Global Entry and TSA Theater

I don't fly that often, but when I do it's usually international. I work for a travel company with tours going pretty much everywhere and occasionally I get to visit another country to photograph and capture some video.

On my last trip, coming back from London through New Jersey, I missed my connecting flight due to the ridiculous custom and border protection line. During the 90 minutes I slowly crept forward in said line, I glanced over to three Global Entry kiosks across the room. There wasn't a soul at these kiosks. Needless to say, I decided to apply for the Global Entry program soon after.

The idea behind Global Entry is expediting the customs and immigration process when flying back to the U.S. internationally. You're also automatically enrolled in TSA Pre-Check for getting through domestic lines faster. Although that seems to be a losing battle.

Upon returning to the U.S. on an international flight, instead of having to wait in the endless line and being interviewed by a border agent, you scan your passport at the Global Entry kiosks, place your hand on the fingerprint scanner and get your photo taken. Then you're through.

The online application is fairly simple and takes maybe 10-15 minutes. Then you must schedule an interview at a participating airport for final approval. Living in Lakeland, the Tampa airport would be the most convenient, but the earliest available time was over four months out. Orlando was the next best option.

Today was my interview.

I arrived at the airport early and found the Global Entry office with ease. I had to "sign-in" on a clipboard like I was at the Doctor's office (can't we move past this pen & paper clipboard thing?)  Being a few minutes early I was fully prepared to wait. Instead, the woman at the front desk yelled to a back room, "YOU READY?"

A voice calls back, "ONE SECOND."

The secretary curses under her breath and then asks me to wait in the hall. As I turn around the male voice yells again, "OKAY OKAY, SEND 'EM IN"

The man sits me down in his cubicle. He asks for my passport and begins typing away. Confirms my email and home address, never asking for the driver's license I was instructed to bring. I scan my fingerprints and he asks me exactly one interview question without ever looking away from his computer:

Have you ever been arrested?

"No," I reply. He then hands me a Global Entry card and says, "Have any questions?"

"Is that it?"

"Yup, have a good day," he says.

I received a confirmation email shortly after saying I was enrolled. My Global Entry status lasts five years and some other details I glazed over. To be honest, I was expecting a little more depth to an "interview" that supposedly approves international travelers to enter the United States just by scanning their passport and fingerprints.

Either way, at least I can keep my shoes on now.

travelStephen Roblestravel, tsa