The global entry enrolment center at Los Angeles International Airport is closed until further notice. The Los Angeles Times is reporting that the office is shuttered as Department of Homeland Security staff are redeployed to the US / Mexican border area to deal with the flood of immigrants there.
The office, closed since 23rd June 2019, catered for face to face security interviews for arriving international passengers at LAX’s Tom Bradley International Terminal (also known as Terminal B).
Some 29 airlines use the Tom Bradley terminal and the terminal handles 10 million passengers annually.
A global entry enrolment center satellite location close to LAX remains open. The address is 301 E. Ocean Boulevard, Long Beach, 90802. The next available appointment at this location is the end of August. Offices in San Diego and San Francisco remain unaffected by the redeployment of personal at this stage.
Passing through LAX recently, Live and Let Fly confirmed the Tom Bradley office is well and truly shut up.
What is Global Entry?
Global Entry is a Department of Homeland Security scheme that allows low-risk travelers quicker entry into the United States. United States border entry points are notoriously bad experiences for non-US citizens. LAX has an especially unpleasant reputation for delays and abrupt staff.
Global Entry automates the arrivals process. There should be no interaction with other people. Applicants complete a face to face interview, provide fingerprints, and allow for what the US Customs website calls a “rigorous background check.”
The United States made international news recently by announcing the travelers from many countries would have to hand over all their social media passwords dating back for five years as part of their visa approval process.
Online criticism of any aspect of the US government or its agencies may be unwise for prospective travelers to the United States. Once approved, travelers can enter the country via automatic kiosks at selected airports.
US Customs notes that members of the Global Entry scheme may still be pulled aside for further questioning and any breach of your entry condition will see you back in the queues with the hoi polloi at Tom Bradley quick smart.
Is global entry worth worrying about?
Global Entry costs USD$100 and once approved is valid for as multiple entries for five years. It allows approved passengers to skip the immigration queues. According to The New York Times, the average wait in the immigration queue at JFK is 24 minutes.
At airports like LAX, the average wait is longer and that wait varies at airports around the country. It also allows you to avoid the “Why were you only in Lisbon for three days” type of questions.
But as the newspaper notes, if you have checked-in bags, you still have to hang around for them to appear. As part of the program, you are automatically enrolled in the T.S.A. PreCheck which gets you through the airport faster when leaving the United States
But if you are a frequent flyer who travels in the soft seats up front with priority bags, it could be the best USD$100 you ever spent.
Also, keep in mind that travelers from many western countries can enter the United States under their Visa Waiver Program (VWP). Eligible travelers can spend up to 90 days in the United States for tourism or business purposes without having to apply for a visa. A list of countries that participate in the VWP is here.
This goes some way to making entry into the United States easier. However, since 2009, citizens of countries participating in the VWP have had to obtain an electronic travel authorization (ESTA) prior to traveling to the United States. It is, in effect, an electronic visa, but they are generally issued quickly and with a minimum of fuss.
Travelers from countries considered higher risk are unfortunately up for the whole visa application and approvals process before they can even consider the Global Entry program.
Benefits for everyone in the near future
On the plus side for everybody, immigration at most big international airports, including in the United States, is becoming more streamlined. As travelers are increasingly screened before they arrive, there is less for immigration at arrival airports to do.
Automated arrival processing is gradually coming to the fore for everyone. In five to ten years it should be commonplace. In the meantime, if you are a frequent traveler to the United States, Global Entry could be for you.
Just don’t expect to do the interview at Tom Bradley for the foreseeable future.