It was a very long journey from home to heaven, with about 24 hours total in transit between Chicago and Sydney.  I'm here in one of my favorite cities in the world today, even though tomorrow I'll be up in Brisbane for a public user group event and some other meetings.  I couldn't miss spending an extra day in Sydney, even though I desperately need a few hours' more sleep to be functional.

Before leaving from Chicago O'Hare, I had the opportunity to meet some of the nice people at US Customs and Border Protection.  No, this wasn't a run-in with the law, though I did get fingerprinted for the first time in my life as part of the process.  Instead it was the application processing for the CBP's new "Global Entry Program".  This is a new automated way for American citizens to bypass queues at US airport immigration control, through a swipe-and-go kiosk system.  After fifteen or so border crossings this year,  I jumped at the opportunity to sign up for this new program.  Apparently I'm an early adopter -- there are about 5000 Americans enrolled so far, and on a typical day at O'Hare, they are only processing one or two dozen people through the kiosks.

The concept here isn't new -- I've seen automated systems like this in place in several Asian countries, and the US has tried a few previous times.  I'm hopeful that this time it's all going to work for the long run.

I was very impressed with the way the Chicago CBP office administers this program.  I started the process by applying online and paying the $100 fee, which covers five years of the service.  That makes it less than $2 per anticipated use for me, an absolute no-brainer (especially after that last time, when it took more than 40 minutes coming back from Frankfurt).  The application took about 20 minutes to fill out.  The next day, I had a conditional approval and was directed to an online system to make an appointment for final screening.  Knowing I was passing through O'Hare a few days later, I picked a time just before check-in for my flight, and went straight to my interview.  The CBP officer was professional and courteous.  He displayed an attitude that, honestly, seemed to convey the feeling that this was like a VIP program.  He even gave me the business card for the branch office manager, and encouraged me to e-mail the manager anytime with comments or complaints.

Assuming the final system checks all work, my passport should be enabled for the kiosk system by the time I fly back to LAX on Friday afternoon.  It won't make much difference, since I still have a multi-hour layover before the connection to Chicago.  Still, at least I won't be waiting in line after the long set of flights from Wellington to Auckland to LA.

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