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You've just gotten off a 12-hour international flight and arrived back in the U.S. The last thing you want to do is spend even more time standing in line waiting to go through customs and immigration. With customs processing times at major U.S. airports sometimes topping an hour, the thought of skipping it might have you considering your options, one of which is Global Entry.
To apply for Global Entry, you'll have to fill out forms, pay a fee and even do an interview, but the process could be worth the time saved if you're a frequent international traveler. Here's what you should know about the program and how to enroll.
What Is Global Entry?
Global Entry is a program from U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). It allows travelers whom the U.S. government deems to be "low risk" to use automated immigrations kiosks when entering the country and to access expedited customs lines. The kiosks require you to answer a few questions about your travels and to submit your fingerprints and have your photo taken for identification purposes. This generates a customs form, which you then hand over to an agent overseeing the designated Global Entry line you'll go through in order to exit the airport.
Having Global Entry can save you hours of time waiting in various lines to enter the U.S. Here's what you need to know before you apply and how you can get the $100 application fee covered by certain credit cards.
Where Is Global Entry Available?
The program is currently in place at over 70 airports in the U.S. and abroad, including locations such as Abu Dhabi, Toronto and Vancouver. Returning to the U.S. from an airport abroad that has a Global Entry kiosk is a way to further expedite your customs clearance.
Who Is Eligible for Global Entry?
Global Entry is available to U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents of the U.S. and certain citizens from the other countries. Canadian citizens can access Global Entry benefits by enrolling in a different trusted traveler program called NEXUS. Depending on where you are from, you might have to meet additional requirements or provide more forms of documentation. You might not be eligible for Global Entry if you provide false information on your application, have been convicted of a crime, or have been found in violation of customs, immigration or agricultural regulations, among other circumstances.
How Do You Apply for Global Entry?
Here are the steps to apply for Global Entry as well as a few other things to keep in mind.
- Create a Trusted Traveler Program account. The first step is creating a Trusted Traveler Program (TTP) profile online. To do so, you'll need to provide a valid email address, set up two forms of online authentication (such as SMS texting and a verification app), and enter personal details including your address and telephone number.
- Fill out the online application. Once you've created your TTP account, you'll log in and complete the Global Entry application. The government will ask about your personal history including any aliases or criminal record you might have, as well as where you have lived, what countries you have visited in the past five years, and other various other background questions.
- Pay the application fee (and maybe get a statement credit for it). Upon completion of the application, you will have to pay a non-refundable $100 processing fee. The good news is, several popular travel rewards cards refund this fee to cardholders in the form of a statement credit once every four or five years, depending on the card.
- Set up an in-person appointment. Once your application is conditionally approved, you can log in to your TTP account to schedule an interview at a Global Entry enrollment center. You can usually find these at major airports and certain border crossings, among other locations. While slots tend to fill up months in advance, you should check back frequently as some times become available at the last minute due to cancellations. If you have some international travel coming up, you can also try to enroll upon arrival. This is only available at certain facilities, so look for Enrollment on Arrival lanes when you land and see if there are CBP officers available to conduct interviews.
- Ace the interview. When the day of your appointment arrives, show up at the enrollment center on time so you do not miss your slot. Be sure to bring your valid passport and another form of identification such as a driver's license or ID card to the interview. If you are a lawful permanent resident, you must bring your permanent residency card. It's also a good idea to bring a printout of your conditional approval letter just in case. A CBP officer will ask you to verify the information from your application and discuss any criminal history. You will then be fingerprinted and have your photo taken. The entire process should take around 10 to 15 minutes.
- Register with airlines. If you were conditionally approved and your interview goes well, you should be confirmed as a Global Entry member immediately and will be given a Known Traveler Number. You will need to log in to your airline frequent-flier accounts and enter this number into your traveler information profile. Doing so should ensure that you are also approved for TSA Precheck access so you can use faster security screening lines when flying out of U.S. airports.
- Renew every five years. Global Entry membership lasts five years, but you can renew your membership up to a year before your current Global Entry status expires to avoid any gap in access. To do so, you'll need to log in to your Trusted Traveler Profile. If you are eligible for renewal, you can click on the option to Renew Membership. At that point, you will be asked to verify your personal information as well as adding any new details since your last application, and then will be prompted to pay the $100 application fee. Remember to use a credit card that reimburses this fee if you have one. After you submit your application, you will either be automatically renewed, or will need to schedule a follow-up in-person appointment at a CBP location like the first time you applied.
Is Applying for Global Entry Worth It?
Applying for Global Entry is a quick process for most eligible travelers. Before registering as a Trusted Traveler, make sure you have all the information you will need on hand to submit your application and take stock of whether you have a credit card that will issue you a statement credit for the $100 application fee. After being conditionally approved, schedule your in-person interview as soon as possible, and don't forget that you might be able to do this quicker by enrolling upon arrival after an international flight into certain U.S. airports.
Even with the $100 fee every five years, getting Global Entry is worth it for many travelers. Participating will save you time not only when reentering the U.S. from abroad, but also by having access to TSA Precheck security screening lines at U.S. airports. All of which makes joining Global Entry a great way to make your travel experience faster, easier and better overall.