The Global Entry Program: From Application To Airport [In-Depth]

Global Entry Program Guide and Review

If you’ve traveled much at all, you’ve likely heard of the Global Entry program. With all the fuss about waiting in lines at the airport, people are very curious about any way to beat the system.

In this article, we’ll answer all your questions and help you get signed up for the program so you can speed your way through customs and get on to your destination!

What Is Global Entry?

For those who frequently travel overseas, you know how difficult it can be for an international traveler to get through customs upon arrival.

To lessen the pain while dealing with an ever-increasing number of security risks, the U.S. government created a program called Global Entry that gives pre-approved clearance to low-risk travelers entering the United States.

Currently, this program is one of the five available Trusted Traveler Programs. Four of these are designed for personal and business travelers (Global Entry, SENTRI, NEXUS, and TSA PreCheck), while one is for commercial trucking (FAST).

All programs except TSA PreCheck are governed by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection unit (CBP). As its name implies, TSA PreCheck is administered by the Transportation Security Administration.

The CBP Global Entry program first originated as INSPASS in the 1990’s. After the CBP merged with the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), they created the current program in its place.

Initially, the program was initially only offered at JFK and Newark airports but has since been expanded to over 42 U.S. airports. Almost 2 million people are currently enrolled, and it is estimated there are 50,000 new applications every month.

To eliminate waiting, member information is stored in a database. When members enter the country through a participating airport, they scan their machine-readable passports and fingerprints at a kiosk, complete a customs declaration form, and proceed straight to the baggage claim area.

Bottom Line: A frequent traveler program will save time, lower stress, and simplify travel! Members get to skip all the normal long lines of customs entry and get to their destination more quickly.

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How Much Does Global Entry Cost?

All applicants must pay a one-time fee of $100, even those under the age of 18. If you are rejected from the program for any reason, you will not get your $100 back.

To hedge your bets, make sure to get your fee reimbursed by a credit card or loyalty program.

Remember that along with your approval, you’ll also get access to the TSA PreCheck Trusted Traveler Program, which itself is valued at $85.

Can I Get My Membership Paid For?

Since we’re in the world of getting great travel benefits for little cost, what would this article be without a section on helping you get your membership cheaply?

All the following cards offer credits toward the fees, with the applicable credit listed next to each card. To receive the credit, you must pay your Global Entry fees with the applicable card.

  • The Platinum Card® from American Express ($100 credit)
  • The Business Platinum® Card from American Express OPEN ($100 credit)
  • Chase Sapphire Reserve℠ Card ($100 credit)
  • Mercedes-Benz Credit Card from American Express  ($100 credit)
  • Citi Prestige Card ($100 credit)
  • AAdvantage Aviator Silver World Elite MasterCard ($100 credit – note this card is not available for new applications)
  • Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite MasterCard ($100 credit)
  • Chase Ritz-Carlton Rewards® Credit Card (up to $100 credit; $300 annual credit for travel)
  • Centurion® Card from American Express ($100 credit)

If you have one of the above cards but don’t need the credit, you can always try to pay for someone else’s application! Share the love and make everyone’s travel easier.

You should also note that many of these cards will extend the credit for additional cardholders if you add them. While this may cost money in some cases, the $100 credit certainly helps offset that!

Sharing Your Global Entry Credit

Many people ask or wonder about sharing your credit from one of the above cards if you already have purchased your membership. The answer is yes, you can always pay for someone else’s application, as the charge simply shows up as a generic charge and is not attached to your name.

You may want to consider whether or not you will want to use that credit in the future, however, since it is only good once every 5 years.

Another option is to add people as authorized users to your existing cards that offer it.

For some cards, like The Platinum Card® from American Express or Chase Sapphire Reserve℠ Card, your authorized users also get access to the Global Entry credit. Just make sure it makes sense to do so, as you will likely be charged an extra fee.

The bonus will be that your authorized users will also get access to things like Priority Pass and some of the other card benefits!

Other Ways to Pay for Membership

Delta Elite Status members may also get a $100 Global Entry voucher if they choose it as part of their Choice Benefits when they reach Platinum or Diamond status.

United will pay for your fee if you are a member of United Global Services,  MileagePlus Premier 1k, or Premier Platinum.

If you live in a northern U.S. state, you can get access by applying to the NEXUS program with Canada. The best part? This fee is only $50! However, your NEXUS fee may not be reimbursed by your credit card, and the only interview locations are in the north.

(NEXUS also allows you expedited access to and from Canada, whereas Global Entry only allows fast access back into the U.S.)

