UPDATE, July 2022: It has become almost impossible to get the in-person appointment, due to the massive increase in applications and centers that have not returned to pre-Covid staffing levels. However, getting yourself into the queue will definitely help. You can also try to interview upon arrival at select airports. Obviously, this won’t speed up the current trip, but it’s definitely worth a try to save yourself time for your next one.
A miraculous tale: I got Global Entry in less than a week
In the misty BeforeTimes I experienced a miracle: I got Global Entry in a mere six days.
I applied on a Thursday after returning home from an extended business trip to the UK the night before. Up until that point, I had used Mobile Passport, an app that allows you (if you’re a US or Canadian passport holder) to upload your passport details and fill in your US Customs forms, thus expediting entry. Mobile Passport worked great for me a few times. I got to jump the line at Customs and breeze on through.
That is, until this trip. The line. OMG, the line. A sea of jetlagged humanity. Mobile Passport got me into a faster line, but it was a line filled with other Mobile Passport users. I’d just made my peace with my plight when I saw an official guide a couple with Global Entry to the front of my line. Knackered and starving, and getting crankier by the second, I resolved right then and there that I would apply for Global Entry the second I got home. I was leaving for South America in a couple of weeks, and I really didn’t want to go through this ever again.
It took me well over an hour to get through customs, and, by the time I got home late Wednesday night, I fell into bed. So, I applied on Thursday instead.
Monday morning, I was stunned to get an email telling me that I had provisional approval and was cleared to proceed to the interview. That was fast! I’d heard that it could take forever to get an interview and that they were scheduled months in advance, but, lo and behold, there was a slot on Wednesday. I snagged it. Wednesday afternoon, I strolled into Boston’s Tip O’Neill Federal Building, and just like that, I got Global Entry in just six days.
A tale unlikely to repeat
An unlikely tale then, it’s almost impossible now. Not all interview centers are up and running, even after resuming service well over a year ago, and those interview appointments are booked for months. The whole process can take upwards of 90 or more days.
This is why if you don’t have Global Entry yet and want it, now is a good time to apply. By the time travel picks up again, you’ll be ready.
FAQs about Global Entry
What is Global Entry?
Global Entry is the Trusted Traveler Program run by US Customs and Border Protection for US citizens and permanent residents, as well as citizens of certain countries, that allows members to receive expedited clearance through Customs upon entering the US. Other examples of Trusted Traveler programs include TSA PreCheck (expedited security at US airports), NEXUS (travel to the US from Canada), and SENTRI (travel to the US from Mexico).
Why do I want Global Entry?
Breeze through customs
Have you ever waited forever in line at Customs? With Global Entry, you don’t wait in line (or, if you do, it’s miniscule in comparison to the other poor souls). You breeze up to these special kiosks, answer your customs questions, scan your fingerprints, and smile jetlaggedly for the camera. You get a little slip of paper that you march up to the official. Said official looks at your paper, welcomes you home, and you’re on your merry way.
If you have a tight connection for your return leg home, you’ll probably still have time to grab a cup of coffee before you board your flight. Coming back from South America after a terrifying flight from Lima (we couldn’t get up for nearly four hours, and then had to remain seated again for another two, someone got hurt, and we really did hear, “Is there a doctor on board?” in Spanish and English), I had a few minutes to sit, have breakfast, and work up my courage to get on another plane. My aisle mate from the flight from Lima barely made the connection back to Boston.
TSA PreCheck included
Global Entry comes with TSA PreCheck, which means that for every domestic flight you take in the US, you get to keep your shoes on and go through the nice line.
Global Entry Card is Real ID Compliant
Expedited entry to other countries
You can also gain expedited entry to certain other countries with Global Entry.
What do I have to do to get Global Entry?
To obtain Global Entry membership, you must apply for it and receive approval. The approval process includes an extensive background check and an in-person interview to deem whether you are a low-risk traveler who can receive Global Entry. See more details below.
Are there things that would keep me from getting Global Entry?
