Colombians will soon be able to avoid the long, tedious security lines most foreigners encounter when entering the United States.
Beginning tomorrow, any Colombian citizen can apply for the country’s Global Entry program that allows pre-approved visitors to quickly clear customs by using automated kiosks in most U.S. airports rather than slogging through checkpoints maintained by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).
Colombia is joining a select group of countries with access to Global Entry, which was previously only open to applicants from Germany, Mexico, Netherlands, Panama, Singapore, South Korea, and the United Kingdom. Canadians get benefits with a similar arrangement given an extensive border with the U.S. and can use the self-service kiosks within U.S immigration areas to scan their passports.
“This is very good news,” said María Ángela Holguín, Colombia’s foreign affairs minister. She has been pushing to ease travel restrictions imposed by the United States throughout her term in office and, according to the government, kickstarted the process for Colombia joining Global Entry during a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in February 2014. Now, with this hurdle cleared, officials can turn their attention to encouraging Washington to remove the need for Colombians to apply for a visa before traveling to the United States.
Last December, most countries in Europe waived visa requirements for Colombians, and Kerry has previously offered his support for the United States doing the same. “We would very much like to be able to grant a visa waiver [to Colombians],” said Kerry in 2014. “It’s not a question of a lack of will, it’s that we have a law passed by the Congress of the United States, which we have to follow, which sets up certain criteria that have to be met in order to implement a visa waiver program.”
While the Global Entry program is open to any valid visa holders without a criminal record, pending charges, or customs violations, it is designed for frequent travelers to the United States. The application, which can be filled out through the U.S. Customs website and may take up to 30 days to process, includes a nonrefundable $100 fee and requires an in-person interview in a U.S. airport. Though the approval lasts for five years, those who rarely visit the United States may find that time saved waiting in lines is not worth the burden or cost of the application process.
In addition to 44 entry points within the 50 U.S. states, Global Entry kiosks are available in airports in Abu Dhabi, Aruba, Bahamas, Canada (in Calgary, Edmonton, Halifax, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Vancouver, and Winnipeg), Guam, Ireland (Dublin and Shannon), Northern Mariana Islands, and Puerto Rico.