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Go Faster with GOES

There’s nothing more frustrating that getting stuck in US Customs when you’re trying to catch your connecting flight back home.  Lines can be long at arriving airports, especially when a bunch of international flights arrive all at once.  At SFO, it’s not uncommon to see passengers lined up in to the hallways completely outside of the arrivals hall.  Wait time, sometimes an hour.

A couple of years ago, the US Customs and Border Protection Service started the GOES (Global Online Enrollment System) for US citizens.  It’s one of several programs for “trusted travelers”.  Global Entry (GOES) allows quick clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travelers upon arrival in the US. While originally designed for frequent international travelers, any US citizen can qualify for the program. Once approved, you can bypass the customs lines and use automated kiosks located at select airports.  We’ve had our GOES card for the past two years and it’s amazing how quickly you get through customs.  We’re usually ready to claim our bags within 2-3 minutes of entering the customs arrival hall.

The process to apply is easy.  You enroll online and pay a non-refundable $100 fee.  Once you complete the online form, an extensive background check is performed.  If you pass with flying colors, you’ll then be notified to make an appointment at a US Customs office at a participating airport.  Most customs offices at major US international airports participate.  For us, Denver does not, but we had a flight scheduled through JFK, so we planned for a slightly longer layover so we could do our interview.  Once the personal interview is complete, they’ll take your fingerprints, photo and eye scan.  They’ll walk you through the process and then you’re ready to go.  The nicest part is that everything is triggered by your passport, so no extra cards or identification are needed.  If approved, your GOES enrollment is good for 5 years.

A couple of additional advantages of GOES is that you no longer need to fill out the “arrivals” card given to you on the airplane.  The GOES check-in kiosk will complete and print out a short version for you when you arrive.  With GOES, many customs arrival halls now have expedited final clearance lines once you pick up your luggage, so no need to wait in the long line as people turn in their customs cards.

Check it out.  You’ll be glad you did!

Last modified: December 30, 2013