Good news: oil prices are falling and airline tickets in tandem. Bad news: security and passport control lines have an inverse correlation to these events. As part of the Customs and Border Protection Trusted Traveler Program, the Global Online Enrollment System (GOES) provides qualified travelers with a way to mostly avoid long waits when clearing security (it interfaces with the TSA pre-check program) and also set land-speed records when returning from a trip overseas. As of November 2015, United Kingdom residents are eligible as well.
The application is completed online. There is a mandatory interview now available at most major airports that must be scheduled once the application has been processed. Once your application is approved, you receive a “Known Traveler Number” which can be entered into your airline profiles. In the approximately 50 flights I took in 2015, I received TSA pre-check 48 times. Since the unknown time to reach the airport gates is anxiety provoking at best, knowing I can keep my shoes on, my laptop in its place and clear security in ten minutes or less is one of the seven wonders of travel in the age of technology (inflight wi-fi, airline apps on my smartphone, and keeping track of important documents and receipts – see my previous post Be Prepared, to say nothing of the amazing iPhone and Samsung cameras are others).
Upon re-entry to the United States, the second, and perhaps greater, benefit is the ability to bypass all the snaking lines and proceed directly to the GOES kiosks. Place your passport in the scanner, your fingers on the screen, answer a few questions (including the customs declaration) and within one minute, you are on your way –there is even a dedicated customs line. This alone makes the slightly arduous process more than worthwhile.