International travelers arriving at Lindbergh Field can get through customs in less than five minutes by visiting two automated kiosks installed at the airport last month.
The customs processing called Global Entry, including verifying identification and declaring items travelers have in their possession, is part of several trusted traveler programs the U.S. Customs and Border Protection manages to separate low risk passengers from those who pose a higher risk, said Jackie Wasiluk, CBP spokeswoman at the San Diego office.
“We know all travelers are not created equal,” Wasiluk said. “This system allows us to segment out those passengers who are low risk, and focus our resources on high risk travelers.”
The expedited entry program for air travelers is similar to what CBP operates at its land ports of entry called SENTRI, which stands for Secure Electronic Network for Travelers Rapid Inspection.
Both programs require enrollees to register in advance with CBP, providing the agency with basic personal information that includes their residential and employment history, along with their photo and fingerprints. After that information is provided, enrollees are interviewed by CBP.
The program is completely voluntary and doesn’t require any minimum number of trips outside the country, Wasiluk said. The nonrefundable fee for the program is $100 which helps to defray the cost of its operation, she said.
Good for Five Years
If approved, enrollment lasts for five years.
The kiosks that are provided to the CBP by Computer Science Corp. have been rolled out at the nation’s largest airports starting in mid-2008 as a pilot program at three major U.S. airports. It became permanent in February.
San Diego’s Lindbergh Field was the 27th airport to receive the kiosks that feature a camera, touch-screen monitor, fingerprint reader, document reader, and keypad. After travelers provide their passport to the reader, and their fingerprints are checked with those on file, they are given a receipt to show the customs officer before leaving the inspection area.
Since its inception, about 376,000 people have enrolled in Global Entry, and the kiosks have been used nearly 2.7 million times, the CBP said.
The program is open to all U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents, and Mexican nationals. It is also available to residents of Canada, South Korea and Netherlands who are registered in similar advanced vetting programs.
Faster Border Crossings
People enrolled in SENTRI can also use Global Entry kiosks, and Global Entry enrollees can use expedited land border crossing lanes, Wasiluk said. In San Diego about 131,000 people are enrolled in SENTRI, she said.
Crossing times at the San Ysidro and Otay Mesa border ports of entry for SENTRI enrollees has been averaging less than 15 minutes in the past two years, she said. For pedestrian enrollees, the wait time is usually less than five minutes.
Global Entry comes at a time when Lindbergh Field is seeing an uptick in the number of international flights. The airport has had direct flights to both Canada and Mexico for many years, but added a flight to London last year. Starting in December, the airport is offering direct flights to Tokyo operated by Japan Airlines.
Thella Bowens, chief executive of the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority, the public agency that manages Lindbergh Field, said the new entry program offers a higher level of customer service.
“Now thanks to the Global Entry program, travelers will even spend less time in our customs facility and more time enjoying San Diego,” Bowens said. “This is a great addition to the high level of service that allows SDIA to exceed customer expectations.”