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Meaningless Labor

On the San Francisco Bay: 620 nm
On the North Atlantic Ocean in North America: 4016 nm

Grand total for 2013: 4636 nm

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  • If you have a Platinum AMEX they refund the application fee, so it’s essentially free.
  • The online application requires residence and employers for the last 5 years, countries visited and declaration of any criminal red flags, but not infractions such as speeding tickets.
  • The in-person interview for those in the San Francisco Bay area takes place at SFO. The office is outside of International Arrivals near immigration.
  • You must bring your passport to the airport along with your provisional acceptance (from the online application).
  • The interview consists of questions that confirm the information in the application. Additional questions asked in our case: “How often do you travel outside the US?”, and “Which airports do you generally depart and arrive into the US from?”, which seemed to be for the purpose of telling you where kiosks were located in those airports.
  • The rest was just banter-chat questions. Nothing spooky, no interrogation vibe.
  • They fingerprint and photograph you, but no passport photo in advance is required.
  • They do add a sticker to your passport, but it’s very small. It doesn’t appear to be RFID, and we’re not sure what the purpose of the sticker is, as the kiosk does not interact with the sticker, nor do you show it to anyone in the process. Weird, right?
  • They then give you an instruction leaflet, and take you to a dummy machine to show you how to use it. They train you on the process of entering the country, and give you a few troubleshooting tips.
  • The impression is that if you’ve been provisionally approved online, the visit’s sole purpose is to capture a photograph and fingerprints.
  • It really didn’t feel like an interview. They don’t take you into a little room, the office is a bit like a bank or a rental car desk.

We were told that the entry process is:

  • Go to the kiosk, which is normally near the crew line.
  • Put the ID page of your passport in the slot for scanning.
  • The kiosk then wants to take your photo, and your fingerprints
  • It then asks you the standard customs questions, which has the added bonus that you don’t ever have to fill out the customs declaration manually again!
  • If approved, it prints out a card/sticker that you show/give to the customs officers as you pass through the customs line. Unfortunately you don’t get to skip that line.

One note — this system does not work for travel (land or air) into Canada or Mexico. Apparently there’s an alternate system for these borders, which requires its own fee, etc.

If you get a new passport, or are near expiry, you have to then take your new passport to the airport to update your records and get a new sticker, but you don’t need to make an appt for that.

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