Called Global Entry, travelers returning from overseas to TIA can now skip long lines for customs and passport control by scanning their passports and fingerprints at a kiosk, and electronically filling out the customs declaration. The traveler then presents a printed receipt to security officers in a process that officials say takes just a few minutes.
Tampa began offering the service in late May, but it received more attention today as Florida Sen. Bill Nelson took a quick photo op at TIA Monday afternoon.
"You dreaded coming back home with customs because it was such a laborious process," Nelson told reporters. "This will literally take just a few minutes."
Although TIA just started providing the service, the feds have been offering Global Entry at some airports for as long as five years, according to a USA Today article published last month.
Not just any international traveler qualifies for the program. Part of the enrollment process consists of a personal interview that can be scheduled after you fill out an online Global Entry application (www.globalentry.gov), which includes questions about your background and travel habits. The application fee is $100 (the interview can take place at Tampa International).
Currently those who are eligible for Global Entry are automatically recognized for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) PreCheck program. PreCheck offers travelers separate lines at checkpoints, where they leave on shoes and light coats and keep laptops in their bags.
Last week TSA administrator John Pistole announced that the TSA will now expand eligibility for PreCheck to include travelers who pay a one-time $85 fee for five years that covers an application with identifying information such as address and birthplace, a background check, and fingerprinting.
Tampa becomes the fifth airport in Florida to offer Global Entry (Miami International, Orlando International, Orlando-Sanford International and Ft. Lauderdale International offer the service), and the 40th nationally.