Which Countries Participate in the Program?

Besides the U.S., there are now 11 other countries which allow their low-risk citizens to enroll in the program:

Program Participants / International Arrangements
ArgentinaIndiaSingapore
Canada (through the NEXUS Program)Mexico (reciprocal w/ Viajero Confiable Program)Switzerland
ColombiaPanama (reciprocal w/ Panama Global Pass)The United Kingdom (reciprocal w/ Registered Traveler Program)
Germany (reciprocal w/ EasyPASS Program)The Republic of Korea (reciprocal w/ SES Program)

Hot Tip:  Even though you may have Global Entry status, this is not the same as obtaining a travel visa. Learn about the 4 Types of Travel Visas, and figure out whether you need one and how to get it before booking a trip!

What Are the Overall Benefits?  How Much Time Can I Save?

As a program member, your major benefit is being pre-approved to enter the United States from a variety of entry points (see list below) without having to endure the normal lines, which can take hours.

In addition, no paperwork is necessary since the customs form you fill out at the kiosk is electronic.

You also get joint access to other countries’ programs (NEXUS, SENTRI, and more), and you’re given eligibility to use TSA PreCheck, which allows you to skip normal airport security lines and save even more time while traveling.

To find out a little more about time saved, you can look at data provided by the U.S. CBP.

Data for Chicago O’Hare (ORD) from 2015 shows the average wait time was 14 minutes, with a maximum wait time of 199 minutes.

As a frequent traveler with this product, your wait time can be less than one minute: the time it takes you to walk to the kiosk and scan through. Do keep in mind that after passing customs, you still have to wait for bags like everyone else.

If you don’t check a bag, though, you’ll be on your way!

Waiting For Airport Baggage
You can save a lot of time by not having to wait in line at customs, but note that you’ll still have to wait for your bags as usual.

Think of this program as an insurance policy to ensure you never have to wait longer than the time it takes to get your bags! After an international trip, would you be willing to pay a small fee instead of waiting in line for over three hours?

If you also consider the value of your included enrollment in TSA PreCheck, the time savings more than makes up for the application fee!

Bottom Line: Save an average of 15 minutes of wait time on each trip that requires customs. In some cases, you could save several hours!

How Does the Program Work?

To get started, you’ll first need to complete the application process to be added to the traveler database.

Once approved, upon return from international trips, you’ll take your passport (must have embedded technology) or permanent residency card to the Global Entry kiosk at the airport. At the kiosk, you’ll need to swipe your passport and provide fingerprint verification.

After swiping, you will have to fill out an electronic customs declaration card. Once completed, you’ll receive a piece of paper telling you to either go to the baggage claim area or to see an agent at a booth.

If you’re a U.S. citizen, legal permanent resident, or Mexican National, you also get a card that allows you to enter at land and sea ports of entry, much like the Passport Card.

Note that this card cannot be used in place of your passport at airport kiosks. In addition, there don’t appear to be specific expedited lanes at any sea ports, unless they are equipped with NEXUS and SENTRI.

At these locations, this simply means you can use your Global Entry Card in lieu of your passport.

When entering the U.S. from Mexico and Canada, your membership card allows you to utilize the SENTRI and NEXUS access lanes, but unfortunately, this does not work the other way around.

Bottom Line: Use a fast and simple kiosk to enter your information and customs declarations at airports. Also, get quick access back into the country via SENTRI and NEXUS from Mexico and Canada.

What Are the Requirements and Eligibility? Restrictions?

The requirements begin with your nationality. If you are a U.S. citizen, permanent resident, or citizen of one of the other participating countries listed above, then you are eligible for the program if you meet further requirements.

Of course, providing false information on the application is grounds for ineligibility. To gain access, you have to go through a very serious background check to make sure you are a low-risk traveler. Additional requirements include:

  • Not being convicted of criminal offenses or have pending criminal charges or warrants
  • Not being found in violation of any laws on agriculture relations, immigration, or customs
  • Not being the subject of a current ongoing investigation
  • Must be admissible to the U.S. under immigration regulation
  • Must be able to prove your low-risk status to the CBP if they cannot immediately do so

Be aware that ineligibility involves things like DUIs, serious past arrests (but not ALL arrests), and other similar offenses. Anecdotally, you are “allowed” one misdemeanor before becoming ineligible.

There is no minimum age requirement for access to the program, but if you’re under 18 then you need consent of your parent or legal guardian. This person does not need to be a member themselves in order to allow your participation.

