Why I love my Swiss passport - PARAFE (Automated Fast Track Border Crossing)

It's true - I love my Swiss passport. If this seems like a strange thing to say after spending two wonderful weeks in the United States, it's because my Swiss passport does something that my American passport can't do. If you think that I'm being disloyal to my American heritage or that I'm still fuming about the $300 that I had to pay after the Massachusetts State Police impounded our car, let me ask you something.

After being encapsulated for hours in a plane, would you rather stand in this line for immigration at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris:

or in this line?

If you picked the non-existant line, then you should apply for a Swiss passport. Plus, it comes with a free lifetime supply of chocolate and cheese (joking!).

But if red and white aren't your favorite colors, a citizen with a passport from any country in the European Union or European Economic Area is eligible for "Automated Fast Track Border Crossing (PARAFE, in French). After registering your passport and fingerprints with the immigration office at Charles de Gaulle or Orly, a process which takes about 5 minutes, here's how it works:
  • Line up at the entrance of the security airlock gate like the one shown in the photo.
  • Insert your passport in the grey machine and follow the instructions.
  • Enter the airlock gate.
  • Place your finger on the scanner to exit the airlock gate and cross the border.
It's easy, it's free and best of all you skip the long lines waiting to pass immigration, both outbound and inbound. 

You'll save so much time that you won't mind sitting in rush hour traffic with a talkative taxi driver for more than an hour (again, joking!). What was on my taxi driver's mind? Dominique Strauss-Kahn (DSK), who is once again facing another sex scandal, Francois Hollande, who seems to be the favorite to win the presidential election in France, and all of the other drivers on the road who apparently don't know how to drive. 


  1. Welcome back home. That sure went quickly.

    I saw this system in Australia or New Zealand earlier this year--I forget which airport it was.

    I hesitate at the thought of being fingerprinted though, it just gets too close to Orwell for my comfort. I mean, where do we draw the line? Airport security gets me bent out of whack anyway.

    Okay, an the impounding story? You can't just drop a line like that and leave it unexplained.

  2. You don't know how much I had to rein myself in from going off on a tangent about the car. So, I'm so pleased that you asked - it gives me a chance to rant a bit! :-) After we went to Walden Pond last weekend, we parked the car on Memorial Dr, a major street that runs along the Charles River. As there weren't any "No Parking" signs, we didn't know that there was a big charity walk scheduled for last Monday and the car was towed along with 40+ other cars. The tow would have been bad enough, but since we didn't drive the car last week, we didn't notice that it was missing until we wanted to use it to go to the Sam Adam's Brewery on Saturday. At first, we thought that it had been stolen and then found out that it had been towed. The $35 per day storage fee is what really got to me. Fortunately, the free beer at Sam Adam's helped soothe my anger a bit...if only momentarily. And what really get's me is that I could have used the money to go to Locke Ober, your favorite restaurant in Boston!

    But back to fingerprinting - after a long flight I would do whatever it takes to get out of standing in a line. As far as security, I REALLY don't like the Backscatter X-ray in the States. Not because of the invasion of privacy but because I don't like the idea of extra radiation. I haven't confirmed it yet, but I have a suspicion that they select people who live abroad because I always have to go through the additional screening when other people in line get to go through the regular one. I occasionally opt out of the X-ray and have the physical search which is really invasive. I would definitely give them my finger prints if I could avoid it.

  3. I feel your pain about the impounding. As a former resident of Beantown, as a rebellious student at BU (in the 70's I might add!) I have paid my share of parking tickets while supporting our local men in blue. Ah, Boston. Gotta love it, taking the good with the not-so-good. (be sure to google "first toothpick Union Oyster House...their claim to that honor is disputed, I believe)
    PLEASE have a safe trip back to Paris. Hope to meet you on either side of the pond.

  4. Nancy,

    What a great story- I love that they hired Harvard men to demand toothpicks after dinner at the Union Oyster House to make them popular!

    And look at what Wikipedia says about its connection with France: "With such a long and illustrious history, the Union Oyster House has had its share of famous people in history as diners...Perhaps most surprising, in 1796 Louis Philippe, king of France from 1830 to 1848, lived in exile on the second floor. He earned his living by teaching French to young women."

    I'm safely back in Paris - thanks. The next time that you're here, we definitely have to get together for an early morning photo shoot and a glass of wine (or Belgian beer!)

  5. What is this toothpick story? I have to look that up.

    Wow, what a parking nightmare. Not owning a car, ever, I don't really have such stories and when I drove one for work in NYC is had a plush parking garage. But parking is a nightmare wherever. Here in Chicago I'm often stopped on the street by foreigners trying to figure out how to park on the street. I'm at least informed.

    I too dislike the Backscratcher X-Ray machines. After refusing to go through one, I too was patted down and exclaimed that I had had lovers who touched me less. And it's true. But lately I haven't had to go through one of them, in months--for that I'm glad.

  6. Joseph, That's a bit of wishful thinking! I love your slip of the keyboard and that you wrote "backscratcher" instead of "backscatter". Wouldn't it be great if we got our back scratched while going through security...and a short massage would be nice, too! ;-)

  7. Where you chose to live have a lot to do with the opportunities that are available for you and your ability to use them. Countries that you mentioned have zero to no opportunities for non-Caucasian persons; whereas US has the best opportunities for all, including non-Caucasian and non-native speakers. Recently I came across a parking lot of a Mosque in Chicago and was stunned to see the line of Mercedes Benz’s and BMW’s parked there by the people who are supposed to be in hot seats. All of them belonged to non-Caucasian and non-native speakers. Although irrelevant to your post, I wanted to mention some points regarding why people choose to obtain passports from certain countries. For you its avoiding long lines, perhaps, but for most its economics.

  8. Thanks for commenting.

    Having spent a large portion of my life living in emerging countries (please see my profile), I agree that the economic opportunities available in the United States are a compelling reason for people to move there. There are, however, large numbers of non-native speakers and non-Caucasians who opt to live in European countries because of the socialized medical system and the opportunities that are available to them.

    The intent of this lighthearted post was to inform people about the benefits of registering for PARAFE. A similar system of bypassing the immigration lines also exists in the United States.

  9. I just applied for an Expedited passport Expedited passport, and everything went well. My application was approved quickly, particularly given current travel limitations. My expedited passport arrived in time for my work trip, a relief. Service ease and efficiency were worth every cent. If you need your passport quickly, I prefer expedited. It may reduce tension and inconvenience!


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