Australians who frequently visit the USA continue to wonder when they’ll be able to enjoy the time-saving benefits of US Global Entry and TSA PreCheck on an Australian passport.
The answer appears to be ”not any time soon”, although Executive Traveller can confirm that a trial or pilot program is back on the cards now that international borders have reopened.
Here’s the latest state of play on US Global Entry and TSA PreCheck for Australian citizens.
The benefits of Global Entry for Australians
Global Entry is a ‘fast track’ program similar to those already operating in countries such as Singapore, Hong Kong and the USA.
Instead of joining that long snaking line at immigration, eligible travellers head straight to Global Entry kiosks for the ‘express’ treatment – usually a flash of your passport and a scan of your fingerprints is all it takes to be through immigration and on your way.
That’s a real timesaver when queues at the USA’s major international airports can easily stretch for hours – by the time other passengers on your flight have made it to the front of the line you’ll already be at your hotel or relaxing with a drink in your favourite bar.
Global Entry vs TSA PreCheck
Travellers approved for Global Entry on arrival into the US are also automatically approved for TSA PreCheck, which is for passengers on US domestic flights as well as international flights leaving the USA.
Travellers approved for TSA PreCheck can zip through dedicated checkpoints at most US airports.
Not only are those much shorter than regular security checkpoints, but there’s no need to open your carry-on bag and remove your laptop or tablet, liquids or gels – you can even keep your belt and jacket on.
Can Australian citizens get TSA PreCheck?
Australian citizens and passport holders can’t enrol in TSA PreCheck, as the program is available only to “US citizens and lawful permanent residents”.
However, because Global Entry membership comes with TSA PreCheck access, once Australian citizens are eligible for Global Entry they’d also enjoy the broader benefits of TSA PreCheck.
TSA PreCheck on Qantas flights to the USA
Although Australian citizens and passport holders are not eligible for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck, passengers who have enrolled in one of the country’s ‘trusted traveller’ programs can use the TSA PreCheck lanes at selected US airports on Qantas flights.
“To use TSA PreCheck, Qantas customers who are US trusted traveller program members can add their Known Traveller Number (KTN) to their reservations,” the airline advises.
When checking in for flights, customers should see a TSA PreCheck indicator on their printed or digital boarding pass.
For more information, visit the Qantas website.
TSA PreCheck is of course also supported on American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Hawaiian Airlines and United Airlines flights from Australia to the USA.
When will Global Entry open to Australians?
So what’s stopping Australian citizens and Australian passport-holders from getting Global Entry and TSA PreCheck access?
Global Entry and TSA PreCheck are what’s called ‘trusted traveller’ programs, which means your application has to be vetted and approached by the US Customs and Border Protection service and Transportation Security Administration (TSA), respectively.
That’s not just a quick rubber-stamping process: there’s an extensive background check and an interview to ensure you are a ‘low-risk’ traveller.
While TSA PreCheck is available only to “US citizens and lawful permanent residents”, over a dozen countries – among them Germany, Singapore, South Korea and the UK – have entered into a “partner country” arrangement for their own citizens to be eligible for a GlobalEntry pass.
This can require those counties operate their own pre-screening program – for example, UK citizens “must first apply with the UK Home Office” for local vetting “before submitting a Global Entry application”
Australia would likely have to establish its own system of pre-screening before Australian citizens could apply for GlobalEntry.
Australia’s Global Entry trial
As first step towards allowing GlobalEntry access for Australian passports, Australia’s Department of Home Affairs has plans for a trial program to assess the process of granting Global Entry membership for approved Australian citizens – which is why Australia is already listed on Global Entry’s International Arrangements page.
As it happens, that trial was first slated for 2019-2020 “to develop a mutual understanding of how Global Entry membership will work for Australian travellers,” a DHA spokesperson told Executive Traveller at the time.
“The Australian Border Force (has) agreed with the United States Customs and Border Protection the detailed steps required to support a 500-person pilot for the Global Entry program,” the department said, adding “we anticipate that the pilot will run for approximately six months.”
Of course, the Covid pandemic and its related travel restrictions understandably put this trial on hold – but it’s now back on the agenda, with a spokesperson saying “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.”
Part of this will be agreeing on what the spokesperson described as “revised timings for the commencement of the pilot.”
While we don’t have a timeline for the restart of Australia’s Global Entry trial, the fact that it’s a six-month pilot followed by the usual post-trial ‘review and assessment’ stage means we wound’t expect Australian citizens being broadly eligible for GlobalEntry and TSA PreCheck until 2023-2024.