Saturday, July 2, 2016

Becoming an elite traveler

On Monday I completed the steps to receive Global Entry for the next five years. After I returned from my interview my grandmother told me that I had entered the ranks of being an elite traveler and thus why I named this blog post what I did.
When I originally started this blog I was writing about teaching in a village in the arctic. I posted about daily life and also things about packing because I knew that one of the things I had done was read as many blogs about this as I could as I was deciding to go. Now I read blogs on a lot of topics related to living abroad and so I am writing today's post because one of the things I couldn't find much about was the global entry program.
The global entry program is for people who enter the United States frequently and allows them to bypass the lines and go to a special kiosk to do their processing. One of the things I learned in my interview was that when I enter using global entry I do not have to fill out the card on the plane. There are four questions I will answer on the kiosk and then it will print out everything I need. The fee for applying is $100 regardless of whether your application is approved and before I spent $100 applying I wanted to know that it was worth it. So I spoke to my brother-in-law and also a student (this one actually came about because I was asking a co-worker and he was nearby), both of whom have global entry. It seemed worth it, especially because for that same 5 year period I also get TSA precheck. Thus, I applied.
The whole process was really quite simple. The first step was an online application that you could save and come back to finish as you had time. The only difficulty here was as a teacher my contracts have expired usually in May (my most recent one was in June) and my new contracts (when I switched jobs) didn't start until August. The system would not allow you to leave any type of gap and so for each of those, I had to put down unemployed (really irking because I wasn't REALLY unemployed). The other catch was similar with addresses. I left each of the schools in the bush in May but didn't move to the new location until August. This meant that I did not have an address for June and July of those years. Thankfully, I had mostly stayed with my grandmother and I put her address down. It probably wasn't a big deal, but I was concerned about my application being rejected if I wasn't completely and utterly honest, but at the same time some of my situations are shall we say, unique.
I'm not completely sure how long it took, but I think about a week later I received notification that my application had been conditionally accepted. Now I needed to schedule an interview to finish the process. Unfortunately, there was nothing available in Los Angeles until after I departed for Anchorage. I had wanted to have the process finished before I left for Anchorage so that I would have TSA pre-check. There were openings as early as the next day for Anchorage and so I scheduled my interview for a day when I would be in Anchorage and I thought it would be convenient.
 My interview was scheduled for this past Monday at 10:30 am. On Sunday evening I was reading over the list of what to bring and I got rather concerned. I was supposed to bring proof of address. I had filled out my address correctly, but I had moved since then. Therefore, I put together a collection of documents to demonstrate my residency at both locations. I even added a bank address change notification to the pile. All because I was concerned they would reject my application.
The next morning I woke up hours early and tried googling this process and found very little information.
Thus, I left early, quite nervous. There was no need to be nervous.
I arrived at the office about 20 minutes early. I checked in and was directed to wait. I waited 5-10 minutes and then was called back into an office. She asked for my notification letter if I had it. She said if I hadn't printed it, it would be okay, my passport and my driver's license. I gave her all three documents and then I told her that I wasn't sure what to do because my address had changed from when I filled out the application and I wasn't sure what needed to be done about that. She told me it was no problem. It did cause here a little bit of trouble in some extra steps to change my address, but otherwise no issue. She asked me some pretty standard questions about any convictions, and other mundane questions (sorry I don't remember). Then she took my fingerprints using a small fingerprint scanner connected to her computer. The fingerprints were easier than most I've had because I only had to do four fingers of 1 hand together, then four fingers of the other hand and finally my two thumbs together. Next, my fingerprints were sent to the FBI somewhere on the east coast (my how technology has changed things) for approval while she explained how the program worked. I was approved a few minutes later and finished. I will receive in the mail a card to use if I cross into the U.S. on foot (not very likely people don't usually cross the Alaska/Canada border on foot and I don't see myself crossing the border from Mexico, but you never know..) and when I renew my passport, since it will expire before my global entry does, I will have to go to a processing center and have them scan my new passport. I won't need an appointment and it should only take about a minute. I received a number to use as a known traveler number for getting TSA pre-check and I was finished. My worry, concern and inability to sleep had all been for naught.
My rather tired passport. It will be getting quite a workout soon!

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