Global Entry is a wonderful resource for those of you who enjoy travel overseas and the program can also benefit domestic travelers as well! I had no idea what Global Entry was prior to April and I wish I could have utilized it for all of my previous trips. It can save you time, frustration, and can get you where you need to go a helluva lot faster.
So, What is Global Entry?
Global Entry is the name of a program created by the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol that allows low-risk, frequent travelers to be processed through customers quickly. You know those blue forms you have to fill out on the plane when you are coming back to the US? Yup, it allows you to bypass those (and the lines that come with it). One of the additional benefits (and the one you may use more often), is that it also qualifies you for TSA Pre Check. That programs allows you to avoid the removal of:
- light jackets
- your 3-1-1 bag
- AND your laptop from it’s case
Yes, you read that right. You can keep all that stuff on and don’t have to awkwardly remove your laptop from your carry on bag. I’ll let you know how to use the TSA Pre Check benefit in just a bit, but let’s get going on how to apply for Global Entry.
Applying for Global Entry
There are a few criteria you need to meet in order to apply for Global Entry. You have to be a U.S citizen or permanent resident (Dutch and South Korean citizens, as well as Mexican nationals are also eligible) Per the Global Entry website you may not be eligible if any of the following are true:
- Provide false or incomplete information on the application;
- Have been convicted of any criminal offense or have pending criminal charges or outstanding warrants;
- Have been found in violation of any customs, immigration or agriculture regulations or laws in any country;
- Are subjects of an ongoing investigation by any federal, state or local law enforcement agency;
- Are inadmissible to the United States under immigration regulation, including applicants with approved waivers of inadmissibility or parole documentation;
- Cannot satisfy CBP of their low-risk status (e.g. CBP has intelligence that indicates that the applicant is not low risk; CBP cannot determine an applicant’s criminal, residence or employment history)
Pretty standard stuff. I have read that if you are denied for some small reason (perhaps you were pick up after a drunken night in Vegas once and released the next day, or false claims were made that were later cleared up, that you MAY be able to appeal).
Part 1: Application
The application fee is $100 per person and the clearance is good for 5 years. Heck, we spend more in Peet’s Coffee every year so if you are a traveler, this is a no brainer. Note: Have a pretty good sense that you will be approved, because you aren’t getting that $100 back if you are denied. The application for this is fairly detailed. You need to provide the following information:
- Birth date and location
- Driver’s licence number and details
- passport number and details
- your addresses for the last 5 years
- work history for the last 5 years
- all the countries you have visited in the last 5 years
- details of any criminal convictions or immigration law violations
Each person you travel with needs their own application. This is a pain but understandable. So if you travel with a partner, spouse, or even children you each need your own application. After you are conditionally approved, you will go on to step 2 which is the Interview Process.
Part 2: Interview
You’ll receive an email letting you know when your application has been “conditionally approved”. After that you will need to log back into their system (called G.O.E.S) and schedule your interview. again, EACH APPLICANT NEEDS THEIR OWN INTERVIEW (as well as the previous application) This was the most painful part of the process. I say this because you schedule interviews at the airports where Global Entry offices are available. We had to schedule at the San Francisco (SFO) office and they are are booked out for MONTHS. When I scheduled our interviews in April I saw that the office was booked for the next three months. But don’t fear. Not all is lost. If you are able to schedule at an airport that is less busy (maybe on a business trip you already have planned), I’d definitely do so. But if that’s not possible (and it wasn’t for us), book the earliest appointment that the system will give you. And stalk that damn Global Entry appointment site religiously. Seriously. It’s not pretty, but if you have a trip coming up soon you’ll want to do this. The reason is that people cancel their appointments all the time. If you log back in a few times a day you will find times where earlier appointment are available. And the system will list the earliest available appointment automatically so there is no need to search. If it is a time that fits, grab it. Don’t wait. I thought about one for 10 minutes and when I logged back in, it was gone. If the time doesn’t work for you, keep logging back in until you find one that does. You have to be diligent but the frustration will pay off and you will soon have an interview that works for your schedule. I have heard that at some Global Entry Offices travelers will just show up and wait for a no-show in the hopes that they can take that interview time. This is hit or miss. I called the SFO office about that and the officer told me that sometimes people wait for hours and if you wait there is no guarantee that you will get an interview. So it’s up to you. The interview itself is relatively painless. If you are going to SFO, take BART (why oh why would you drive??). Once you exit the Bart area and enter the airport make a right at the information desk like you are heading to the check in desks and go down the escalators that are right there on the right. Go down one flight. The Global Entry Office is a little room as you get off. It’s so easy! Go in, put your name down and then wait outside to be called. It didn’t take long and my interview took all of 20 minutes. They’ll review your application, ask you questions and will make sure everything is on the up and up. Don’t lie. It’s basically a full on background screening and they already know the answers to everything they are asking you. Once you are approved, that’s it!
Part 3: Using Global Entry (and Pre Check!)
You can use the Global Entry system immediately. There is no need to wait for the little card they send out. You only need your passport to utilize the system. I mentioned before that the TSA Pre Check is an added benefit to this program. You can apply for it separately if you want (there is an $85 application fee) but if you travel outside the U.S I think Global Entry is a better investment because you get two programs for the price of one. When you are approved for Global Entry you are issued a Known Traveler Number. You can use this number in a variety of programs. Per TSA’s website
TSA Pre✓™ application program members, participants in a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Trusted Traveler program* (Global Entry, NEXUS, SENTRI) and other individuals who have been provided a Known Traveler Number (KTN) are eligible to participate in TSA Pre✓™.
Anytime you book a flight, enter your Known Traveler Number (KTN) to become eligible for TSA Pre Check. There is usually a field in the booking path, or somewhere on your reservation that allows you to enter in this number. At this time you can only use TSA Pre Check on certain DOMESTIC carriers. Currently, eligible airlines are Air Canada, Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Southwest Airlines, Sun Country Airlines, United Airlines, US Airways and Virgin America. (For our recent trip to Scotland we flew Virgin Atlantic which does not participate in the program). There has been talk of TSA rolling out this program to other airlines so it doesn’t hurt to check. We went straight to the Global Entry kiosk at SFO after our flight from London and it was a life saver! No one was in the line and we got through customs in about 2 min while about 300+ other passengers lined up. It was awesome! So there you have it! I hope that this has been helpful and given you some insight into the benefits of the Global Entry and TSA Pre Check programs! Both programs can save you a ton of time by avoiding long customs line, breezing by the airport security line and are well worth the $100 fee.