Months after after the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that New Yorkers were “no longer eligible” to enroll or re-enroll in Global Entry and other trusted traveler programs, the DHS changed course and lifted the ban yesterday, reports the Wall Street Journal. The decision is effective immediately, though alerts flagging New York’s ban remain active on the DHS website.
DHS’s initial decision in February was in response to New York’s Driver’s License Access and Privacy Act, also known as the “Green Light Law.” In effect since December 2019, it allows undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses without having to release their information to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the agency that vets people for these trusted traveler programs (TTP), reports AFAR’s Lyndsey Matthews. Without access to the information, the DHS stated in a press release, the CBP can’t “properly complete security checks for Trusted Traveler Program applications and renewals submitted by New York residents, greatly increasing our security risk.”
The federal agency objected to this information being protected from authorities and argued that it had grounds to ban New York residents from the programs because the state was “an outlier among states in the restrictions it placed on the access the immigration authorities have to State Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) records,” reports the New York Times. The problem? That argument wasn’t exactly accurate: On Friday, government lawyers acknowledged that other states and Washington, D.C. also restrict access to DMV information and that they hadn’t faced similar crackdowns.
In February, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo met with President Trump to discuss the ban. Although Cuomo refused to agree to allow DHS to access the state’s DMV, he did agree to give the agency information access to those who apply for trusted traveler programs. “I am glad that this issue has finally been resolved for all New Yorkers,” he said in a statement.
What are the differences between the trusted traveler programs?
All memberships are valid for five years, but be sure to read the fine print—each program is designed for different users.
- Global Entry ($100): allows users to get through U.S. customs quicker when arriving at airports from international destinations; includes TSA PreCheck
- TSA PreCheck ($85): provides expedited screening through airport security lanes
- NEXUS ($50): provides expedited border crossings, specifically between the United States and Canada
- SENTRI ($122.50): Secure Electronic Network for Travelers Rapid Inspection (SENTRI) allows for expedited clearance for travelers arriving in the United States from Canada and Mexico
- FAST ($50): the Free and Secure Trade (FAST) program permits faster clearance for truck drivers with commercial shipments driving into the United States from Mexico or Canada
When can I enroll or re-enroll in a trusted traveler program?
Now, thankfully. But you may still have to wait awhile for any approval: On July 20, Customs and Border Protection announced that all trusted traveler enrollment centers were suspending operations until “at least” September 8, 2020. The decision was made “out of an abundance of caution” to help control the spread of COVID-19, reports CBP. (Enrollment on arrival remains an option at participating airports.)
What about Mobile Passport?
For those who need to fly back to the U.S. and want to avoid long customs lines, not all hope is lost: Even if you don’t have Global Entry, you can still download Mobile Passport, a free travel app to help users speed through customs and immigration. Designed to serve as a replacement for a traditional customs declaration paper, Mobile Passport is the “best-kept secret” among international travelers, reports Ramsey Qubein for AFAR.
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