If you've returned from an international trip recently, you probably remember your US immigration and customs experience. You are required to go through both upon arrival in the United States from any international destination, except those that offer pre-clearance: Canada, Ireland, Bahamas, USVI and Abu Dhabi.
Lines at US immigration facilities can be long, especially during rush-hour and over the holidays. That's exactly where Global Entry comes into play.
Global Entry helps you quickly speed through immigration and customs via an automatic kiosk and fast-track lane.
Global Entry is a US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) program that allows expedited clearance for pre-approved travelers upon arrival in the USA.
At airports, Global Entry members proceed to designated kiosks, present their machine-readable passport or U.S. permanent resident card, place their fingerprints on the scanner for fingerprint verification and complete a digital customs declaration. The kiosk then issues a transaction receipt and directs you to baggage claim and the exit.
I cannot tell you how many hours Global Entry has saved me when returning home. I am often able to land, get off the plane and get through customs in under 15 minutes. It has even helped me make tight connections that I never would have made without expedited clearance.
You might think that Global Entry is only for those that travel for business, but that is not the case. Global Entry is accessible to anyone willing to go through the application process, background check, and in-person interview. Enrollment however, requires that you pass all three steps.
Friends have asked me if Global Entry is worth it for those that only take 1-2 trips per year. My response is always yes. Here's why:
✅Global Entry membership lasts for 5 years
✅Global Entry members also receive free TSA Pre-Check enrollment ($85 savings)
However, the one caveat that I'll note is that you need everyone in your party to have Global Entry to truly benefit from the program. It is no fun to breeze through customs and immigration, only to be left waiting outside for the rest of your group to come through.
Unlike TSA Pre-Check, Global Entry is not randomly assigned to passengers.
Admission into the Global Entry Program requires an application, background check, and in-person interview. The entire process from start-to-finish can take up to a month to complete. The hardest part, in my opinion, is finding a convenient time to do the in-person interview.
The interview step requires you to visit a Global Entry enrollment center and speak with a CBP agent for 10-15 minutes. The centers are located at major international airports and select non-airport locales and interviews must be scheduled in advance via the Global Entry application website.
Yes! This is a huge selling point, yet one that is not widely advertised. Once you are a Global Entry member, you also receive free TSA Pre-Check status for five years ($85 savings).
This is the main reason why I suggest you apply Global Entry, even if you only plan to travel internationally a handful of times during the next five-years.
Once you are admitted into the program, you will have access to Global Entry kiosks for five years. The renewal process is much faster, and often only requires you to update your profile online. Some people may be required to re-interview, but that is determined on a case-by-case basis.
Global Entry costs $100 to join and payment is required at the time of application. There are several ways to get this waived, which I will detail in the next section. One important thing to note is the $100 fee is non-refundable, even if your application is denied.
Several major travel credit cards now offer a Global Entry application credit to cardholders. These include the American Express Platinum and Chase Sapphire Reserve cards. Check with your existing credit card(s) to see if you are already covered. This a great perk and is how I obtained Global Entry Membership for free.
If you have two credit cards with Global Entry benefits, I discovered that you can pay for someone else's application with your card. This is helpful if you want to get someone else setup and enrolled in Global Entry/TSA Pre-Check for free. It is the perfect gift for your sibling, friend, or parent. Just remember that these card benefits are only applicable once every five years.
Getting started is easy and you can complete the entire application online. Here is the direct link to the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) site. Make sure you select Global Entry when starting your application.
Running into any issues? Have additional questions? Send me a note — email@example.com — and I'll happily help you out.