Sky Harbor Airport program shortens wait time
Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport has been added to a federal program that allows passengers who volunteer for extensive background checks to zip through security screenings.
An exclusive group of travelers is qualified to apply for federal approval to pass through the shortest security line under the “trusted traveler” program, Global Entry.
Sky Harbor is among 24 airports with the designation.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which oversees the Global Entry program, has restricted it to international travelers — much to the dismay of routine domestic travelers such as Louanne Rohe, a Gilbert-based representative for Dillards.
“We would love that program for domestic flights,” Rohe said. “We fly so frequently. It would make sense for them to create that program for domestic travelers.”
Most applicants who pay the $100 fee and fill out the application for Global Entry are cleared to go through the shorter and faster security line, federal reports show.
As of last summer, an estimated 148,000 people had been allowed into the program. They can hustle through security about 7 to 20 minutes faster than the average traveler, federal records show.
However, around 25 percent of applicants, or around 50,000 people, were rejected for the program, sending them to the longer lines where most U.S. travelers await security screening.
Customs officials launched Global Entry to move people through security more efficiently when they arrive in the United States and accomplish the agency’s “strategic goal of facilitating legitimate trade and travel while securing the homeland,” agency officials wrote in 2008.
Customs, under the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, intends to create a single passenger processing system that would enable federal authorities to focus their security concerns on passengers who pose a threat, such as those who have failed federal background checks.
Customs had limited the program to anyone 14 and older, and required anyone 14 to 17 years old to have written consent from a parent or guardian on the application. But it has expanded the program to include all ages.
The application is online at www.globalentry.gov. An applicant also has to pay, through the secure online website, a non-refundable $100 fee with the application form.
Customs will review the application and schedule an interview where agents collect and scan fingerprints and an identification card such as a driver’s license or passport, verify any other travel documents, take a photo of the applicant and collect other biometric information — characteristics of the person’s appearance.
Authorities then check the applicant’s information against criminal and government antiterrorism databases with the FBI and other agencies. Customs sends the applicant an e-mail once its agents have decided to approve or reject the application.
Even after a traveler is approved for Global Entry, customs officials said they run periodic checks to ensure nothing has changed in the traveler’s background that would force them to suspend or remove the traveler from the program.
Customs said a traveler who is suspended or ousted from the program can contest the decision within 30 days.
Global Entry is meant for international travelers, including U.S. residents and citizens who frequently fly abroad. Customs also has negotiated with Mexico an agreement that ensures any traveler approved for Global Entry can participate in Mexico’s version of the program as soon as it is in place.
Mexican nationals also can participate in Global Entry. In addition to undergoing a U.S. background check, they are subject to a background check by Mexican authorities.
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