Costa Rica could soon join the short list of countries whose citizens can apply for customs and immigration pre-approval for low-risk travelers to the United States. If approved, the expedited process could ease travel for the more than 200,000 Costa Ricans who visited the U.S. last year.
The Costa Rican Foreign Ministry and the U.S. Embassy in San José said that both countries have begun negotiations that would allow Costa Ricans to apply for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Global Entry program. The Global Entry Trusted Traveler Network claims that its process reduces wait times, expedites entry into the country and keeps travelers out of long processing lines with the use of designated electronic kiosks. Applicants must submit to a background check and in-person interview before enrollment.
Costa Ricans have been increasingly traveling to the United States during the last decade. Since 2006, the number of Ticos visits to the U.S. rose 55 percent from 130,702 in 2006 to 202,830 in 2014, according to figures from the U.S. Department of Commerce Office of Travel and Tourism Industries.
There are five other countries that have been approved for the expedited customs procedure including the Netherlands, South Korea, Germany, Panama and Mexico. Canadian NEXUS members have Global Entry benefits but are not eligible to join, according to the CBP website. U.S. citizens and permanent residents are eligible for Global Entry.
Dennis Whitelaw, president of the Costa Rican-American Chamber of Commerce told The Tico Times in an email that implementing the program could be a boon for travel and business relations between the United States and Costa Rica.
“The principle benefit of Global Entry is facilitating the entry and trips for tourists and executives to the United States. For AmCham, we believe that this type of initiative improves the business climate and could create more and better opportunities to develop Costa Rica,” Whitelaw said.
Whitelaw said that the implementation of Global Entry for Costa Rican travelers and a coinciding pre-approval process for U.S. travelers to Costa Rica also would be beneficial to new airline routes to the country and ease business travel for U.S. investors here. The United States is Costa Rica’s largest trading partner.