The Dutch and US governments have signed a deal to speed up entry of their citizens into each other's country.
Naane Onland, a director at Schiphol Airport involved in the deal said it would cut the time spent going through immigration from 70 minutes to 40 seconds.
Several other countries including Canada, the UK, France and Germany are interested in joining the project. The agreement, called FLUX in the Netherlands and Global Entry in the US, was signed last week (April 23) after months of negotiating and planning. It is now in operation.
It allows all US and Dutch citizens who have been screened and approved by both the two countries' authorities to pass straight through immigration checks at Schiphol Airport in the Netherlands and ten airports in the US.
These are New York JFK, New York Newark, Washington, Atlanta, Miami, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas/Fort Worth and Houston. This is planned to increase to 20 by the end of 2009.
All Dutch and Us citizens who hold a passport can apply. Dutch citizens must also be members of the Privium fast track scheme which as been operating at Schiphol for several years.
To join Privium, Dutch citizens must have an iris scan and pay from €109 a year. The FLUX scheme does not apply to holders of a Privium Card who are not Dutch citizens.
Applicants for the FLUX/Global Entry scheme must also agree to background screening by both the Dutch and Us authorities. This will include an interview with an officer of US Customs and Border Protection and the Dutch Border Police. There is a non-refundable application fee of €100 and an annual FLUX fee of €159.
Once accepted, Dutch and American citizens will not have to fill in immigration forms or wait in queues when visiting each other's country.
While the scheme is still technically in the "trial stage", Mr Onland said it was extremely unlikely not to continue after this expires in May 2010. He said the EC had welcomed the scheme and hopes to expand it to all the 26 other members. While the UK, France and Germany are interested, the next country likely to join is Canada.
Report by Stanley Slaughter