Have you recently been approved for Global Entry and not sure if you need to carry your Global Entry membership card? Below is our guide to when you need to carry and use your Global Entry card and when you don’t.
What is a Global Entry card?
Global Entry cards have radio frequency identification (RFID) chips which enable their use at SENTRI and NEXUS expedited travel lanes when entering the United States at the land borders.
Global Entry cards are mailed after Global Entry approval (at no additional cost) to members who are U.S. citizens, U.S. lawful permanent residents or Mexican nationals. Foreign nationals approved for Global Entry do not receive Global Entry membership cards.
If you never received or lost your Global Entry card, you can easily replace it. See related post: How to Replace a Lost Global Entry Card.
How long does it take to get Global Entry card after approval?
According the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) website, your new Global Entry card will likely arrive in as little as 8-10 business days but can take up to 6-8 weeks after you are approved for Global Entry (whether for the first time or upon renewal).
Global Entry card activation
You need to activate your Global Entry card within 30 days of receipt prior to using your card at the Trusted Traveler lanes. To activate your Global Entry membership card, log into your Trusted Traveler Program (TTP) account at https://ttp.cbp.dhs.gov/ and click on the blue “Activate Membership Card” button under the Program Memberships section.
Once you activate your new Global Entry card, the blue “Activate Membership Card” button will disappear.
Do you need a Global Entry card at the airport?
You do NOT need to carry your Global entry card to get TSA Precheck benefits. Although TSA Precheck is never guaranteed, you should be able to get TSA Precheck on your boarding pass if you enter your Membership Number/PASSID number into your frequent flyer account when flying from certain US airports on participating airlines.
There is NO need to carry your Global Entry card at the airport to use Global Entry. Only passports or lawful permanent resident cards are accepted at Global Entry kiosks when flying into the US from abroad. (One exception according to online reports is that at some foreign airports that offer United States border preclearance you might ask you to show your Global Entry card for expedited entry.)
Although you are not required to carry your Global Entry card at the airport, there might still be a few reasons to bring it. For domestic flights you can use your Global Entry card as a REAL ID instead of your driver’s license (more on this later). I have also read a few online reports of TSA agents allowing flyers through the TSA Precheck lanes even when TSA Pre is not printed on their boarding pass when they present their Global Entry card. Another exception is when flying from Canadian airports (see more on this later).
Do I need to carry my Global Entry card?
While you don’t need to carry your Global Entry card to use Global Entry or TSA Precheck benefits at the airport, bringing your Global Entry card with you when you travel is useful in a few situations:
1) Expedited entry when driving into the United States from Canada
Global Entry cards are required for expedited entry at NEXUS lanes driving into the United States from Canada. However, the Global Entry card is not valid for entry into Canada via NEXUS lanes (travelers must apply separately for NEXUS).
2) Expedited entry when driving into the United States from Mexico
Global Entry cards are required for expedited entry at SENTRI lanes coming into the United States.
Please note however that Global Entry members who wish to drive their vehicle in the SENTRI lanes, must register their vehicle with CBP and schedule an appointment at a SENTRI enrollment center to conduct a vehicle inspection. Other passengers in a SENTRI registered vehicle do not need to have a SENTRI card but they must present a trusted traveler card such as a Global Entry card.
3) Expedited entry when entering the United States by sea
You can also use your Global Entry card for expedited when returning to the US by sea. For example coming to back to Florida from a Caribbean cruise, some US sea ports have a faster line for members that present their Global Entry card.
4) Trusted Traveller screening at Canadian airports
You must show your Global Entry card to gain access to CATSA Trusted Traveler screening line at Canadian airports. So if you are flying from Canada into the US you might want to bring you Global Entry card to use expedited security screening in Canada.
5) Global Entry card as a REAL ID at US airports
You can also use your Global Entry card as a REAL ID at US airports.
For those of you not familiar with REAL ID requirements, beginning October 1, 2020, every air traveler 18 years of age and older will need a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license or another acceptable form of ID to fly within the United States.
Global Entry cards are considered valid acceptable forms of identification at airport checkpoints for domestic travel. So if you don’t have a REAL ID compliant driver’s license or state ID and don’t want to carry your passport you can use your Global Entry card at airports when flying within the US.
To summarize, you do not need to have or carry a Global Entry card for Global Entry and TSA Precheck benefits at airports but there are certain situations where carrying your Global Entry membership card is useful.
Personally I have yet to use my Global Entry card but it is handy to have in case in the future I enter the US by land or by sea. I don’t have a REAL ID compliant driver’s license yet, so I plan to use my Global Entry card as an ID through security on domestic flights instead of bringing my passport with me once the REAL ID requirements take effect next year.
Data point – 2 foreign airports with US pre-clearance in the past 8 months.
Montreal – required GE card
Aruba – did not require GE card
Thanks for the data point.
your post was really helpful and I think I should take Global Entry Card a bit seriously now..
Yesterday returning from our second home in Mexico my spouse could not get the Global Entry machine to accept her fingerprints and went to the agent, who screamed at her that she was not allowed to use Global Entry unless she carried the Global Entry card with her, and could be removed from the program for this ‘offense’.
Thank you for all your the information on the GE program. The Canada details are helpful since we’ll have a stop there on the way to Europe.
An FYI that in April 2021, the RealID enforcement date was pushed out to May 3, 2023, instead of October 2021 (before that it was Oct 2020).