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Secrets for Avoiding Airport Lines

Updated on February 23, 2022

Airport Program for Avoiding Long Lines

The CBP (US Customs and Border Protection) along with the TSA (Travel Security Administration) offer an amazing program for Americans who fly which can save those who enroll both time and money.

It's called GOES or the Global Online Enrollment System. The program is relatively new, and easy to enroll in. It can help save time during departures by allowing participants to use a much shorter VIP Line for security during departures, or for customs upon arrivals, for both domestic and international flights.

Photo Credit:  iPhone Photo
Photo Credit: iPhone Photo | Source

Who Can Apply?

US natural born citizens or lawful permanent residents with no prior or pending criminal record are eligible.

In addition citizens of Mexico (who are not current Sentri Members) the Netherlands and the Republic of Korea may apply if they are members of the Fast Low Risk Universal Crossing (FLUX) or Smart Entry Service (SES) respectively. Also Canadian citizens who are members of Nexus have GOES benefits automatically, but are not eligible to join otherwise.

Other countries who have bilateral trusted traveler arrangements with CBP may also be eligible depending on the type of Visa they hold. Children may also enroll. Minor children 18 years or younger are required to have parental or legal guardianship permission.

Common Misconceptions

We held several misconceptions about the GOES program's benefits, which is why we didn't apply sooner. We discovered that the misconceptions are widespread, so I'm listing them here to help readers save time in determining the usefulness of the program for themselves.

  • The program is administered by TSA (actually it's the United States CBP), but the TSA has partnered with them to offer an expedited TSA security program that automatically applies to you if you're enrolled in the GOES System.
  • This program only benefits international travelers (the TSA PreCheck Program is the partner program which is for domestic travel (it's offered through a cooperative affiliation with airlines FF Programs, the TSA and the CBP).
  • You need to travel to a major metropolitan airport for a personal interview. Approx 44 sites are listed at the main CBP Information website. Of these 33 are shown in the US as Enrollment Sites. However, when processing your online application, a different list of 33 sites shows up for scheduling the interview. I will provide links to both lists, so that you can determine if you will need to travel just for the interview.
  • Children aren't eligible for GOES. Children in fact, are eligible, and can apply as long as they have the written approval of a parent.

Photo Credit:  iPhone Photo
Photo Credit: iPhone Photo

What is GOES?

Global Entry is a risk-based approach to facilitate the U.S. entry of pre-approved travelers. Applicants may not qualify for Global Entry participation if they:

* Provide false or incomplete information on the application;

* Have been convicted of any criminal offense or have pending criminal charges, including outstanding warrants;

* Have been found in violation of any customs, immigration, or agriculture regulations or laws in any country;

* Are subjects of an investigation by any federal, state, or local law enforcement agency;

* Are inadmissible to the U.S. under immigration regulation, including applicants with approved waivers of inadmissibility or parole documentation; or if they

* Cannot satisfy CBP of their low-risk status or meet other program requirements


How Much Does it Cost?

There is a $100 fee that is paid when you submit your application using the online enrollment system. Once approved your term is for five years, at which time, you can renew, again online, through an expedited application process.

Photo Credit: iPhone picture
Photo Credit: iPhone picture

The Process to Enroll

Immediately following this section will be click-able links for you to use to get to the right place online to enroll and complete an application. The process is very simple. You navigate to the GOES site and setup an online account for each individual who is applying. After the account is setup, you are provided links within the CBP's system to begin the application process. This can be accomplished in one sitting, and the information you will need in advance is your passport and your drivers license.

When you enter your information online, there is one confusing section which makes it sound like you will need to provide additional information to prove your citizenship. But this information doesn't apply to natural born citizens; all you need to enter is your complete passport and driver's license information. When the application is complete you are put into a pending approval category. There are help screens along the way to guide, and you are told to remember your login information and check back at this site periodically to find out if your pending status has been updated. It took about a week for our applications to be moved into the category that allows you to setup an interview (called conditional approval).

Once you are in this category, you must schedule your interview within 30 days, which is why it's important to check back at the site frequently.

