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I Am a Truster Traveler October 20, 2012

Posted by Peter Varhol in Technology and Culture.
Tags: ,

At least as far as the TSA and Customs and Immigration are concerned. The journey to trusted traveldom started this past summer when a screening agent at Logan told me that I was eligible for the TSA PreCheck program, and the line for PreCheck was nonexistent. I liked that idea, so I took the card they gave me and visited the TSA website for more information.

As is usual with government instructions, it was verbose and ambiguous. It appeared that I could participate in TSA PreCheck, but I first needed to be a member of one of the Customs and Immigration Programs. That wasn’t entirely clear, but that was the path I ended up taking. Because I occasionally travel outside the US, I applied for the Global Entry program, which lets me bypass the lines coming back into the country. I simply scan my passport into the Global Entry machine, and I am cleared.

So I paid my 99 bucks to apply for Global Entry. Within a couple of days, I was informed that I was conditionally approved, and needed to schedule an appointment for an interview at a Customs and Immigration office at an entry airport within the next 30 days. And I got emails that kept reminding me every other day until I did.

The earliest time for the appointment, unfortunately, was about three months out. I ended up taking almost the first available time, the morning after (to be fair, the same morning) I returned from the TestKit conference in Baltimore. Because I had returned home from Logan only a few hours earlier, I opted to take a bus back that morning.

The interview took a grand total of about eight minutes. I caught the next bus back to New Hampshire. The Customs and Immigration agent was pleasant and accommodating, and asked me three or four perfunctory questions (Was I ever arrested? Had I ever violated Customs regulations?). He shot a photo, took my fingerprints (they do so digitally today, and my fingers saw no ink), and sent them off to the FBI while we were talking.

I began my career in the Air Force, and later I had a Top Secret security clearance (it’s not as impressive as it sounds). The fingerprint query came back negative within two minutes, and I was approved.

Interestingly, earlier the week while departing Logan I was told I was already approved for the TSA PreCheck program, which was the impetus for this journey. But at least I can now get back into the country more easily, which will help when returning from Germany the day before Thanksgiving.

Still, I can’t help but wonder if this could have been done in a more streamlined fashion. In particular, I don’t really think I had to go to Logan (a 100-mile round trip) to have my fingerprints taken and cleared.



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