The process begins with online enrollment in the program, and the payment of $100. They keep the money if you are not approved for the program, but if you are successful then your membership is good for 5 years. On July 8th we received notification that we had been preliminarily approved, and that the next step was to set up an interview at one of their enrollment centers. You must set up the appointment within 30 days of the date of the notification letter, though the interview does not have to take place within that time period. And that is a very good thing because the enrollment center in St. Louis, which is located at Lambert Airport, had no openings until late November!
At the time we applied we thought (wrongly, as it ends up) that we were going to be spending November in Australia, thus the desire to get into this program. I checked other locations to see of we could get an earlier interview and the only place I could find within a reasonable driving distance was Peoria, IL, which had openings on September 21st. Knowing that it would take us nearly three hours to get there, I set our appointments up for 11:15 and 11:30 in the morning. A caveat is that the confirmation letter we received stated that the agent has other responsibilities, and thus might not be available when you arrive. For that, they apologize. No big deal if you are from the area, but a pretty big consideration when you are traveling a distance. We decided to go for it.
We arrived at 10:45, and were relieved to see a Department of Homeland Security vehicle in the parking lot. The agent was all alone when we entered the building. I explained that we were early, and he asked what time our appointments were scheduled. After I told him, he said "Well let's get this done before 11." He no sooner uttered those words when his 11:00 appointment came in the door. He told her he would be with her after he finished with us.
For the appointment you were asked to bring a copy of the preliminary approval letter, your passport, a driver's license, and a utility or other bill showing your address. He asked to see all but the last item, and asked us both questions that had been answered on the original application. I think they want to make sure you answer the same way. I had read that they ask you where you have traveled in the past, whether you have ever been stopped by customs, if you have ever brought anything illegal back into the country, etc. I prepared a detailed list of all of our international travel, just in case. Our agent only asked where we were planning to travel in the near future. Again, we had answered this on the application. We had to place our fingers and then our thumbs on an electronic device, which took our fingerprints. No more paper and ink! When the results came back with no red flags, he aimed a hand held camera across the counter at my face and snapped a picture. All with less warning than the driver's license office. You can imagine how it turned out. It makes my license look like a Glamour Shot in comparison. Nevertheless, we were both approved and finished just before 11:00. The lady after us drove there from the Quad Cities, so we weren't the only ones traveling a distance to get this done.
|Caterpillar Museum in Peoria|
|the tire is 14 feet tall|
|largest piece of equipment |
made by Caterpillar