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Reentering the United States quickly

Trusted travelers get special treatment

Jun 16, 2011

WASHINGTON - The wait to reenter the United States doesn't always have to be long.

The federal government has several programs designed to help trusted travelers skip the traditional lines at airports and other ports of entry, thus allowing them to quickly reenter the country. The goal of these programs is to help authorities focus on travelers who might pose a higher security risk.

With the summer travel season about to go into high gear, this may be a good chance to take a look at some of these programs.

Border with Mexico

The SENTRI program has been popularized across the land border with Mexico because it allows its members to avoid waits of up to several hours when crossing back into the U.S. by car. Participants go through special lanes that move more quickly and are generally shorter.

To join the program, applicants need to pass a criminal background check and provide digital fingerprints. They also need to be interviewed by an official from the Department of Homeland Security. There is a fee of $122.25 per person for a five-year, renewable membership.

The following are some key points about the program:

Enrollments are available only through the online portal Global Online Enrollment System (GOES)

The application can be filled out in English or Spanish

Individuals convicted of criminal offenses or who have pending criminal charges are ineligible for the program

Each family member, including newborns and small children, must have his or her own GOES account

Once approved, members need to comply with the strict rules of the program or risk losing their privileges

Traveling by plane

Travelers who want to avoid long lines when coming back to the U.S. by plane might want to consider enrolling in the Global Entry program. This program allows members to go through special lines or electronic kiosks at some airports, avoiding the traditional passport checks and customs booths.

To enroll, travelers need to fill out an application and, just like in the SENTRI program, pass a background check and provide digital fingerprints.

The following are some key points about the program:

There is a $100 fee per person, although applicants don't have to pay it if they are already enrolled in the NEXUS or SENTRI programs

It's only available at 20 airports nationwide

It's designed for people who travel frequently, but it's open to everybody

The program is open to U.S. citizens or permanent legal residents who are 14 years or older, and citizens of certain countries such as Mexico and the Netherlands

Border with Canada

U.S. and Canadian citizens and permanent residents who have lived in one or both countries during the last three years can enroll in a program called NEXUS that gives its members special privileges when crossing the border by air, land or sea ports.

Members receive a special identification card that works as an alternative to a passport. This card helps them speed up the process when crossing into the United States or Canada.

The following are some key points about the program:

Members can use special lanes when crossing the border by land; and they can use electronic kiosks at the airports or call in their arrival when crossing the border by sea

Applications are accepted in both the U.S. and Canada, but must be approved by both countries

The fee is $50 for applicants in the United States and $50 Canadian dollars for applicants in Canada

The application can be filled out by going to the GOES website
Applicants must pass a criminal background check and are the U.S. Government's official web portals in English and Spanish, and part of the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA).

Trusted travelers get special treatment
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