I first learned about the Global Entry program a few years ago from a few coworkers who travel frequently for business. After taking my first trip overseas or “across the pond,” I witnessed what it meant to be a member of the program and knew it was something I wanted to invest in – especially after researching more details on Global Entry.
What is Global Entry?
Global entry is a U.S. Customs and Border Patrol program for pre-approved, low-risk U.S. citizens traveling back into the U.S. from a trip abroad. It allows you to go into a separate lane for expedited access through customs, which can save you quite a bit of time! While it benefits international travelers greatly, there are also benefits for people who travel domestically as well.
Benefits of Global Entry
The main benefits of Global Entry are simple. Shorter wait times! Nobody enjoys long lines, am I right?
Domestically, members get to go through the expedited TSA Pre-Check lines, where you can breeze through without having to deal with taking your shoes off, laptops out of your bags, etc.
And internationally, when returning to the U.S., you’re directed to a kiosk to handle your check-in to the country yourself and just show your printed pass to the customs officer before breezing along to the next checkpoint. This is especially helpful if you have a connecting flight you’re worried about catching!
The Global Entry Approval Process
To apply, you have to fill out a detailed form on the Global Entry website with information like travel history, address, birthday, social security number, job details, etc. You also pay a $100 non-refundable application fee at this point, which also covers your membership for five years, if you’re approved.
After 1-2 weeks, you’ll receive notification that you’re “conditionally approved,” provided all of your info checks out. Then you’re able to access the appointment calendar, where you can schedule a date/time + airport that works best for you. Note that most airports are booked out pretty far for appointments and not all have weekend availability.
The in-person appointment takes less than 10 minutes! You meet with a customs agent who goes over your application and takes your fingerprints for the fast-track kiosk you’ll use when coming back through customs post-international trip.
Another week or two later, you’ll get your official Global Entry card, which you bring with you when traveling. It also contains your “known traveler number,” which you can add to your airline profile to ensure you get TSA Pre-Check for domestic flights (at participating airports).
Cost of Global Entry
To apply for (and become a member of) the program, you pay a $100 non-refundable fee. For comparison, you pay $85 to be a member of TSA Pre-Check. A $15 difference to include an expedited line for international travel?! Yes, please!
Becoming a Global Entry member is hands down the BEST travel investment I’ve ever made. At the $100 price point, this program is incredibly affordable, since it’s good for five years, which means it comes down to $20 per year.
I officially became eligible to use Global Entry benefits at the end of May (2016). While I only took one big international trip last year (and therefore only used global entry once), I flew on about a dozen domestic flights, where I was able to take advantage of TSA Pre-Check, which is the greatest thing ever, especially when you’re dealing with long security lines!