We both have Global Entry and love it. Global Entry has shortened our time at US passport control and has also made us eligible for TSA PreCheck. We would recommend Global Entry for anyone that travels internationally – even a couple of times a year.
What is Global Entry?
Global Entry allows travelers to enter the US more quickly. Instead of waiting in a long line to see a border control agent, you answer a few questions at a kiosk, scan your fingerprints, show your receipt to an agent and exit the passport control area.
Here is the description of the Global Entry program according to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website:
“Global Entry is a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) program that allows expedited clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travelers upon arrival in the United States. Members enter the United States through automatic kiosks at select airports.
At airports, program members proceed to Global Entry kiosks, present their machine-readable passport or U.S. permanent resident card, place their fingerprints on the scanner for fingerprint verification and complete a customs declaration. The kiosk issues the traveler a transaction receipt and directs the traveler to baggage claim and the exit.
Travelers must be pre-approved for the Global Entry program. All applicants undergo a rigorous background check and in-person interview before enrollment.”
Global Entry Includes TSA Pre-Check
Although TSA Pre-Check is completely different than Global Entry, one of the benefits of obtaining Global Entry is being able to qualify for TSA Pre-Check on domestic and international flights.
If you qualify for TSA Pre-Check on a flight, you are allowed to go through security without removing your shoes, belt, light outerwear, laptop and bag with liquids. There is often a separate TSA Pre-Check line that is usually faster. You will know if you are eligible for TSA Pre-Check as it will be printed on your boarding pass near your name. Please note: TSA Pre✓ is only available when flying on certain airlines – the current list of airlines can be found on the TSA’s website.
There are several ways to get TSA Pre-Check, including through Global Entry. The application fee for TSA Precheck is $85 but for $15 more you can get Global Entry which also includes TSA Pre-Check. (See also related post TSA Precheck vs. Global Entry: Which Is Best For You?)
Cost of Global Entry and Eligibility
The cost of Global Entry is a $100 non-refundable application fee (the fee is non-refundable even if your application is denied). Global Entry is valid for 5 years. After 5 years you will have to reapply and pay another $100 application fee. (Tip: There are a couple of ways to get Global Entry for free if you have certain credit cards or elite status – see related post: How to Get TSA PreCheck or Global Entry For Free).
U.S. citizens, U.S. lawful permanent residents and citizens of a few other countries (citizens of United Kingdom, Germany, Netherlands, Panama, South Korea and Mexican nationals) are eligible for Global Entry membership. Canadian citizens and residents are eligible for Global Entry benefits through membership in the NEXUS program. Here is a link to the current Global Entry eligibility requirements.
Global Entry Application Process
There are 2 steps to the Global Entry application process:
1) Complete an application online, and
2) Complete an in person interview with a U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer at an enrollment center
In order to apply for Global Entry, the first step is to register with GOES – the Official U.S. Government Web Site and complete an application online. You will have to pay the $100 Global Entry application fee at this time.
Following is the list of questions asked in the online application for Global Entry:
- Personal information (name, email address, gender, eye color, height, language preference)
- Other names used
- Date and place of birth
- Contact information (home, mobile and work phone number)
- Citizenship information (passport number, date of issue and expiration date)
- Driver’s license (number and expiration date)
- Current address
- Address history (other addresses in past five years)
- Current employment status (employer name, employment period, occupation, street address of employer and phone)
- Employment history (other employers in past five years)
- Travel history (list any countries other than the US, Canada and Mexico traveled to within the past 5 years)
- Additional information:
Have you ever been convicted of a criminal offense in the United States or any other country?
Have you ever received a waiver of inadmissibility to the U.S. from a U.S. government agency?
Have you ever been found in violation of customs laws?
Have you ever been found in violation of immigration laws?
Scheduling the Global Entry Interview
Once your application is reviewed and conditionally approved, you will received an email stating there is a message in your GOES account. ( It took about 2-3 weeks for Patti’s application to be reviewed but Matilda’s took only about a week.) The message instructs you to schedule an interview at one of the Global Entry Enrollment Centers within 30 days. After logging in, we were able to print off a letter with the conditional approval and schedule an appointment for an interview online.
Interviews are available at various enrollment centers at major airports and borders. Availability for interviews varies by enrollment center-Chicago O’Hare did not have any appointments for 2 months but if you keep logging in you can frequently find an earlier opening if someone has cancelled. If you need to change your interview you are able to reschedule interviews online as well. However according to the website, any changes within 24 hours of the appointment must be done by contacting the enrollment center directly.
Global Entry Interview Process
According to the letter, the following documents should be brought to the interview:
- A copy of the Conditional Approval Notification (which the officer did not ask to see)
- A document to establish residency (such as driver’s license, utility bill, rental or mortgage statement)
The enrollment office at Chicago O’Hare was easy to find. It is located at Terminal 5, Lower Level right next to McDonald’s. Because it was at arrivals, we did not have to go through security. Upon entering the door there is a waiting room with a few seats and an officer behind a glass pane. We presented our passports and were asked to wait.
There were not a lot of seats in the waiting area and it actually became pretty full. The officers were very laid back about calling people in for the interviews. They just came out and asked who was next instead of calling people by name. We were allowed to go in together but took turns getting interviewed by the same officer.
Global Entry Interview Questions
After looking at the documents we were asked to bring along (passport and license) and comparing the information to the application, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer asked us a bunch of questions including the following:
- Have you ever been arrested?
- Have you ever transported something where the contents were unknown?
- Have you ever repudiated American citizenship?
- Do you have a second passport or claim to citizenship in another country?
- Have you ever broken customs or immigration laws?
- Are you a US resident?
After answering his questions, we were approved and he took our photos and finger prints. He advised us that the number in our letter is our known traveler number which we could use immediately to qualify for TSA Pre-Check. All we needed to do was log into our frequent flyer account and put in the number in the known traveler number box. He also said we would receive a card that can be used to enter the US if driving from Canada or Mexico which we received 10 days after our interview.
Our Experience Using Global Entry and TSA Pre-Check
Since receiving Global Entry we have used it twice upon entering the US at Chicago O’Hare and both times we breezed through passport control. We did not have to fill out the customs forms given to us on the plane nor wait in line at passport control. Instead, we proceeded to a Global Entry kiosk which took our photo and fingerprints. After answering a few questions at the kiosk, a piece of paper is printed which you take to an officer for review and you are set.
We have also used TSA Pre-Check and it was much easier not have to remove our shoes and jackets. Although we have read online reports of TSA Pre-Check lines sometimes being longer than the regular lines, we found the TSA Pre-Check lines to be shorter.
Is Global Entry Worth It?
Whether the $100 fee and time spent applying for Global Entry is worth it, depends on how often you travel and how much you value the convenience of expedited entry at passport control and expedited security. We found Global Entry worth the time and expense. The only negative is that you are paying for a convenience that is sometimes given to travelers for free. For example, when we entered the US with someone that did not have Global Entry, he was able to use a kiosk and get through passport control quickly as well. These were different kiosks than the Global Entry kiosks but apparently almost as fast.
Please note that Global Entry benefits are also part of NEXUS and SENTRI, two other trusted traveler programs similar to Global Entry. For some people, applying for NEXUS or SENTRI in order to get Global Entry and TSA Pre might make more sense than applying for Global Entry. (See related post: How to Get TSA PreCheck: A Guide on How Best to Apply).
Has anyone else received Global Entry? Let us know your experience in the comments below.
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Originally published on Apr 22, 2014 but updated on December 4, 2016.