However, if you want to use the program with your family, you will each need to have your own membership (even babies).

The last step is to complete an in-person interview at one of the Global Entry Enrollment Centers (a list is provided further in this article). This is a security interview to verify your low-risk status.

Bottom Line: Those of you with a clean background will have no trouble applying for the program. There are minimal requirements outside of having a passport and completing an interview.

 

Global Entry Application: How To Apply & What You’ll Need

global entry application
The application itself consists of 15 different sections. It may take awhile to fill out, so make sure you have the information handy!

You will need to complete a questionnaire on the CBP website in order to sign up. Follow these four steps to apply:

  1. Create a Global Online Enrollment System (GOES) account (here)
  2. Complete the application in the GOES system and pay the fee
  3. Schedule your security interview (once conditionally approved) at one of the Global Entry Enrollment Centers (listed below)
  4. Bring your passport (or permanent resident card) and one other form of ID to the in-person interview, along with a printout of your GOES application conditional approval letter

You’ll need your current basic contact information to fill out the application, but you’ll also be asked for prior addresses for up to 10 years. This can be difficult if you’ve moved a lot and haven’t kept track.

Hot Tip:  Create a document where you can save all your prior addresses every time you move. It’s easy to forget your past addresses, and these can later be important for many things, including Global Entry.

You’ll also need any prior names, your place of birth, passport number, employment history, and a list of foreign countries you’ve visited. The latter can also be difficult if you’ve traveled a lot and haven’t kept track.

Unlike the process for getting a passport, to apply for Global Entry you only need to have a couple pieces of identification (one of them a passport) and be able to fill out an online application.

However, there may be additional documents necessary on a case-by-case basis, including proof of current residency.

This requirement can be met with rent bills, utility bills, and other standard service documents that prove you live where you say you do.

Bottom Line: Apply online via the GOES system, pay the fee, and schedule your in-person interview. You only need your passport and one other form of ID along with a printout of your application. Other forms may be required on case-by-case basis.

A Quick Step-by-Step Walkthrough

For the international traveler who wants to see a step-by-step of the application, you are in luck! Here is how the process works:

Step 1: Navigate to the GOES Home Page

GOES System Home Page Screen
The homepage of the GOES System. This is where you will fill out your application, track your status, and keep your information updated.

The website will look like the page below, and you will need to click the blue “Register” button at the bottom left. This will log you into a Homeland Security system where you input your information.

global entry application 2
The registration screen of the application. Once this is completed, you will be required to log back in with your registered details.

From this screen, you may also log back on if you’re already a GOES user.

global entry application 3
Once logged back in, click on “Apply for a Trusted Traveler Program” to begin your application process.

Follow all the screens to go through your application. You can expect this process to take 20 minutes if you have all the necessary information.

global entry application 4
The last step before the application is displayed is to select which Trusted Traveler Program you want to sign up for. You’ll know which one to choose! 🙂

Step 2:  Wait for your Conditional Approval Status

After you fill out your application, getting approved is basically a waiting game. There is no way to see what is going on in the background of your application, speed up the process, or contact anyone to ask for information.

Rest assured that your application is being processed!

Once you are conditionally approved, you will see this in your login area:

GOES System Conditional Approval Page Screen
Your conditional approval status will show up under the top section of the screen. It will be labeled “Conditional Approval Notification.”

Here is what the conditional approval letter will look like:

GOES Conditional Letter of Approval
The Conditional Letter of Approval you will need to print out and bring with you to your interview. You must receive this before you can schedule an interview.

Step 3:  Schedule Your In-Person Interview

Now for the difficult part: you need to schedule your interview. In your online GOES account, you will see a button labeled “Schedule Interview” on the same line that your conditional approval is on.

First, choose your closest Trusted Traveler Enrollment Center from the available list (see examples below).

GOES System Interview Scheduling Page Screen
This is the screen where you select the Enrollment Center you want to use to schedule your interview. Choose the one closest to you to see the availability. If there is no availability, choose another or check back often!

You must schedule an interview within 30 days of your conditional approval, or you risk having to reapply. However, once an interview is scheduled, you can modify it if necessary or  try to find a better time.

Once your interview is scheduled, you will see the details on this interview screen. It will give you your scheduled interview time and the location of the Enrollment Center within the airport.

GOES System Interview Scheduled Page Screen 2
Your interview details are available once you select your time. You can print these out to take with you for reference, and you can also reschedule interviews from here.

If you need to reschedule, make sure to do that through this screen! Don’t miss an interview, or you may have to reapply completely.

