Insider’s Guide to Global Entry

Another $100? Thinking in my head of all of the fees and charges I’ve spent over the years to fly, but then remembering the ones that help create a less stressful and seamless travel experience were always worth a few extra dollars in the grand scheme of the cost of a trip.

Even with the amount of travel I do, I wasn’t totally sold on spending that $100 on Global Entry. I’ve already had TSA pre-check and I’m happy with how it expedites my time at security, allows me to get to my gate without completely de-layering or emptying the contents of my bags. But after our trip to Costa Rica last year and waiting in ridiculous lines at customs to fill out forms and enter information into a kiosk, I realized it was time.

TSA PreCheck, Global Entry, you may have heard of these, you may have one or the other, but how do they work and do they work together?

I posted back in December about TSA PreCheck and I believe for travelers that frequent airports, it’s a no brainer.

But what about Global Entry? What does that do? What is the process?

Last Thursday I was finally approved and am now a member of this Trusted Traveler Program and here’s what I learned:

1. How to Apply

The application process itself is straightforward and easy. It consists of questions online, including employment history, passport information and your history of travel, and get ready because it does ask for a list of every country you’ve visited in the last five years.  Check out this website to get started:

Global Entry Website

There’s a $100 application fee, which you have to pay every five years when you renew and you won’t get the money back if you’re denied Global Entry.

Pro Tip: Many American Express and Executive level credit cards will pay the $100 fee for Global Entry.

2. Set up the interview

Interview? Like an interrogation? No. Probably the easiest interview you’ll have your entire life.   So once you apply online, you’ll receive an email a few days later asking to schedule an interview if you passed the initial question portion. Depending on where you live and how busy the Global Entry office is in your area, you may have to wait a couple months.

Pro Tip: If you’re even considering getting Global Entry – apply NOW! Do not wait.

I applied back in October and wasn’t able to get an interview at the Charlotte Airport (CLT) until the last week of January if that gives you an indication of how far in advance of any international travel that you’ll want to apply.

For the interview, bring the confirmation letter you receive online from the application (Jeremy got yelled at for not having his!), your passport, Driver’s License and if your address isn’t correct on your license, something that shows your most current address like a Mortgage statement or rental agreement.

Most of the questions during the interview are to confirm the information you enter online, but also to check your background records. They’ll take your fingerprints (this allows you to use the kiosks in the future), and a photo. Once approved, you’ll receive an online notification that the status of your application has changed and then you receive your physical card in the mail a few weeks later.

So this is where I initially got confused. How many forms of ID am I going to have to start carrying to travel internationally? What do I do with the card?

3. What Do I Do With My Card?

You don’t do a thing with it unless you’re entering the country by land (via car or train) or sea. It’s not required while you’re flying, and won’t work at the Global Entry kiosks. Instead, it’s the Known Traveler number, on the upper-lefthand corner of the back of the card, that’s important and that is the number that is linked to your passport.

Since Global Entry automatically gives you the advantage of TSA PreCheck, you’ll want to input this into your traveler profile whenever you fly on participating airlines. Without this number on your boarding pass, you’ll have to line up as usual, which really defeats the purpose and waiving your card at a TSA agent is not going to work. There are plans to get international airlines on board as well, but it’s currently a work in progress.

So you might be asking yourself, so where does this whole Global Entry part come into play?

When you land at a major U.S. airport after an international flight, head to the Customs processing area and directly toward signs for Global Entry kiosks. At the kiosk, scan your passport and answer the customs form electronically – no need to fill out those silly paper forms again.

The kiosk will then take your photo, scan your fingerprints, and spit out a tiny receipt that you hand to the customs agent on your way out. No more of this . . .

Now if you can imagine a world where you can:

  • skip the majority of the airport security line
  • keep your shoes and belt on, your liquids and laptop in your bag,
  • and never have to fill out another customs form

then Global Entry is for you!

I can’t wait to start using mine this year, how about you? Do you have Global Entry? Let me know in the comments below!