I wonder whether, when a US lawful permanent resident enters the US via SFO's global entry lane, they have to speak to any US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers or whether the entry process is fully automated.

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    Not an answer because it's, well, not an answer, but: I most frequently fly into JFK (or did, back when flying was a thing), and they seem to change the process every time. Sometimes everybody with global entry has to talk to an officer, sometimes nobody does, sometimes it's random; sometimes you have to talk to someone at immigration, sometimes at customs. I can't tell if it's intentional to keep people on their toes or if they just don't know what they're doing.
    – mlc
    Aug 8 at 1:39
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    ... what difference would it make? If you've been out of the US for 6 months, you'd get flagged for secondary automatically anyway.
    – JonathanReez
    Aug 8 at 2:09

Adding to "mlc"s comment: I have entered the US (not SFO) about 4-5 times this year and the process is entirely unpredictable. Sometimes Global Entry is entirely off, sometimes it wants passport scanning, sometimes it wants face recognition. Functionality and availability of kiosks is spotty. Sometimes you get waved through, sometimes they look at your passport, and sometimes you get engaged in a conversation.

My daughter tried even though her GE had expired AND there was a name mismatch between her passport and the booking, and they still just waved her through with the comment "it's fine, the machines are acting up today".

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    This sounds correct, but OP's question is (in part) whether the "entry process is fully automated". I believe it to be never fully automated. You always pass a person who might ask a question or two, or might look bored and wave you through. There is (unless it's changed recently) no "automatic gate" where no human could intercept you.
    – abligh
    Aug 9 at 17:16
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    Agreed with @abligh—I haven’t used my GE much, but the most automated I’ve ever seen it still involved flashing the print-out from the kiosk to a guard on the way out. The only interaction was a nod, but there was an interaction—and there was an opportunity for the guard to interact more if for some reason they felt it was warranted.
    – KRyan
    Aug 9 at 19:15
  • @abligh, I know I've been to airports where there was an unmanned lane for GE members with clean receipts to use (maybe PHX was one? I can't remember), the downside would seem to be that if you get an 'X'd receipt or have trouble with the machine you have to find another line to stand in. I've also been to airports where the lane was manned, but those with issues were directed to another not-too-busy lane to stand in (e.g. YYZ). And then there's SFO where, if someone ahead has a problem, you queue up until it is dealt with. I like the 2nd kind best.
    – Dennis
    Aug 11 at 0:14
  • @Dennis there is a lot of variation, and I haven't been to every airport in the US since getting GE (~4 years ago), and not PHX, but for those where there was such a dedicated line, I recall that even if you had no issues and a clean receipt, you still walked passed a human who at least took a cursory look at the receipt (and could stop you and talk to you), and not - for instance - put the receipts into a machine which opens a gate (like the eGates at LHR). That's not "fully automated". Perhaps PHX is different.
    – abligh
    Aug 11 at 5:24

At my Global Entry interview, the interviewing officer made it abundantly clear that Global Entry clearance is not a guarantee of any special treatment. They reserve the right to interview, search bags, etc. should they see fit.


What do I do if the Global Entry kiosk issues me a receipt marked with an "X"?

If the kiosk receipt has an "X" printed on it, you must report to a CBP officer at the nearest staffed CBP passport control booth. You do not have to get back in line. The CBP officer at the passport control booth will review your documents, determine the reason for the "X" and either release you from there or refer you to "secondary" for additional processing.

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    " They reserve the right to interview, search bags, etc. should they see fit." -> I wonder how often this happens in practice. I'm mostly interested in the immigration part, not the customs part. Aug 8 at 16:38
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    @FranckDernoncourt Ultimately, Global Entry means you're more trusted than average. It's not unconditional trust. I'm not aware of public statistics on this, but DHS makes very clear there's to be no whining if you wind up talking to a CBP agent as part of the process despite having Global Entry.
    – ceejayoz
    Aug 8 at 17:02
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    @FranckDernoncourt The officer who interviewed me for getting Global Entry in the first place was extremely emphatic that they can and will occasionally make GE passengers go through the normal process just to keep them honest—and if you haven’t been, you’re in a whole heap of trouble.
    – KRyan
    Aug 9 at 19:11
  • @ceejayoz It is not expected from governments that they provide a great customer service, but I don't think DHS is so unprofessional that they would use derogatory terms such as "whining" when they are trying to make some money on the Global Entry program.
    – Jake
    Aug 10 at 16:12
  • @Jake If I intended it to be a direct quote rather than paraphrasing, I would have put it in quotes. (They also already have your non-refundable money at that point.)
    – ceejayoz
    Aug 10 at 16:58

A US LPR returning to the US is exactly the same as a US citizen returning except the LPR will scan their I-551 (green card) in the machine rather than their foreign passport.

Whether or not anyone returning via Global Entry will need to speak to someone seems pretty random. The most common conversation I've personally had is asking about the food items I'm bringing back. It has never resulted in any additional screening required, but I've also never brought back anything that would be considered unusual.

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