Close your eyes. Picture a clean airport, free from crying children, people rolling suitcases over your white sneakers and lines. You breeze through security. You fly past customs. This isn't a dream—this is life when you join an expedited entry scheme.
TSA (Transport Security Administration) and CBP (Customs and Border Protection) offer a variety of programs that allow trusted travelers to bypass security and/or customs lines. The most common of these are TSA PreCheck and Global Entry, though there are loads more. And while they're a must-have for every Rimowa-wheeling business traveler, they're available to everyone.
Our concierge rounded up all the different quick entry schemes available to US citizens so you can find the one that's best for you. And never wait in line again.
1. If You Never Remember To Remove Your Shoes, Try TSA Pre Check
Whereas most of the other options here are operated by Customers and Border Patrol, pre-check is operated by TSA and speeds up pre-flight security scans at airports around the US. A little check appears on your boarding pass, allowing you to wait on the much shorter pre-check lines. You won't have to take off your shoes, remove your laptop from its case or separate your liquids (though they still need to adhere to the 3 oz. rule). To apply, you'll need pre-enroll online, provide fingerprints and pay the $85 administration fee, which ensures you fast entry for five years. Some credit card companies will refund your pre-check fee, so check with your provider before you apply. Additionally, some airlines offer expedited entry to passengers.
2. If You're Lucky, Try Border Pre-Clearance (At Select International Airports)
What to do when you're done analyzing the fragrance samples in duty free and still have two hours before your flight home? Go through customs. US citizens departing on international flights from Dublin, Shannon and Abu Dhabi can pass through US customs at the foreign airport, meaning they won't have to wait with all the other worldwide arrivals when re-entering the US. There's the potential for more airports to be included in the program in the future, including: Brussels, Punta Cana, Tokyo Narita, Amsterdam, Oslo, Madrid-Barajas, Stockholm Arlanda, Istanbul Ataturk, London Heathrow and Manchester.
3. If You're Tech-Savvy, Try Mobile Passport
Want quick entry for FREE? Download the Mobile Passport app to your phone, now. Unlike other entry schemes listed, it's free to use and doesn't require you to apply. Once you've downloaded the app, you'll enter your passport information and answer a series of questions such as gender and date of birth. Before landing, you'll need to create a "new trip" in the app and answer the same questions you find on a customs declaration. Once you upload that, you'll receive a QR code to scan at the airport (the app also requires you to create a unique PIN number to protect your information). There are special signs directing you to a special mobile passport customs lane, which are usually even more empty than Global Entry lanes. That being said, there are caveats. Currently, the number of airports that support Mobile Passport is limited—if you frequently fly into major airports like JFK or LAX, you'll be fine.
4. If You Want To Unleash Your Inner Business Traveler, Try Global Entry
Global Entry allows "highly-trusted" individuals (we'll leave that up to you to decide what it means) to skip customs lines by having all their data pre-registered. All you'll do is go up to a specified machine, scan your passport and your fingerprints and then tell the computer that, no, you haven't touched livestock on your recent trip. According to the government website you'll need to undergo a "rigorous background check," before you're accepted into the scheme. It costs $100 gets you expedited entry for five years, including TSA pre-check. It usually takes about six business days for your application to get approved, but then you'll have to schedule an interview at an enrollment center, located in major cities around the country.
5. If You Travel To Melbourne For Avocado Toast, Try Australia's Smartgate System
This is Australia's equivalent of the Global Entry program. All you need is your US Global Entry card, a chip passport (the US has been using these since 2007, so if you've traveled recently, you have one), and be over 16 years old. Once you land in Australia, just go to one of the identified Smartgate entry lanes, no pre-application required. It's currently in service at: Adelaide, Brisbane, Cairns, Darwin, Gold Coast, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney.
6. If You're Going On The Ultimate Lord Of The Rings Tour, Try US Global Entry—New Zealand
Have Global Entry? It works in at New Zealand's Wellington, Auckland and Christchurch airports as well. The process is the same as entering the US—simply find the pre-identified lanes and present your Global Entry card. Welcome to New Zealand!
7. If You're Kind Of A Big Deal In Japan, Try US APEC Business Travel Card Program
Admittedly, the audience for this program is niche: Americans who frequently travel to a host of East Asian, Oceanic and South American countries for business (specifically: Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Philippines, Russia, Singapore, Chinese Taipei, Thailand and Vietnam). You also must be able to prove your business credentials, be a member of a Global Entry program and be a US citizen. But what you get for a $70 fee is expedited entry at participating foreign airports and expedited entry upon arrival in the US. Anyone else considering a career change about now?
8. If You Need A Daily Maple Syrup Fix Eh, Try NEXUS
Travel to Canada a lot? This might be a good option for you as it allows approved travelers expedited entry and exit in both countries. It costs $50 and the process is similar to Global Entry with an application, background check and interview required. Once you're approved, you'll get a card to use at border within seven to ten business days. If you are interested, know that most interview locations are in the Northern US, near Canada.
9. If You Go To Mexico For Your Weekly Taco Fix, Try SENTRI
The SENTRI program is designed to speed things up at Mexico-US border crossings at both land and air entry points. If you’re driving your car, you'll find dedicated entry lanes and at airports you’ll use Global Entry and TSA pre-check. The process is the same as for Global Entry, but with interview locations limited to the Southwestern US. The total price is $122.25 per person at time of writing.
10. If You Have A "Business Partner" In Cancún, Try Programa Viajero Confiable (Trusted Traveler Program) — Mexico
If you're already a Global Entry user, you can add expedited clearance of customs in Mexico for 1,372 Mexican Pesos (approximately $77). To do so you'll fill out an application and attend an interview at one of the centers in participating Mexican airports, currently Mexico City, San Jose del Cabo and Cancun. If approved, you'll get a card that good for five years worth of speedy entry at those airports. The plan is to roll out more participating airports soon as well.
11. If You're Planning To Court Prince Harry, Try Registered Traveller Program — United Kingdom
The UK's Registered Traveller program allows frequent travelers to the UK to pay £70 per year to skip filling in landing cards and use Fast Track lanes at select airports throughout the country, and at Eurostar terminals in Brussels, Paris and Lille. In order to apply you also need to be a current UK visa holder, or have traveled to country four times in the past two years. If you meet the criteria, you've probably already received an email inviting you to join the scheme.
12. If Your Startup Has Offices In Amsterdam, Try Privium/Flux — Netherlands
This expedited entry scheme has a surprising caveat: you need to be at least 4' 11" to have your eyes scanned by the security technology the program relies on (what can we say, the Dutch are tall). You'll also need to be a Global Entry member in the US. But if you meet the criteria, you get some interesting bonuses, which start at fast passage through border control and security checkpoints, and includes lounge access, priority parking and business-class check-in with selected airlines for an additional fee.