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Since its pilot launch in mid-2008, the U.S. Customs and Border
Protection's Global Entry international trusted traveler program has enrolled
about 650,000 travelers. CBP recently announced a reciprocal agreement with the
United Kingdom, adding to existing deals with Canada, Mexico and the
Netherlands, and seeks to expand the program to such other top frequent
traveler destinations as Japan and South Korea. CBP executive director for
admissibility and passenger programs John Wagner recently spoke with BTN's Lauren Darson about the current
status of these agreements and other Global Entry updates. Wagner told BTN that Global Entry by the end of this
summer would be a permanent program.
What is the current status of reciprocity with the
We are looking to launch a
very limited pilot with the U.K. in the next month or so. It would be limited
in the number of people that will be able to apply from the United Kingdom based
on the workload that the British government can handle. The basis of the
arrangement is such that each country does background checks on the applicants
against the negotiated standard and the negotiated threshold for
disqualification. If you are a British citizen, you will be vetted by the
British government, you will apply with U.S. Global Entry and you will get
vetted and interviewed by the United States. [U.S. vetting] would be done
stateside, at least the collection of biometrics and the interview. Right now,
they are independent programs.
Once the U.K. program is open, how will you select
the people to include?
We will be working with the U.K.
government to identify people who will give us a good pilot test basis. We will
be working closely with the airlines that fly between the U.S. and the U.K. to
identify some of their frequent flyers. We will very carefully work through a
pilot phase before we open it up to a broader audience. The airlines have been
very supportive of the Global Entry program. A lot of U.S. carriers have done
direct marketing to their frequent flyers. They have been putting it on their websites,
they have been showing some video clips on planes and they have been putting
information in the inflight magazines. We have also been taking ads out in
those, and they have been really helpful in getting the information to their
What is the status of reciprocity with Germany?
We are still in discussions
with them as to how a pilot could operate between the U.S. and Germany. It's
just not ready to launch yet. There are a lot of data privacy issues and data
protection issues on the German side that we are trying to work through.
Are there any updates on the CBP initiative to register frequent travelers onsite at corporate headquarters?
We continue to do that. If a
group of people can get together in a company and get their applications in, if
it's something that is workload- and travel-permitting, we will send an officer
or a couple of officers to their work site to do the interviews and the
fingerprint collection. It is convenient for the company and the applicant, and
it allows us to free up that congestion at the airport. We recognize that
people probably don't want to do this in conjunction with a flight, especially
if they are just coming off a trip and they want to get home quickly. It does
make sense for us to do it outside of the airport environment. It's just a
resource issue for us to keep up with them, but we are doing as many of them
that we can. I would say that a few hundred have done this.
Are you working with the Transportation Security
Administration on a domestic trusted traveler program?
It is a concept that CBP
fully subscribes to. We see it as an essential way of doing business. It helps
us manage the increasing passenger traffic; it clears the low-risk population
from that group of travelers to allow us to redirect our resources to a smaller
pool of potential bad guys. We are talking with TSA; we are trying to closely
work with them on their plans to launch a similar approach to how they do
screening. The frequent traveler is whom we are designing these programs for. Frequency
of travel doesn't necessarily equate to being a low-risk traveler, but
certainly that is the market audience we are trying to go for. These are savvy,
compliant travelers for the most part, and they understand the process just as
well as us. They know the questions, they know what to expect when clearing
through customs, so we want to make it as easy and efficient for them to get
through the process and out of our way as much as they want to be out of our
How do you decide with which countries to partner?
It's a variety of factors.
It's the number of frequent travelers coming from those countries to the U.S.—certainly
Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, Germany, Japan and Korea are the top
countries that people come from as far as the number of frequent travelers
goes. Then we look at: Do they have the systems in place to do the types of
background checks that we would require? Do their border control authorities
have access to the databases to do the types of checks? Criminal records,
customs violations, national security issues, and are they willing to check
their own citizens and potentially disqualify them from joining the U.S.
program? Do they have a program that they would then open up access to U.S.
citizens participating in Global Entry into their program?
In the case of the
Netherlands, they opened their program, called Privium, to U.S. applicants on
the basis that they're given Global Entry membership. In Mexico, they are currently
building their program. We just signed an agreement recently with Korea. We are
in the process of designing and building what that process would look like. We
would like to have that up and running by the end of the year. We've had very
good talks with Japan and then talks with a few other countries as well—Singapore,
France and a couple other countries. Korea and Japan run programs that
generally U.S. citizens cannot participate in at this point, but we will broker
that deal through these types of discussions.
Are there any process improvements in the pipeline
for Global Entry?
We want to design the most
efficient process possible that does not lessen or diminish our security or
border processing requirements. Using the kiosk, the transaction time takes
about 35 to 40 seconds for a person to clear through, plus there is very little
if any line for the person to wait on. We are getting a lot of really good
feedback from people using it. There is the occasional problem from the IT end
of things. We monitor the [kiosk] usage and their maintenance every single day.
We want to make sure that we have enough kiosks that function so that the line
at the kiosk isn't longer than the regular line.
We are getting about 3,000
people a day now using the kiosks and of course that steadily increases as we
do the enrollments. We have about 135 kiosks out there right now at the 20
airports; we are negotiating with a vendor right now on another purchase. We
will be putting out a larger number of kiosks, probably this summer.
If travelers are accidently put on a terrorist watchlist,
does CBP help to resolve this?
If they are being confused
with someone on the watchlist, that is different than being erroneously placed
on the watchlist. If you are not the person that watchlist record is intended
for, or maybe you have the same name or a similar name, we will help adjudicate
that through the enrollment and application process and allow you to
differentiate yourself from that person. The enrollment process gives us the
time to really dig into the details of who you are.
What is next on CBP's agenda?
We will be implementing a
final rule to make this a permanent program. We expect to have that out this
summer. Technically, Global Entry is in a pilot phase right now but it will
switch to a permanent program and it will be transparent to everyone in the
program. We are looking to expand to a few more airports this summer and we
will certainly be putting more kiosks out there and we will certainly be
pursuing other countries to join into this trusted traveler network.