The US has offered to extend its global traveller programme, which allows selected international passengers to bypass normal immigration and customs procedures, to Indian citizens. This is expected to be formalised when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President Barack Obama meet later in September in Washington.
India will be only the second developing country — Mexican nationals are already eligible to apply — to be granted this privilege, say US officials. Initially, during a trial period, a small number of Indians numbering in the region of 150 will be brought under the programme.
Under the US offer, the Indian immigration department, part of the country’s intelligence setup, will provide and clear the names of interested and eligible Indians, provide the necessary fingerprints scans to the US Customs and Border Protection agency.
US sources say their own agencies will carry out further background checks after which the names will be included in the Global Entry Trusted Traveller Network.
An inter-ministerial meeting of senior officials will be held later this week to work out the operational details of this arrangement.
At present, only the citizens of South Korea, the Netherlands, Canada and Mexico are eligible to be Global Travellers. About 1.5 million people have received the designation, almost all of whom are US citizens. Almost every major US airport has a Global Traveller kiosk, including New York City and Washington.
Participants go to the kiosk, scan their passports and their fingertips, and make a customs declaration. The machine then issues a receipt that allows the traveller to head straight for the baggage claim area and the airport exit.
A Global Traveller is also automatically cleared for PreCheck, another programme which gives passengers recommended by airlines a fast lane through US immigration.