It’s been the talk of the town for years now, but for Australians, the privileges of US Global Entry are still out of reach. And it’s disappointing for travellers, particularly as direct flights between Australia and the United States continues to grow.

Global Entry, of course, is the USA’s international trusted traveller program. It provides expedited border crossings for qualified jetsetters, as well as access to TSA PreCheck for streamlined passage through security.

Back in 2020, a trial of Global Entry had been planned for Australians. Then in March 2022, Point Hacks exclusively learned that the wheels were once again in motion between Australia and the United States. But then in May of the same year, Australia’s federal election saw the government change hands. So where are things in 2024?

We’ve liaised with the Australian Border Force (ABF) to bring you this latest update on Australia’s path towards Global Entry.

When will Global Entry open to Australians?

Before opening the floodgates to Global Entry, Australia and the United States plan to complete a limited trial.

‘Progress on joining the Global Entry Program was paused in 2020 due to COVID-19 travel restrictions,’ a spokesperson for the Australian Border confirmed to Point Hacks. In 2022, we were told that ‘the Australian Border Force is continuing discussions with the United States Customs and Border Protection Service in relation to participation in the Global Entry Program.’

Getting that trial back on-track would ultimately pave the way towards a broader rollout.

‘A key focus of this engagement is to agree revised timings for the commencement of the pilot,’ ABF’s spokesperson also confirmed in 2022. ‘The pilot serves as an important step forward in Australia’s involvement in the Global Entry program.’

So exactly when can Australians expect to apply for Global Entry, we hear you ask?

‘Further advice on Australia’s entry into the program will be available following the pilot,’ Border Force notes. But when asked the same question more recently, not much has actually happened. ‘The Australian Border Force (ABF) continues to work closely with the United States Customs and Border Protection Service (USCBP) on Australia’s participation in the Global Entry Program (GEP) and on associated timings,’ confirms an ABF spokesperson.

In other words, it’s been four years since a trial was planned to occur – and it still hasn’t happened. So what’s the real hold-up?

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Why can’t the United States just unlock Global Entry?

‘Trusted traveller’ programs are common around the world, but each works a little differently.

Some, like Singapore’s Frequent Traveller Programme (FTP), are quite straightforward. For those holding an eligible passport, Singapore’s FTP only requires a declaration and a certain amount of previous travel. But Global Entry is much more involved.

Naturally, the United States vets every applicant itself, and even undertakes in-person interviews. But there’s a bit more to it. The US also requires other countries to assist with performing separate background checks.

Point Hacks understands that countries participating in Global Entry must follow a range of US vetting criteria. This ensures that individuals approved for the Global Entry program present a low risk to the United States.

Australia itself would need to take an active role in screening Global Entry applicants, for Australian passport holders to become eligible. Agreeing to undertake this work would be part of Australia’s negotiations with the United States ahead of the trial and broader rollout. Whether the United States compensates Australia for that impost – and if so, how much would be paid – would also be a matter for discussion and negotiation.

What are the benefits of Global Entry?

Arriving in the United States looks very different with Global Entry membership.

Rather than joining the regular queues, trusted travellers proceed to kiosks for express processing. Then, with a quick flash of the passport, it’s generally straight through immigration. Given passport queues at some US airports can stretch for two hours or more, it’s a real time-saver.

Having Global Entry also grants access to TSA PreCheck. These benefits are instead usable on departure from many US airports, on both domestic and international flights.

Many TSA checkpoints have dedicated lanes for PreCheck passengers, which are often shorter and move faster. Unless instructed otherwise, there’s no need to remove shoes for screening, or laptops from bags.

TSA PreCheck privileges are never guaranteed. This adds a random element to the security process. But if eligible, you’ll spot this on your boarding pass.

Most airlines flying directly between Australia and the United States support TSA PreCheck. This includes Qantas, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Hawaiian Airlines and United Airlines. Jetstar is the only exception, with PreCheck not supported on its Honolulu flights.

Summing up

Global Entry for Australian travellers is long overdue. Even if Australia gets to the stage of an agreed trial, it’d still take time for systems to get up and running to work with passports from Down Under.

Of course, Australia’s SmartGate system already supports US passports, saving these travellers considerable time when entering Australia. US citizens don’t need to enrol to use SmartGate, or pay an application fee.

It’s only fair that the United States reciprocates this convenience for those landing on its shores, even if vetting and interviews are required. After all, anything that makes travel easier can only be a positive.

In that sense, some Australian travellers can now use Mobile Passport Control to make things a little faster when arriving in the US. But for us Aussies, it only works on second and subsequent visits to the US. And for that matter, only when travelling with a visa waiver (ESTA) – not a full sticker visa.

Mobile Passport Control is still a step in the right direction. And many travellers visiting the US from Australia would be using an ESTA. But visas are common too, and it’d be nice to see Mobile Passport Control expanded to cover those too. After all, the process of getting a full US visa is far more involved than a relatively simple ESTA.

Also read: Save time at US immigration with this official app

Feature image courtesy Karolina Grabowska/Pexels. US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) was repeatedly contacted for comment, but CBP ignored all opportunities to provide commentary or an update.

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Australians are no closer to enjoying US Global Entry was last modified: February 15th, 2024 by Chris Chamberlin