Thursday, September 29, 2016

Global Entry Program

The beginning of July Jim and I applied for the Global Entry Program, which is offered by the Department of Homeland Security in the United States. The goal is to enhance security and increase system-wide efficiencies while improving the passenger experience. They offer different levels of programs, but because we travel within the U.S. as well as abroad, we chose the Global Entry selection. The bottom line for us as travelers is that we will always get TSA Pre-check when flying in this country (no more removing shoes, light jackets, laptops from bags, or small liquids from carry-on bags), as well as expedited processing through Customs at airports and land borders when we return to the United States following international travel.

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
Since we had made the drive, we decided to see a little of Peoria. On the recommendation of the agent, we first had lunch at Thyme, a fun restaurant with an interesting menu and a decor to match. Jim said it looked like Pinterest had exploded inside the building. It was quite good, and we enjoyed our food. From there we headed down the street to see the Sculpture Walk, a series of 16 sculptures that are on display for a year. This led us to the Caterpillar Museum, and we decided to go inside. We had purchased several pieces of their equipment during our time of owning the composting facility. It is an excellent museum, and the docents are friendly and knowledgeable. All the ones that we talked with were former Caterpillar employees.

the tire is 14 feet tall
largest piece of equipment
made by Caterpillar
By the time we got out of the museum a storm was blowing in so we were unable to see the sculptures on the other side of the street. That was too bad, but we were happy to get out of town before the storm hit. The weather cleared as we drove back home, which gave us an opportunity to stop and see this roadside attraction. We had driven past many times on our way to Chicago, and always thought it would be interesting to experience. You can get your kitsch on Route 66 here! We had dinner at the diner, which certainly took us back in time. The chocolate ice cream machine was broken, but that was the only negative to the visit. What a fun day!
Livingston, IL

1 comment:

Mrs. Wryly said...

Get your kitsch on Route 66! Too funny!