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Four Mistakes to Avoid for Smooth Re-entry to the U.S

Before I launch into this week’s topic I MUST give you a good-news update to last week’s article where I told you about the five elite invitation-only hotel programs that I am blessed to have access to for your benefit. As of last week, I (meaning YOU) now have access to the exclusive benefits of another hotel family – Four Seasons! This is a big deal! The Four Seasons Preferred Partner Program along with Marriott International’ STARS, are truly the pinnacle of hotel elite programs. I am proud to be able to offer you these and the other programs for the enjoyment, enhancement and benefit of your luxury travel. If you are curious, just call me and we can discuss how they fit into your travel plans.

Alrighty then, moving on to how to avoid becoming the center of attention when you navigate reentry to the U.S. I was that honoree once long ago when returning from Jamaica. A piece of fruit that I had forgotten to consume during my airport wait was discovered by a U.S. Customs agent. Woe was me when he informed me that I could be tossed into the slammer for my oversight (or smuggling attempt as the case may be). Since then, I make it a point to be ‘street-legal’ when re-entering the U.S.

But things happen: we forget; we don’t know; we’re complacent; we’re wrong. Remember when all you needed was your passport in hand to get back into the U.S.? And at one time you didn’t need it at all to cross the northern border. Now, with new travel regulations restricting reentry into the country, travelers have to be extra careful that they’re doing everything right if they don’t want to get stranded abroad. Five things you must avoid if you want to sleep in your own bed on your return:

Having the Wrong Type of COVID-19 Test

As you know, you’re required to show proof of negative COVID-19 test in order to return to the U.S., and only specific tests will be accepted: a viral test that is either an antigen test or a nucleic acid amplification test (NAAT). That’s it. If you’re carrying your own self-test, it must meet these CDC requirements:

· The test must be a SARS-CoV-2 viral test (nucleic acid amplification test [NAAT] or antigen test) with Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

· The testing procedure must include a telehealth service affiliated with the manufacturer of the test that provides real-time supervision remotely through an audio and video connection.

· The telehealth provider must confirm your identity, observe the sample collection and testing procedures, confirm the test result, and issue a report that meets the requirements of CDC’s Order.

Along with the test results, whether self-administered or otherwise, you must have the type of test, name of entity issuing the result, the date of the test, test taker’s identifying information (full name plus date of birth or passport number), and the test result. Electronic and paper versions are acceptable. I have entered the U.S. several times in the past several months and the process and results are generally streamlined, simple, and straightforward. If you had or tested positive for Covid-19 within the 90 days of your travel date, the requirements are a whole other ball of wax that you can check out here.

Don’t Forget to Declare Food

Forgetting to declare is usually preceded by forgetting that you’re in possession of. It doesn’t matter. For failing to declare food when entering the U.S. the penalty can be a fine of up to $10,000.

Don’t be afraid to declare food at the border; most packaged food products (like candy, breads, crackers, etc.) can be brought in without issue, and won’t even need to be inspected. You’ll only face additional questioning for products like fruits, meats, eggs, food with open packages and homemade food/baked goods.

Not Having Global Entry Membership or Not Using the Mobile Passport App

Now that international travelers are allowed into the U.S., the surge of visitors is causing long entry lines at land borders and international airports. After a long flight home, the last thing you’ll want to do is wait in a customs line. Instead, spend the $100 fee for a five-year Global Entry membership, which will allow you to speed through reentry to the U.S. Use it once and you’ll agree that it’s completely worth the cost.

Option: The app 'Mobile Passport’ is super handy if you don’t have Global Entry. It’s free to download and use, but the annual membership allows your info to be saved (securely) so that you don’t have to re-enter it for each trip. Since you can include your whole family’s information in a single account, having to re-enter for every member every time will be tedious. I know – I only had to do it for two of us, and that was enough to convince me to pay the $25/year. Follow the submission instructions carefully to avoid a delay at your port of entry. The app is authorized by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol. You'll find it in your device's app store.

Arriving at the Airport Late

Is there anything less fun than having to be at the airport 2-3 hours before your flight? It was all well and good when you were starting your vacation all abuzz with excitement. But to have to end it ‘early’ to hurry up and wait at the airport - not so much. It helps to keep in mind that your travel day is just that: a travel day. You’re not ending anything early. You’re traveling, and the goal is to be punctual and stress-free. Deep breath. Cutting your airport arrival close can be risky. Airlines now have a number of things to check before they travelers board a flight to the U.S. – vaccine cards, COVID tests and attestations, passport validity, security scans, all of which can add hours to check-in lines. Just be sure you have enough time. If the going is smooth you can spend the extra time in a massage chair, a lounge, having a relaxed meal, people-watching, etc.

Now you have four more ways to keep yourself out of trouble and ensure that your journey ends well. After your fabulous vacation and smooth re-entry, you're all smiles and headed home. Share this information with your friends; if I'm their advisor you already know it. I'm not, so they're traveling blind. They deserve a smooth, stress-free vacation too, and I'm just a phone call away!

'til next week.


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