Use the tips below to speed up the Trusted Traveler program interview process a bit.

Step 4:  Attend Your Interview and Complete Your Application

Finally, the last step is simply to show up for your scheduled interview. Remember that you’ll need the required information (passport, permanent resident card, other government ID, proof of residence) and your printed GOES Conditional Approval Letter.

Interviews usually last about 15 minutes, during which you’ll be asked some questions (see below) and shown how to use the program.

Once you’re finished, final approval can be instantaneous, or it can come very soon after the interview.

Your final step is to activate your card once you receive it, which should take about 1-2 weeks. Visit the GOES login area and look for “Activate my Card” to complete this step.

After that, just be sure to add your Known Traveler Number to all loyalty program profiles and every flight you take!

How Long Does the Application Take?

Filling out the actual application for does not take long if you have previous addresses and other information handy. However, the long part of the process is waiting for approval and getting your security interview.

According to the GOES FAQ, application approval for this frequent traveler program can take up to 4-6 weeks.

Again, remember that you will not be able to communicate with anyone working on your application. All applications are sent directly through the GOES system, and you will not be notified by phone or email when your status changes.

Just be sure to check the system daily to see if you’ve been approved!

After conditional approval, the next step is getting an interview. Securing an interview time can take up to two months as well, and you may even have to schedule a follow-up interview.

Once you’ve scheduled your interview, you do not need to reconfirm. If you end up getting an alternate time, be sure to reschedule or notify the Enrollment Center officer that you have a different interview time scheduled.

The interview itself shouldn’t take long either, and is usually under 30 minutes depending on your individual situation.

Bottom Line: Overall, the process averages between 2 and 6 months. Once approved, you have access to the program for five years.

global entry Security Interview
Security interviews can take several months to get, and will take about 30 minutes to complete for most people. Then, your Global Entry status is good for five years.

Locations and Kiosks

There are 59 known airports with Global Entry kiosks. The following table lists all current locations:

Global Entry Locations & Kiosks
Abu Dhabi International Airport (AUH)*Boston-Logan International Airport (BOS)Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD)
Anchorage – Ted Stevens International Airport (ANC)Burlington International Airport (BTV)*Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG)
Aruba – Queen Beatrix International Airport (AUA)*Calgary International Airport (YYC)Cleveland Hopkins International Airport (CLE)
Austin – Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS)Charlotte-Douglas International Airport (CLT)Dallas/Ft. Worth International Airport (DFW)
Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI)Chicago Midway International Airport (MDW)*Denver International Airport (DEN)
George Bush Intercontinental Airport, Houston (IAH)John F. Kennedy International Airport, New York (JFK)Seattle-Tacoma International Airport-SeaTac (SEA)
Guam International Airport (GUM)John Wayne Airport (SNA)*Miami International Airport (MIA)
Halifax Stanfield International Airport (YHZ)Lambert – St. Louis International Airport (STL)*Milwaukee – General Mitchell International Airport (MKE)
Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL)Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport (MSP)
Honolulu International Airport (HNL)McCarran International Airport, Las Vegas (LAS)Montreal Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport (YUL)
Washington-Dulles International Airport (IAD)Shannon Airport (SNN)*San Francisco International Airport (SFO)
Winnipeg James Armstrong Richardson International Airport (YWG)Tampa International Airport (TPA)San Jose International Airport (SJC)*
Vancouver International Airport (YVR)Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ)San Juan-Luis Muñoz Marin International Airport (SJU)
Ottawa Macdonald-Cartier International Airport (YOW)Detroit Metropolitan Airport (DTW)Oakland International Airport (OAK)*
Philadelphia International Airport (PHL)Dublin Airport (DUB)*Orlando International Airport (MCO)
Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX)Edmonton International Airport (YEG)Orlando-Sanford International Airport (SFB)
Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT)Fairbanks International Airport (FAI)Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC)
Portland International Airport (PDX)Ft. Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport (FLL)San Antonio International Airport (SAT)
Raleigh-Durham International Airport (RDU)*Nassau – Sir Lynden Pindling International Airport, Bahamas (NAS)*San Diego International Airport (SAN)*
Saipan International Airport (SPN)*Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR)

* List of GE locations taken from CBP website

Which Airports Have Customs and Border Patrol Security Offices?

Before you apply, you should find out if there is an interview location near you. You may also be interested in what other cities are available, in case you are planning a trip and want to complete your interview while away from home.

If you’re not sure where the actual office is located inside the airport, simply ask any security personnel to point you in the right direction.