I recommend checking back every few days, and when your approved, scheduling your interview as soon as possible afterwords. Again, within the online system, you click on a link that brings you to the available sites to schedule an interview. This was one of the aspects that was initially very confusing for us. We reviewed the information on sites available to us, and there was no local office listed as an enrollment center for us. Which is why we delayed applying for so long. We intended to submit our application when we knew we'd be traveling to one of the locations listed. As it turned out, the list for interviews was different than the one shown for enrollment centers, and there was a local interview site for us which made the whole process much simpler.

Advantages of becoming a 'Trusted Traveler' in the Global Entry Network

We mistakenly assumed that the Global Entry Network was only advantageous if you were traveling internationally.

  1. Expedited passage through US Custom and Immigrations upon arriving in the US at the conclusion of international travel. You avoid the lines for both points in the return immigration process, the first passport check line, and the second declarations of customs line. The time savings you gain can make the difference in whether or not you make your connections to flights back home, and in fact could have saved us the cost of additional flights on our most recent international trip.
  2. Expedited passage through TSA security whenever you're flying somewhere. You are allowed into a VIP line that is much shorter and where you do not need to remove your shoes, belt, jacket, laptop, and 3-1-1 bag. One caveat here applies: shortly after we joined, we weren't expedited on a flight, and didn't realize airlines could routinely 'randomly select' passengers to 'temporarily remove from VIP status'! We now know to get our boarding passes before we leave for the airport and check them to make sure our VIP status is intact!
  3. Entry into other Countries expedited entry programs like SmartGate, which offers streamlined entry for US citizens into Australia, Privium Program at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam, Netherlands, and Korea's Smart Entry Service.

The Interview

The interview is conducted by United States CBP agents in an office setting, and its an individual interview. My husband and I were able to schedule our interview for the same time so that we could go together. You are required to bring the letter you printed out after scheduling the interview online, as well as your passport and drivers license.

The agent asked as general questions about our travels, and both agents were friendly and helpful...not at all intimidating. They use your documentation to research the background information that was gathered on you on a monitor, then ask you to place each hand on a glass topped little machine that scans your fingerprints. After the fingerprints are processed, they put a little sticker in your passport that identifies you to US Customs officials, and give you some documentation to carry with you when you travel that explains what to do to take advantage of your trusted status.

The picture above to the right shows a little card you can carry with you that explains how to use the kiosks for customs declarations when your traveling internationally.

Additional Helpful Links

Here are a few more links that may help to better explain various aspects of the CBP's Trusted Traveler System

Here's an easy way to get help at the CBP!
Here's an easy way to get help at the CBP!

Books with Tips on Air Travel

I researched air travel books on Amazon for an upcoming trip and found several that look current and really interesting. So interesting in fact, that I already purchased one for myself! Below are links to the best books I found, and the top one is the one I just got for myself in the Kindle version.

This Book is Widely Popular at Amazon Amongst Aviation Enthusiasts

Cockpit Confidential: Everything You Need to Know About Air Travel: Questions, Answers, and Reflections
Cockpit Confidential: Everything You Need to Know About Air Travel: Questions, Answers, and Reflections
This is written by a pilot and longtime columnist, and the title aptly describes what the intended subject focus is. I was actually on a waiting list for this because I felt it would have some really good "insider" information, and it didn't disappoint! It's currently $8.62 for the paperback (as of July 10, 2016) on Amazon. The Kindle version is $7.99.


One of the reasons I decided to write this was because the agents we met with were so undeniabally proud of their system.

They were enthusiastic about wanting to broaden the public's awareness of it, and since it's been so great for us it was win-win!

It was only after we completed the process that we were so thrilled about how easy it had actually been to apply and the number of benefits we would now enjoy as members...some of them we didn't even know about until the actual interview!

I continue to keep this updated because friends and family members still ask me about it and my time saving measures to navigate what appears to be a complex process. In reality, it's actually straightforward now.

Photo Credits

All photos are my own except the first one, the stunning busy airport scene. The photographer for that image grants CC rights to be freely used.

Thank you for allowing me to display your awesome photo!

Photo Credit: Photo by MarTePics


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