At a press conference in the rotunda of City Hall on Feb 20, following the Wednesday City Council meeting, Mayor Annise Parker joined with representatives of the Houston Airport System and the national office of Customs and Border Patrol (CBT) to announce the opening of a new Global Entry processing center inside City Hall open as of February 20, 2013.
The Global Entry program is part of the CBT effort to facilitate travel for known frequent travelers considered to be a low security risk. Bush International Airport welcomes 9 million travellers a year, and some estimate that international trade is the source of 1/3 of the Houston economy. International travellers at BIA actually exceeds the total number of passengers at airports such as San Antonio and Pittsburg, both among the 50 busiest airports in North America. CBP continually strives to find ways to expedite travel while assuring the safety and security of airports.
Qualified travelers must begin their applications on line at www.globalentry.com When the preliminary portion is completed, the applicant will receive an appointment time to come in for finalization, including a brief interview with a CBP officer and fingerprinting.
Before the new office opened, a traveller who wanted to register for the Global Entry program had to go to Bush International Airport for processing. The new location will be particularly convenient for people who work downtown. They can use the free shuttle busses to reach City Hall. Mayor Parker explained that she enrolled in the program, since she goes abroad frequently with Houston trade missions, including several trips to China and one planned to Istanbul when Turkish Airways opens nonstop service to Houston in a few months.
A person enrolled in the Global Entry program who is returning from an international flight can get through customs in a matter of seconds.
Following the presentation of John Wagoner, national executive director of the CBP security program, Mayor Parker hosted a symbolic ribbon-cutting ceremony, and the pres corps was invited on a tour of the new office.
The new office occupies space formerly used by the Convention and Visitor's bureau. To reach it, applicants should enter City Hall throughout the Visitor's Center and follow signs several offices used by the Department of Neighborhoods to the second floor.
The new arrangement is described as a “win-win” situaton for the City, CBT, and Houston travellers. No new funds were needed for the vacant offices, so there is no new cost to the city or to the CBT.