The following airports have CBP security offices that conduct the interviews (listed by 3 digit code):

Airports with Global Entry Enrollment Center Offices
ANCAUSBWIBOSYYCCLTORD
CVGCLEDFWDENDTWYEGFAI
FLLIAHGUMYHZATLHNLJFK
LASMIAMKEMSPYULEWRMCO
SFBYOWPHLPHXPITPDXSLC
SATSFOSJUSEATPAYYZYVR
IADYWG

* Data taken from cbp.gov

Other Office Locations: Outside the Airport

You may be able to get an interview at a location outside of the airports above. Contact CBP for more info.

Tips For Speeding Up Scheduling Your Global Entry Interview

You don’t have to just wait for your interview time. Be proactive and you will might an interview time much quicker!

Many people report unreasonable wait times for these interviews. This is a popular program, and the CBP only have so many staff to help accommodate all the applications.

However, there are ways you can speed up the process as long as you are flexible. Unfortunately for CBP, many people don’t show up for their interviews due to travel or other reasons.

These forfeited spots are prime times you can snatch up to get your interview! Be sure to check the GOES system often to see what interview slots open up, and be ready to run to the airport for your interview.

Here are some in-person interview tips for speeding up your time:

  1. Check the interview appoint page as frequently as every 30 minutes. Changes are always happening; the more effort you put in, the quicker you will get your appointment. Keep the page open and refresh it periodically.
  2. Try a walk-in appointment! No matter where you are, as long as you have your interview scheduled at any location, you can always try a walk-in appointment in case they had a cancellation. This doesn’t always work, but it’s worth a try!
  3. Schedule your interview for a city you are traveling to. This is a great way to take care of business while traveling.
  4. Note that interviews are only available during normal business hours! The CPB is a government organization, so you won’t find weekend appointments. Don’t try to do a walk in on a Saturday.

Bottom Line:  Stay proactive in getting an appointment, and one will almost undoubtedly open up much sooner than your originally scheduled time.

The Interview: What Should I Expect?

Typically, interviews will not last longer than about 15 minutes.

Remember to bring all your necessary documents: you will need your printed conditional approval letter, valid passport, evidence of your residence (rent bills, utility bills, or other similar information), and a second valid U.S. government-issued ID (most people use their driver’s license).

Make sure to arrive at least 15 minutes early. Interviewers may be running ahead of schedule, and you might get in and out more quickly. Alternatively, if you miss your time, you will probably have to reschedule completely.

According to most reports, the CBP officers are friendly and will ask you questions about your past and upcoming travels. They may ask you why you want the membership.

Most people want membership to the program to make travel quicker and less stressful, and this is a completely acceptable answer for the interview question.

Just be up front and honest, since they will likely know everything about you, including any arrests or potentially risky behavior from your past. Be candid with them and discuss why you are no longer a risk.

If you were conditionally approved, there is really no reason to be nervous, since you are probably no longer a threat and will likely be approved. They have already done your background check, and would have completely denied your application if they really wanted to.

The last thing you will have to do at the interview is give your fingerprints, so don’t be shocked when they ask for this. Once your fingerprints are on file, you can use the kiosks to speed up your customs entry process.

You may be approved on the spot at the end of your interview, or it may take some time. In any case, you’ll get your card within a couple of weeks, and you should already have your Known Traveler Number from the GOES system from your conditional approval.

At the end of your interview, you get a training session on how to use the Global Entry kiosk! This includes showing you how to scan your machine-readable passport and fingerprints on both hands, as well as filling out the customs form.

Additional In-Person Interview Tips:

  • Bring more information than you need. If they end up asking for more, it’s always better to have it than not. Just put everything in a manila envelope and give them what you need!
  • Know your travel history, since they’ll ask to confirm past trips. If you don’t recall a trip off the top of your head, at least discuss that with the interviewer.
  • They’ll make you watch a short video explaining the rules.
  • They’re going to take your picture, so come looking your best if that matters to you.
  • Once approved, your card will arrive in a couple weeks with a protective sleeve to help prevent electronic theft.
  • Don’t forget to activate your membership card as the very last step!! Visit the GOES home page, click “Activate Membership Card” and follow the prompts.

Bottom Line:  Know your past, be honest, and know what information is on your application. It should only take about 15 minutes, and then you’ll be done!

How To Use Global Entry at the Airport

After you’re all set up, using the program is easy. Simply walk up to the kiosks at the airport when you arrive from your flight. Scan your fingerprints and your passport, answer the on-screen questions, and pose for your photo.

