I’ve long been an advocate for finding ways to simplify the process when traveling. I’ll gladly give up a bit of personal information to expedite security screening or the immigration process when traveling. I’ve written about them before. I read a post on this topic over at the Australian Business Traveler site that inspired me. I wanted to write something similar for US-based travelers.
Elite status or a first/business class boarding pass can help with lines at check in or security, but not at immigration checkpoints. Here are some ways you can get through the airport faster when traveling internationally. Some of these programs are free, and additional fees noted below.
NEXUS/Global Entry ($100/$50 fee for 5 years)
I’m about 6 years into having Global Entry, and I’m a huge fan. I registered for NEXUS due to somewhat frequent travel to Canada, plus I don’t mind the fact that it included additional access for half the price of Global Entry. Plus, maybe best of all is PreCheck. For flights departing US airports (on US carriers, and a growing number of international carriers), PreCheck is a huge time saver in security lines.
Global Entry is used to expedite international arrivals into the US. NEXUS does the same on arrivals in Canada, and I’ve used my card to bypass some queues at security in Canadian airports.
APEC Card (Global Entry plus $70 additional fee)
Another option for expedited access in various countries is the APEC card program. Many of these countries have a dedicated lane in immigration halls. There are 21 countries that are part of APEC besides the US: Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, China, Hong Kong China, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Philippines, Russia, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam.
For US citizens, the APEC card is $70 in addition to the $100 Global Entry fee, and is valid for 5 years.
Taiwan E-gates (Global Entry plus ~$100 additional fee)
US Global Entry members can register, pay a fee, and then if approved, use the e-gates in Taiwan. I wrote about this program, but have not experienced it myself. I only rarely travel to Taiwan. Have any of you used this?
UK Registered Traveller (~$100 first year, $70 to renew)
I’ve waited in queues at the UK border in Heathrow enough that I finally broke down and signed up for UK Registered Traveller. This program is a bit pricey, but is a stress relief for me as well as a significant time saver. I’m happy to have this membership, we’ll see how long I keep it. As a reminder, membership allows access to UK and EU passport lanes or ePassport gates, and a landing card is not required.
The programs below are all free.
Dedicated lane for Global Entry members in New Zealand
From the CBP website:
Arriving in New Zealand
U.S. citizens with Global Entry membership traveling to New Zealand may use a dedicated lane arriving at Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch International Airports. The lanes will streamline border processing for U.S. Global Entry members.
Lanes are clearly marked with signs that say “U.S. Global Entry”. To be eligible to use the lanes, U.S. Global Entry members simply present their Global Entry card, their U.S. passport, and arrival documentation. This initiative is the result of an agreement between New Zealand and the United States to improve the border experience for travelers flying between the two countries.
U.S. Global Entry members will still be subject to standard customs, immigration, and biosecurity processes on arrival in New Zealand.
Hong Kong E-Channel
I love Hong Kong, and find myself there somewhat frequently. I signed up for the (free) Frequent Visitor E-Channel program and have saved countless minutes on arrival and departures from Hong Kong.
Japan Trusted Traveler
Japan is another country offering expedited entry for frequent visitors that are also Global Entry members. Personally, I signed up for this, but was not accepted due to the processing delay. After that interval, I no longer had enough visits to qualify for their Trusted Traveler program.
Germany Easy Pass
Another time saver I use frequently is the Easy Pass program when going through passport control in Germany. Registration is free and easy. It took me longer to find the registration center in Frankfurt’s departure hall than it did to get signed up. I’ve saved so much time when connecting in Frankfurt. I’ve only rarely seen a line for the Citizens queue that EasyPass holders can access.
SmartGates in Australia
Any US citizens with an Electronic passport can use the SmartGates on arrivals in Australia. Keep in mind that an Electronic Travel Authority (ETA) is still required for US citizens entering Australia. In my experience, SmartGates often save some time, avoiding longer queues to speak to an agent.
These are some of the options US travelers have to save time when traveling abroad. I’ve signed up for most of them, and would recommend it to other travelers who like me aren’t always patient.