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Originally published Monday, November 24, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Fast-track airport clearance lets travelers skip passport lines

U.S. Customs' Global Entry program will let some U.S. travelers returning from abroad skip the passport lines

For $100 and a copy of your fingerprints, U.S. citizens flying from abroad into some U.S. airports, can skip passport-checking lines and proceed almost directly to baggage claim.

The Global Entry program, which was added Chicago's O'Hare airport recently, is run through U.S. Customs and Border Protection. It's designed to let travelers get through certain airports faster but also affords a key benefit for the Department of Homeland Security: It makes it easier to track who is coming into the country.

Global Entry has been rolled out this year at seven of the nation's busiest airports, and it's hoped will expand to 20 within the next year. The nearly 5,000 people who have enrolled nationally are able to pass through security at automated kiosks instead of standing in sometimes painfully long lines to have their passports stamped. The process at the kiosk takes about a minute and involves having your photo taken, letting both index fingers be read on a scanner and answering a few questions on a computer screen. Passports are not stamped for people in Global Entry, and customs declarations are done on the kiosk screen.

"The goal is obviously to make things faster," said David Murphy, director of field operations for U.S. Customs and Border Protection in Chicago.

Only travelers deemed "low risk" are eligible, he said, and must undergo background checks. Any criminal conviction — even misdemeanors — is grounds for rejection. The $100 fee is good for five years.

Other airports participating in the Global Entry program are New York's John F. Kennedy International, Houston's George Bush Intercontinental, Dulles in Washington, D.C., Los Angeles International, Hartsfield-Jackson in Atlanta and Miami International.

More information is available at www.globalentry.gov.

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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