You won’t need your actual card to get through the airport kiosks; just make sure to wait for your printout to finish the process.

These printouts are necessary at the next checkpoint in order to complete your entry, so don’t forget them! You will have to hand them to a CBP officer before exiting.

Remember that skipping the customs line doesn’t mean your bags will be waiting for you right away, but at least you’ll get a front-line spot! Bonus if you don’t have any checked bags.

Once you have collected your bags and are ready to exit, you’ll have to go through the last checkpoint where you’ll need your printout. Here, too, you’ll see priority lines for Global Entry members.

Hot Tip: If you ever get an “X” on your receipt printout, take it to the nearest Passport Control Officer to get approval before moving on.

Getting Your TSA PreCheck

One of the best benefits of being a member is the fact that you will get access to TSA known traveler program, called “PreCheck“, as well, which expedites your security line access.

The PreCheck benefit is approved on a trip-by-trip basis if you don’t have an actual PreCheck membership, and probably even if you do. Providing your Known Traveler Number on your travel ticket will put you into their database to approve or disapprove PreCheck.

To get TSA PreCheck, you have to be flying on an airline that participates in the program. While there are many airlines included (they recently expanded to 30 in 2017), not all of them are:

TSA PreCheck Airlines
AeromexicoEmirates AirwaysSouthern Airways Express
Air CanadaEtihad AirwaysSouthwest Airlines
Alaska AirlinesFrontier AirlinesSpirit Airlines
Allegiant AirHawaiian AirlinesSun Country Airlines
American AirlinesJetBlue AirwaysSunwing Airlines
Aruba AirlinesKey Lime AirUnited Airlines
AviancaLufthansaVirgin America
Boutique AirlinesMiami Air InternationalVirgin Atlantic
Cape AirOneJetWestJet
Delta Air LinesSeaborne AirlinesXtra Airways

Hot Tip: You don’t need to remove shoes, laptops, liquids, belts or light jackets when going through TSA PreCheck! For more questions, check out the TSA FAQ.

Renewing Your Membership

What happens after your 5 years is up? At this point, you’ll have to renew your membership. Renewing is not too difficult, and you can begin the process about six months before your membership expires.

First, log into the GOES system (operated by Homeland Security), find the “Manage Membership” page, and select to renew your membership. When doing so, you’ll have to pay another $100 fee and update any information about yourself as applicable.

An updated security interview may or may not be required, and this will be determined upon your renewal. Check back in to your GOES account to see if there are any updates on what is required for your renewal.

Bottom Line: Renewal is similar to signing up: do it online and pay the fee. You may have to do a follow-up interview.

Program Caveats

For those with any criminal background or marred history, it is likely not worth your time signing up. Even small glitches can disqualify you from participating in the program, which will cost you the nonrefundable $100 fee.

Trusted Traveler Program Comparison

trusted traveler program comparison
Each trusted traveler program has its own merits and differences. Although we feel that Global Entry is a great choice, your situation might lend to one of the others! – Image from dhs.gov.

Which is the most trusted traveler program? You’ll have to decide for yourself. Each has its own pluses and minuses and it will depend on what type of traveling you are doing.

Global Entry Versus NEXUS

NEXUS is the border protection program between the USA and Canada, and having Global Entry allows you some of the benefits of NEXUS members.

To use the shared benefits of NEXUS, remember your Global Entry card is only good for entry back into the U.S. You’ll need to have a separate NEXUS membership to be able to skip these entry points on the way out of the country as well.

If you do have a full NEXUS membership, however, you get quick access both in and out of Canada in addition to full benefits of Global Entry (including TSA PreCheck).

This is an excellent deal, especially considering it only costs $50 for five years. The main caveat here is that all NEXUS enrollment centers are located in certain northern U.S. cities.

Global Entry Versus SENTRI

SENTRI is the USA and Mexico border protection program. Similarly to NEXUS, to use the shared SENTRI benefits of border crossing back into the U.S. you must have your Global Entry card.

To gain access to the SENTRI lane into Mexico you have to have a full SENTRI membership. Visit a local SENTRI enrollment center to apply (located in Arizona, California, and Texas).

Global Entry Versus TSA PreCheck Program

TSA PreCheck is the U.S. Transportation and Security Administration’s priority security access lane at the airport. Having a TSA PreCheck membership allows you access, but you do not get Global Entry membership for having PreCheck.

TSA PreCheck program enrollment can be done here. Enrollment is similar: fill out the PreCheck application, go through the interview process, and soon you’ll be on your way!

