As I prepared to arrive in Sydney I recalled that the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Global Entry program had been expanded through a partnership with the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service’s SmartGate e-Passport program.
What is Global Entry?
It is a program that allows for expedited clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travelers upon arrival in the United States from international destinations. At participating airports, enrolled participants proceed to Global Entry kiosks and insert their machine-readable passport, place their fingertips on the scanner for fingerprint verification, and make a customs declaration. The kiosk issues the traveler a transaction receipt and directs the traveler to baggage claim and the exit.
What is SmartGate?
SmartGate gives eligible travellers the option to self-process through passport control. SmartGate uses the data in the ePassport and face recognition technology to perform the customs and immigration checks usually conducted by a Customs and Border Protection officer. If you are a US Global Entry Program member who holds a US ePassport and you are aged 16 years and over, you are eligible to use SmartGate.
Why Global Entry?
If you’re a frequent international traveller you’re probably familiar with the sometimes daunting lines that snake through the CBP entry points. With Global Entry you can speed through the process and save tons of time. I will note that if you check your baggage you could spend plenty of time waiting for that to arrive, but at least you won’t be stuck in those lines.
Upon arrival in Sydney I was unsure how to use the new SmartGate process. As I approached CBP I noticed a huge line that looked like it could be an hour or more wait. There was no really clear signage explaining where to go so I just wandered past the line and found a CBP officer. She explained that I could bypass the lines and proceed to the SmartGates since I had an e-Passport. What’s an e-Passport? An e-Passport is one that has an embedded micro-chip. The microchip contains the same personal information that is on the color photo page of the e-Passport, including a digitized photograph.
When you arrive at CBP look for kiosks, similar to those you’d use in the US. Insert your e-Passport and make your declarations. Once you’ve done that, a receipt will print. You’ll then proceed to the SmartGates where you’ll be asked to insert your receipt, step on a designated spot so your photo can be taken and then you proceed through the gates to baggage claim. After you claim your luggage (if you’ve checked it) you can exit through the “Nothing to Declare” or “Goods to Declare” lines. The agent will take your entry card and the SmartGate receipt and send you on your way.
This morning, in a complete fog after traveling for more than 32 hours, I made it completely through customs in 15 minutes – including picking up my checked luggage! The process of using SmartGate took about 5 minutes, maximum. The longest wait was for the bags to arrive.
If you are enrolled in Global Entry, make sure you use the SmartGates in Australia, you’ll save yourself a lot of time. It’s also worth noting that none of the Australian CBP officers had any idea what Global Entry was. But when I showed my US Passport with the micro-chip they knew what I was looking for. So make sure you ask for SmartGate if you need help with the process.
What has your Global Entry experience been?