Quick Way Into The Country
Monday, September 21st, 2009
When the fingerprinting and photographing of green card holders started at border crossings on January 18 of this year, one of the major perks of carrying a GC disappeared: the relative hassle-free entry into the U.S. without “biometric treatment” – the use of the mostly shorter U.S. citizen line remained.
<aside>As if the U.S. government hadn’t already taken and stored all of my fingerprints many times over and my GC hadn’t the prints of all 10 fingers digitized in the magnetic field on the back. If matching the recorded biometric data with the carrier of the document is the issue, then the safest method to enter the country illegally is to carry a U.S. passport.</aside>
I travel frequently, not like many, but often enough to experience the long lines at immigration as an annoyance. So when the government decided to fingerprint me on each entry anyway, I remembered a “trusted traveler” program called Global Entry.
The short story is this: If you have a U.S. passport or a Green Card, you can apply for the Global Entry program. After a background check (and this will sound familiar to GC holders), you go to your local Customs and Border Protection office (mine was at Los Angeles International Airport), where they fingerprint you (yet again) and instruct you in the use of the Global Entry kiosk.
The fee is $100.00 for the duration of the pilot program (5 years). Once you are enrolled, you can bypass the lines at immigration and go directly to one of the automatic kiosks. You answer some questions, have your picture and fingerprints taken. The kiosk prints a receipt, which you hand to the customs inspector in lieu of the customs form. By now, most major international airports in the U.S. have such kiosks, and if you have carry-on luggage only, you can make it from your airplane seat to the curb in 15 minutes easily.
It is well worth the money, I think. For GC holders there is no downside. For U.S. citizens, the downside is the fingerprinting. But look at it this way: Many think that the introduction of fingerprinting for legal residents was just a dress rehearsal for the eventual biometric treatment of everybody without exception.