ESTA, Global En­try and Trusted Trav­eler Pro­grams ex­plained

Business Traveller - - CONTENTS - Guy Di­mond

ESTA, Global En­try and Trusted Trav­eler Pro­grams ex­plained

The US doesn’t make it easy for over­seas vis­i­tors, es­pe­cially if you hap­pen to have a pass­port from Venezuela, Syria, Iran, Ye­men, Libya, North Korea or So­ma­lia, in which case you are ef­fec­tively banned from en­ter­ing the US (although some Ira­nian stu­dents are per­mit­ted in to study). But even those of us who are for­tu­nate enough to have a favoured pass­port, the ex­pe­ri­ence of US cus­toms and im­mi­gra­tion can cre­ate a mem­o­rably un­favourable im­pres­sion. New York’s JFK air­port in par­tic­u­lar does not have a good rep­u­ta­tion for staff po­lite­ness, and the queues at many US air­ports can make an al­ready long jour­ney seem even longer. How­ever, there are var­i­ous things that can smooth your en­try, and be­ing pre­pared can make your trip much eas­ier.


The Elec­tronic Sys­tem for Travel Au­tho­riza­tion (ESTA) can be used by pass­ports hold­ers of 38 coun­tries, which in­clude the UK, most of Europe, Aus­tralia, Sin­ga­pore, Ja­pan and so on (although not In­dia, China or Rus­sia, among many oth­ers). This is part of the Visa Waiver Pro­gram, which al­lows cit­i­zens of these coun­tries to visit for up to 90 days with­out hav­ing to ob­tain a visa. Nu­mer­ous third-party web­sites ap­pear in on­line searches for ESTA ap­pli­ca­tions; ig­nore these mid­dle­men who charge for their ser­vices, and go straight to the of­fi­cial US Cus­toms and Bor­der Pro­tec­tion web­site at esta.cbp. Ap­pli­ca­tions only cost US$14, but don’t leave it un­til the last minute as it takes at least 72 hours to process. Each ESTA lasts two years and needs to be re­newed for a fur­ther US$14 charge. Make sure your ESTA cov­ers the en­tirety of your trip – if your ESTA ex­pires while you are in the US, you may be re­fused re-en­try next time.


Fre­quent trav­ellers can have a thor­ough back­ground check once ev­ery few years to speed up their en­try at US cus­toms. For non-US cit­i­zens this TSA Precheck, as it is known, is done through a scheme called Global En­try, which you can find here: trusted-trav­eler-pro­grams/global-en­try. Global En­try iden­ti­fies lowrisk trav­ellers and lets them pass through cus­toms via a quicker, more au­to­mated queue with an elec­tronic check-in upon ar­rival in the US.


To ap­ply for Global En­try is not as straight­for­ward as you might hope. The fee for the ap­pli­ca­tion is US$100, plus you have to pay a fee on top of this to your own coun­try’s au­thor­i­ties for the back­ground check. In the UK, this back­ground check costs £42; you can ap­ply for it here:­try-usa.

Once both sets of fees are paid, you then have to ap­pear for in­ter­view at a Global En­try En­roll­ment Cen­ter in the US, or at one of the few dates on which in­ter­views are held over­seas. In the case of the UK, the last set of in­ter­views were held at the new US Em­bassy in Vaux­hall, Lon­don, be­tween March and May 2018; no fur­ther 2018 in­ter­views are sched­uled at the time of go­ing to press.

How­ever, once you are part of the Global En­try scheme, it makes en­try to the US faster, and does so for five years un­til you have to re­new it; it can be re­newed up to one year prior to its ex­piry date. Take note that not all US air­ports par­tic­i­pate in the Global En­try scheme, so you may be wast­ing your time and money if you’re not ar­riv­ing at one of the ma­jor air­ports. How­ever, it cur­rently op­er­ates at 46 US air­ports and 13 pre­clear­ance lo­ca­tions. You can find a full list of par­tic­i­pat­ing air­ports here: trusted-trav­eler-pro­grams/glob­a­len­try/lo­ca­tions.


When you book your air­line ticket, en­ter your Global En­try num­ber. At the en­try air­port in the US, there is a sep­a­rate line for Global En­try vis­i­tors – and a very short queue. Your pass­port is scanned elec­tron­i­cally, you ob­tain a small print­out, then you pro­ceed to the cus­toms of­fi­cer who will check your de­tails and let you through. I have used both meth­ods of en­try, and Global En­try has been any­thing up to an hour faster than the con­ven­tional method; on two re­cent oc­ca­sions, I have been through cus­toms faster than the US cit­i­zen I was trav­el­ling with.

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