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One of the smartest things I’ve done as an international traveler is to join the US’s Global Entry program (which I got for free thanks to the $100 rebate my Amex Platinum gives me as one of the cardholder perks) for Trusted Travelers since it allows me to skip the sometimes hours-long lines at immigration and customs when reentering the States. It saves me precious time and energy after coming off international long-haul flights where I’m exhausted anyway.
Breezing through immigration back home makes it that much harder to have to wait in huge lines when entering other countries. The good news is, when I decide to visit Australia, that’ll no longer be the case.
Australia’s Customs and Border Protection agency will now allow US Trusted Travelers to use their automated SmartGate border processing kiosks – at least on a trial basis. Like the US Global Entry kiosks, SmartGate uses biometric face recognition (Global Entry is fingerprinting) and ePassport technology to process passengers.
To be able to use the SmartGate system, you must be a member of Global Entry, NEXUS or SENTRI, travel with a valid US ePassport and be 16 years of age or older. An ePassport is the kind of passport the US has been issuing since 2007 with the chip embedded in the front cover.
There’s no enrollment process to participate, you will just have to go to one of the kiosks and self-process when you arrive in Australia.
SmartGate is currently available at the following airports in Australia:
Australian Customs and Border Protection is currently expanding the facilities at Melbourne and Sydney, so there could actually be some delays for now, but eventually there will be five new gates at Melbourne and four new ones and a new kiosk at Sydney by Christmas.
To find out how the SmartGate system works, you can check out this page, but basically, when you get to one of the airports where it operates, you look for the SmartGate kiosk located at passport control, place your passport in the reader and answer the standard declaration questions using the touch screen. That issues you a SmartGate ticket, which you then use at the SmartGate itself at immigration, look at the camera while your photo is taken and compared to your passport, and then head to the baggage hall when you are passed through. Then at customs, you just hand over your declaration card and incoming passenger card, and be on your way.
I always love measures that get me in and out of airports faster, so I’m glad that Australia and the US are launching this partnership. The last thing I want to do after getting off a 15-hour flight is stand in an endless line, so this makes arriving in Australia that much more attractive. I hope this is just the first of many other new partnerships like this that will streamline international travel and put an end to those long immigration lines so we all have more time to enjoy the destination.