xp/cgov/travel/trusted_traveler/global_entry/, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18221721|
The cost is a $100 non refundable fee and it lasts 5 years upon approval. Even if you take one international flight per year, that's $20 added to your ticket to skip the lines upon re-entry. Very well worth it!
Some credit cards will pay for your Global Entry fee. For example, Citi Prestige which I personally use. The Points Guy posted an article highlighting the top credit cards that offer this service.
Who's eligible? - USA citizens, permanent residents and citizens of a few other countries listed here.
TSA PreCheck is useful for international and domestic travel when departing from the United States. With this program, you'll receive a membership number which you can enter when making an airline reservation, into the "known traveler number" field. Your boarding pass will then print with the TSA PreCheck logo, which will get you through the TSA check points a lot faster. Another perk is you won't have to remove your shoes, jacket, belt, liquids, or laptops. Awesome!
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The cost is $85 for a 5 year membership. Remember, for $15 more you can get Global Entry which includes TSA PreCheck. So if you're absolutely not going to do any international travel in the next 5 years, then go with this one.
The same credit cards listed above will also reimburse you for TSA PreCheck. Remember, Global Entry includes TSA PreCheck.
Who's eligible? - USA citizens, nationals and permanent residents.
Mobile Passport Control
The Mobile Passport Control app can be downloaded on Google Play or in the Apple App Store for FREE. It offers expediting processing for travelers entering into the US from international destinations. By doing this, passengers can enter their passport information and U.S. Customs Declaration Forms, using their smart phone or tablet before arrival. This will allow you to skip the line for Customs and Border Protection by going straight to the "Mobile Passport Control" express lane.
The app also allows you to set up a profile to re-use information easily in the future. Once you land, you will need wireless or WiFi to submit the data. You will also need a device with a camera to take a "selfie" photo. You'll then receive a CBP receipt and bar-code, which will be valid for 4 hours. Show your passport to the CBP officer, scan the bar-code on your receipt and proceed to baggage claim where you'll find a faster lane.
This is a fairly new program and being free, I'm not sure how long the lines will be short. In the mean time, it's worth trying out. Click here for more info and to see which airports currently offer this service.
Who's eligible? - US citizens, Canadian citizens, and B1 or B2 visa status passengers.
Have a Safe Flight!!