24 Quick Tips for Candidates

Obtaining membership can be a nerve-racking process with all the background checks and unknowns. This list should help you understand the process better!

Here are some tips we’ve collected through our own experience with the program and other research on the subject.

If you have any additional tips, please let us know!

Tip #1:  Be nice and courteous to the CBP officers!

While they are government employees dealing with security and may appear intimidating, they are still people like us who appreciate common courtesy and respect.

Refer to them as “Officer” and treat them like you would any other official. Remember that they aren’t personally trying to make your life difficult and they didn’t personally make the interviews difficult to get!

Tip #2:  While it can take many months to get an interview, staying on top of the process by proactively seeking an interview date can speed things up greatly.

Tip #3:  Make sure your frequent flyer or loyalty program profile name matches your name in Global Entry, or you will not be approved for PreCheck!

Tip #4:  Having trouble scheduling an interview? Try looking for times at another local airport (see the list above) or traveling to a place with an interview office!

Tip #5:  Forgot to add your Known Traveler Number to your itinerary? You can always add it afterward by calling the carrier or adding it online. This also applies if you book through an agency that doesn’t accept KTN’s.

Tip #6:  If you want to bring your kids or other people with you through the priority kiosk, each of them will have to have their own membership.

In contrast, children 12 and under can go with you through TSA PreCheck even if they don’t have individual access.

Tip #7:  In rare cases, the kiosks may not be able to read your fingerprints. If fingerprint verification fails, you can still get priority access through the normal line.

Tip #8:  Don’t worry about filling out the customs form given to you on the flight if the airport has Global Entry; you will fill this out electronically at your kiosk.

Tip #9:  Even with membership, at times when you may be randomly selected for an interview and bag check. This is normal and just a process of trying to ensure security. Suck it up, cooperate, and you’ll be out quickly!

Tip #10:  When you get a new passport (whether through renewal or otherwise), you will need to update your information. You can update it via GOES. This also includes your driver’s license and any other applicable personal details.

However, you will need to visit a CBP office to update your profile if you have a name or status change on your passport. In this case, it will cost $25 to get a new card

There is conflicting information about whether your membership expires when your passport expires (even from officers), but most people report that once they updated their profiles with the new passport they were fine.

Tip #11:  Membership cards count as a form of government-issued ID. Keep this in mind for cases where you may need multiple forms of ID!

Tip #12:  You have to input your KTN on all your travel info in order to use the program! If you don’t, you won’t be in the system for that trip. If you forgot, you can always add it before your trip. This is especially important in order to ensure you can get TSA PreCheck!

Tip #13:  Check with your airline to ensure you are opted-in to the TSA PreCheck program with them before you fly.

Tip #14:  You only need your physical membership card when traveling by land (car or train) or sea.

Tip #15:  Unfortunately, the fee doesn’t appear to show up as a travel-related purchase if you’re using a Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card.

Tip #16:  “Reimburse” can be misleading: you first must pay for the program yourself on your card, and then the card will issue a credit for the same amount once approved.

Tip #17:  Don’t become complacent when answering the questions at the kiosk! If you answer no to everything all the time, you may look suspicious. Don’t lie, because if you are caught you will be kicked out and subject to any other applicable penalties.

Tip #18:  Maximize usage by planning your travels around the airports that have kiosks!

Tip #19:  Always check your ticket to see if you’re approved for TSA PreCheck. It is not guaranteed for every trip, and you will see your status there. This will save you from getting into the wrong security line, since they can’t and won’t let you through if you don’t have it for that particular trip.

Tip #20:  Lost or stolen card? You can order a replacement online via the GOES system. You may be required to do another interview and pay $25 for a new card.

Tip #21:  Application denied? You may be able to reapply; contact the nearest Trusted Traveler Enrollment Center or write a letter.

Tip #22:  Here are some common other questions about the program.

Tip #23: The busy type? You can always have a third party do all the application and processing for you! You just need to show up for the interview.

Tip #24 [from reader BC]: Make sure your name on your passport matches the name on the application exactlyproblems have occurred with some people who don’t match. If you have a first, middle, and last name on your passport, include those on your application.

Final Thoughts

Those who travel a lot and don’t mind doing a little work up front will find the program a refreshing way to skip lines that may be irksome after long travel.

With multiple ways to get your credit paid for and a moderate fee at $100 for five years,  you get a useful travel tool that doesn’t break the bank.

