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Thinking About Global Entry? Here’s What You Need to Know

You know that feeling. You just arrived back home after a longhaul flight and can’t wait to get home and take a shower. As you turn the corner for customs, you have your passport ready to go, but see a long line ahead. You won’t be ordering that Uber home for a while. If that sounds familiar, you might consider applying for Global Entry. It’s the ultimate travel hack.

Global Entry is a US Customs and Border program that allows travelers to skip the line when they arrive in the US. But even if you don’t travel internationally often, it’s worth considering. Because Global Entry participants go through the Trusted Traveler Program, they are also eligible for TSA Precheck, with no extra application or process. Passengers with TSA Precheck get shorter security lines at the airport and don’t have to remove their shoes or unpack bags. So with Global Entry, you can reduce the time and headaches involved with traveling domestically or overseas. To get started, here is everything you should know about Global Entry.

How Global Entry Works

Once you arrive at US customs, you can head to a Global Entry electronic kiosk next to the custom agent desks. There, you scan your passport, give your fingerprints, and answer the typical custom-form questions. You’ll get a paper receipt and then head to baggage claim. If you have something to declare, you’ll still have to go through that process. And there is a chance you’ll be marked for extra screening, of course. You can see the list of eligible airports here — there a ton. If the airport does not have Global Entry, you’ll have to wait in line with everyone else. But if kiosks are out of service, you can cut the line.

Courtesy Unsplash // Briana Tozour

It Costs $100, But You Can Get it For Free

The Global Entry application cost $100, which is a good deal considering it also includes TSA Precheck. But what’s an even better deal? $0. Many travel-oriented credit cards offer to reimburse the fee for Global Entry, including the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card and the United Explorer Card. Check your perks or consider signing up for a new card before you apply.

Global Entry Includes TSA Precheck

If you’re considering TSA Precheck, you might as well go all in for Global Entry. TSA Precheck costs about the same ($85) and requires a background check and interview, so with Global Entry you get the added benefit of customs priority for about the same time and money.

In order to get TSA Precheck you simply enter your Global Entry number into the “Known Traveler Number” field when you book a ticket. You can also add it to your frequent flyer profile for each airline, so you’re sure not to forget. TSA Precheck can be given on a flight-by-flight basis, so be sure to check your boarding pass to make sure you got it each time. Although, it’s rare for you not to if you have Global Entry and entered everything correctly.

The Application Process Is Straightforward

The first step is signing up for a Trusted Traveler Program (TPP) account. There you complete the application and pay the fee. Your application is then reviewed and hopefully conditionally approved. When you log on to your TTP account you’ll be instructed to schedule an in-person interview at the airport. Since it can take a few months to get an interview, you also have the option of doing the interview and enrollment upon arrival after an international flight.

You Have to Submit to a Background Check and In-Person Interview

The government will complete a background check as part of the process. They’ll look for disqualifying circumstances, like a criminal conviction (including driving under the influence), pending criminal charges or investigations, or outstanding warrants. If you’ve violated any immigrations, customs, or agriculture rules, you are not eligible, either.

Assuming you pass the background check, you’ll move to the in-person interview typically done at the airport. There, you must bring your passport, proof of residence like a driver’s license, Green Card (if applicable), and the letter of conditional approval. You may be asked questions about past international travel and your motivation for joining Global Entry. After that, you’ll give your fingerprints and get your photo taken. You’ll get final approval in about a month.

You’ll Get a Global Entry Card, But You Won’t Have to Use It

That picture you took at your interview? It will show up on your Global Entry card, which is the size of a driver’s license. But don’t worry about taking it with you each time you travel. To go through the kiosks in the US, you just need your passport. If you are traveling in Canada and Mexico, you can use your card to go through customs points there to expedite your entry when you get back to the US.

Courtesy of Unplash // Benjamin Voros

If You Have Kids, They Need It Too

Everyone who goes through a Global Entry kiosk needs a Global Entry membership. That includes babies and children. So if you have it and then have a child, you’re going to have to fill out an application and bring them to an in-person interview. The good news? You won’t have to do anything for TSA Precheck, which extends to children 12 and under.

You Don’t Have to Be a US Citizen

If you’re a US citizen, permanent resident, or citizen of specific countries you are eligible to apply. These countries include Canada, Mexico, Argentina, India, Colombia, the United Kingdom, Germany, Panama, Singapore, South Korea, Switzerland, and Taiwan.

It Last for a While

After you get approved, Global Entry last five years from your next birthday. For that reason, it makes sense to schedule your interview for shorty after your birthday, so you get almost an extra year. You will be given the exact expiration date, if that’s confusing!

Once you apply for renewal, you might not need to go back in for another interview. You definitely will need to pay the $100 fee, though. But by then, you’ll, know it’s worth every penny.