Yes. This is a program aimed at low-risk travelers. Criminal convictions or other outstanding criminal matters, such as outstanding warrants, disqualify entrants, as do customs violations.
The process sounds a bit invasive, yeah?
Yes, it is. You’re trading some privacy for the benefit of an easier travel experience. To you, this might not be worth it. My reasoning was that the information isn’t top secret and that the government would already have access to my travel details. Your calculation may be different. If it is, then Global Entry is not for you.
How long does Global Entry last?
Membership in the program lasts five years, and then you will need to review. Note that you can have your membership revoked if you no longer meet the criteria.
How much does Global Entry cost? Is it worth it?
Global Entry costs $100 for a five-year membership. Yes, that’s a bit to shell out at once, but think of it this way: the fee breaks down to $20/year. If you fly frequently, the included TSA PreCheck will drop the fee per use to a buck or two, not to mention how happy you are going to feel when you waltz through Customs ahead of all the jetlagged masses.
And, good news: your credit card will likely pay for your Global Entry membership. Most travel rewards credit cards now cover the cost of Global Entry fees in addition to the other benefits. If you’re looking for a travel rewards card, I suggest the Capital One Venture Card (I get miles if you meet the requirements for your sign-on bonus miles if you apply following this link).
Global Entry for free? Yes, please.
How to get Global Entry
You will not regret this. Global Entry will change your life.
Enrolling involves two parts: the application and the interview. Get yourself organized and apply today.
You’ll first submit your application and fee, which triggers an extensive background check. Upon successful completion of the background check, you will then need to submit to an in-person behavioral interview.
If you pass your interview, they will scan your fingerprints, and you will be given membership into Global Entry and your Known Traveler Number on the spot. You will receive your Global Entry card by mail.
Scheduling that interview can be a lengthy process, with the possibility of waiting months for an available slot at one of the Global Entry Enrollment Centers. You can opt to interview upon arrival at certain airports. If you are traveling in the next six months, this is the recommendation.
Before you apply, have all your information gathered. You will need:
- your passport number
- a list of all the countries you’ve visited within the last five years
- your addresses and employment history for the last five years
- an answer to why you want Global Entry
- Create a TTP account
- Fill in the application truthfully
- Pay the $100 fee
You will receive an email when your background check is complete saying either that you have been cleared to schedule your interview or that your application was declined. You can also check this through your TTP account.
Immediately upon receiving the email saying that you’re cleared to schedule your email, schedule your interview! Really. Get on that. Find your closest Global Entry Enrollment Center here. If you are traveling within the next few months, you may wish to interview upon arrival (note that you’ll miss out on the breeze through Customs part for this trip).
- your passport and another form of ID (your driver’s license or other such ID)
- proof of residency documents (cable bill, lease, etc.)
- suggestion: have a list of the countries you’ve visited and other relevant information from your application
- Be honest and answer any question asked of you truthfully. The interview is short (and mine was almost fun), but interviewers are looking for signs of deception.
- Make sure that you have all your information straight. My interviewer tried to trip me up by listing all the countries I’d visited except for Switzerland, and I freaked out, thinking that I’d left it off my list. It turns out that was the question.
Access your Global Entry benefits
Known Traveler Number
You will receive a Known Traveler Number on the spot. That number is your new best friend: add it to all of your frequent flyer accounts to receive TSA PreCheck (or add it when you check-into any flight).
Global Entry card
You’ll receive your Global Entry card in the mail. Activate your card right away through your TTP account.
Going through Customs
Follow the signs to access the Global Entry kiosks when you go through US Customs and experience the magic.
Update your Global Entry membership
Your Global Entry membership is tied to your passport, and when you renew your passport, you need to update your Global Entry information. You also need to update your address if you move.
In some instances you can update your passport information online, but in others you must update your information in person at one of the Global Entry Enrollment Centers.
You do not need an appointment to update your information, but it is a good idea to call ahead, as they are busy.
Questions? Experience with Global Entry?
Please let me know if you have questions in the comments, and I’ll answer them if I can. If you have Global Entry, I’m sure you love it. Let us know in the comments!