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Essay

Global Entry is the way to go

A Global Entry kiosk at Los Angeles International Airport.

Reed Saxon/AP/File

A Global Entry kiosk at Los Angeles International Airport.

We’ve all been there. Shifting from foot to foot in the customs line at Logan, tired from a long trip, madly trying to fill out the declaration form while hauling bags we regret having taken, and still facing Boston traffic on the way home.

I came from Toronto recently, headed for customs, and turning the corner, saw at least 200 people slogging along in snaky lines. I breezed by them all and within minutes was out the door.

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How? Easy. The Global Entry Trusted Traveler Program for a reasonable $100 gets you fast reentry into the United States for five years at airports all over the country at practically idiot-proof kiosks that read your fingerprints and face.

I made application online in July at www.globalentry.gov , which was the most tedious part of the process. I paid the $100 online and was told to check the site for interview information. I got that shortly thereafter and was told to show up in September at the customs office in Logan’s Terminal E.

Sitting outside the office in a tiny hallway, I was going to chat up other folks waiting to be interviewed, but they looked too unhappy to engage. Must’ve been all that grumpy-traveler mojo filtering down from the security lines upstairs. I could hear conversation behind the locked customs door, but at least it sounded friendly.

And it was. Once inside, an armed customs official took me into a small office and casually asked me about my travels, where I go, how often. He seemed curious about my travel-writing work, saying his wife loved to travel. I gave him a few tips on where to go.

Then he took my fingerprints on a digital reader, plus a photo, and took me to a mock kiosk to practice. I slapped four fingers of my right hand on the glowing green screen, got recognized as a trusted traveler, and then a customs declaration form popped up.

I joked that just once I’d love to come through customs with $10,001 in cash — one dollar more than the limit that won’t get you flagged to the IRS in case you’re trying to dodge taxes.

“You’d be surprised how many people come through with cash, mostly the royal Saudi family, with $100,000 or more — in spending money,” he said.

A huge plus of the program: At a thus-far nearly three dozen US airports, including Logan, you can use TSA Pre  at security with participating airlines, which at Logan includes American, Delta, and United. It allows you to skirt the usual Transportation Security Administration demons — taking off shoes, belt, pulling out your laptop and 3-1-1-compliant bag of toiletries — saving time and a bit of dignity if you have holes in your socks.

My interviewer was quick to warn against infractions, including allowing a non-Global Entry friend to breeze through with you, the penalty for which is revocation of your privileges.

He said they would mail an ID card in a few weeks, but you really don’t need it. On my first use of the program, coming from Toronto, I just found the Global Entry line — where not a single person waited ahead of me. I put my fingers on the screen, and after a few fidgety attempts, guided by a customs official, the machine spit out a receipt with a picture it took of me, which was so bad it made my passport photo look like a glam shot.

Then I walked to customs, where another empty Global Entry line waited, handed in the receipt, and was gone, all within minutes of landing.

And there I was, driving home through Boston traffic that didn’t seem nearly as bad as usual.

Paul E. Kandarian can be reached at kandarian@globe.com.
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