Adding in the value of TSA PreCheck along with the NEXUS and SENTRI Trusted Traveler Programs will make your travels just a bit more enjoyable!

Ready to Renew Your Passport? Find Out How! >>

Photo Credits / Credit/Copyright Attribution:
Airport Line Featured Image: Tooykrub/Shutterstock.com
Luggage Carousel in Airport: Brian A Jackson/Shutterstock
Woman Interviewing Woman: Anton Gvozdikov/Shutterstock
Man Rushing Up Stairs: bizvector/Shutterstock
Quick Tips Notepad: eenevski/Shutterstock

The Platinum Card® from American Express

The Platinum Card® from American Express

FAQ

Which countries offer Global Entry?
If you are traveling to the following countries, the CBP has arranged partnerships to help you with travel. The following information applies to U.S. Citizens:

Australia: As a U.S. Citizen, you can use SmartGate in Australia to self-process through the customs area. You just need to be older than 16 and have your passport.

Canada: As a member, you can get quick access back into the U.S. from Canada by using the NEXUS lanes.

Germany: You can utilize the German EasyPASS by signing up at any airport that utilizes the EasyPASS system.

Mexico: After becoming a member, you can sign up for Viajero Confiable here.

Netherlands: You can become a FLUX member if you are a Global Entry member, which is the Netherlands fast entry customs program.

New Zealand: You get a dedicated line in the Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch airports if you are a member. No additional membership or processing is needed, but you do have to go through the standard customs processes.

Republic of Korea: You can use South Korea’s Smart Entry Service (SES) to go through Korean customs quicker. Once you’re a GE member, you must apply to be an SES Member here.

United Kingdom: You can apply for the UK Registered Traveller program if you are a frequent traveler to the UK (>4 trips per year). You must pay 70 pounds to apply.

What types of U.S. Visas are eligible for Global Entry?
A full list of eligible visa classifications is available in the FAQ section of the CBP website.

Where is my Global Entry number?
Also known as a Trusted Traveler, Known Traveler Number, or PASS ID, you can find your membership number inside your Global Online Enrollment System (GOES) Account or on your GE Card if you have one.

What are the other Trusted Traveler programs available?
There are four official Trusted Traveler programs: Global Entry (GE), NEXUS, SENTRI, and FAST. The GE Program is designed for international air travel, NEXUS is for U.S./Canada travel, SENTRI is for U.S./Mexico travel, and FAST is designed for commercial trucking across North America.

Where are the Global Entry kiosks and which airports are part of the program?
Kiosks are located in approximately 59 airports around the globe. The full list can be found here. These kiosks are only located in the international terminals where you would normally go through customs.

GE does not itself provide you access through any other airport lines, nor does it grant you any type of airline status.

Instead, it enrolls you to be eligible for TSA PreCheck, which grants you priority security access that is approved conditionally for each trip.

What is the Global Entry login site?
Access your account from the GOES System.

Where are the interviews held?
Find a Global Entry Enrollment Center near you to get your interview set up. Finding an open slot can take up to a couple of months.

What is a Global Entry card?
The physical card is only given to U.S. Citizens, permanent residents, or Mexican Nationals. It is a card that can be used for easy access into the U.S. from the Mexican or Canadian border or at sea ports of entry, and comes at no additional fee.

The card can be used instead of your passport at sea or land entry points, but your passport will be needed for all other points of entry including airport kiosks.

Does Global Entry give me TSA PreCheck access?
As a member of the program, when you book travel you can provide your Known Traveler number to be considered for the TSA PreCheck status at the time of your trip.

This does not guarantee usage of the PreCheck lane, but it does greatly increase your chances. To gain guaranteed access, you must apply for the TSA PreCheck program.

What is the Global Entry interview like?
During your interview, they may ask questions about the information on your application, go over your travel history, and/or ask questions about any upcoming trips (which they will know about).

Each interview differs by person and may be affected by your background history.

What is the Global Entry fee?
The application fee is $100, and must be paid each time you renew your application. Each application is good for 5 years.

Certain cards, such as The Platinum Card® from American Express, offer credits for this fee. This makes applying much more palatable!

Why use Global Entry and what does it do?
This is a program that allows you to bypass the customs lines in certain U.S. and international airports so that you do not have to wait in the typical processing lines, potentially saving you  time.

How long does the application process take?
The entire process can take anywhere from 2-6 months, depending on the current backlog of applications and interviewers.

The application itself takes only 20-30 minutes, but the conditional approval of the application can take 4-6 weeks, and booking the interview can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months.