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The Global Entry Program: Everything You Need To Know

Choose FI has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Choose FI and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. Disclosures.

It seems like every time I go to the airport, at least one person in the security line claims “it never used to be like this.” “This,” of course, refers to the lengthy wait we experience before reaching the front of the line. And, once there, we find ourselves greeted by metal detectors and a handful of underpaid, annoyed security workers.

Doesn’t really set a great tone for your travel, does it?

Well, the good news is there’s a way to avoid dealing with this. If you’re part of the elite Global Entry Program, going through security in the airport can be as easy as using a kiosk.

The Global Entry Program is a traveler’s must-have. It saves the frustration and gets you on your way without the wait. This post explains why you need it, what it does, and how you can gain access to it.

What Is The Global Entry Program?

According to the official website, the Global Entry Program is a “program that allows expedited clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travelers upon arrival in the United States.” In other words, you don’t have to wait in a huge line at the airport to get through security.

For those who travel frequently, you know how nice this can be. Here’s how to gain access to this exclusive club.

How Does Global Entry Compare To TSA PreCheck?

When you apply for Global Entry, you’ll also receive TSA PreCheck. Both memberships cover a five-year period, but there are differences between the two.

TSA PreCheck members receive expedited security screening on most flights departing from the United States. You leave your shoes and light jackets on, and your laptops, iPads, and 3-1-1 liquids will stay in your carry-on bag. Members also go through a traditional metal detector instead of the more invasive “millimeter wave” full-body scanners.

But Global Entry adds on the feature of expedited screenings at Customs. This means you get the star treatment when you travel internationally as well.

Does Global Entry Include TSA PreCheck?

Yes. When you are approved for Global Entry, you automatically receive membership in TSA PreCheck.

What Does Global Entry Include?

Global Entry membership includes two things:

  • TSA PreCheck membership
  • Expedited screening at Customs upon arrival from international flights

The application fees are $100 for Global Entry and $85 for TSA PreCheck. In my opinion, the perks are worth the extra $15. The only difference in the application process is that there are fewer Global Entry interview locations compared to those for TSA PreCheck. Some people may need to travel to a Global Entry interview location or request an interview upon arrival when returning from an international trip.

Are There Any Requirements/Restrictions For The Global Entry Program?

Yes, there are several requirements and/or restrictions for the Global Entry Program. Let’s explore some of them so you’re not surprised during your application process.

You Must Be “Low Risk”

You can only qualify for the Global Entry Program if you’re a “low-risk” traveler. You’ll be ineligible for the program if you:

  • Provide false or incomplete information on the application.
  • Have been convicted of any criminal offense or have pending criminal charges or outstanding warrants (including driving under the influence).
  • Have been found in violation of any customs, immigration, or agriculture regulations or laws in any country.
  • Are the subject of an ongoing investigation by any federal, state, or local law enforcement agency.
  • Are inadmissible to the United States under immigration regulations, including applicants with approved waivers of inadmissibility or parole documentation.

Only Certain Countries Participate

Unfortunately, you can’t use your Global Entry privileges everywhere. You must be a citizen of the following countries to be eligible:

  • United States
  • Argentina
  • Canada (Canadian citizens and residents are eligible for Global Entry benefits through membership in the NEXUS program)
  • Colombia
  • Germany
  • India
  • Mexican nationals
  • Panama
  • Singapore
  • South Korea
  • Switzerland
  • Taiwan
  • United Kingdom

Entry Fee

To apply for the Global Entry Program, there’s a one-time entry fee of $100. If you aren’t accepted to the program, you will not be refunded.

In addition, you’ll need to renew your membership every five years. The same $100 fee applies to renewals.

How To Apply For The Global Entry Program

The process isn’t very complicated, and you can find the official application here. In summary, here are the steps:

  1. Create a Trusted Traveler Programs (TTP).
  2. Complete the application.
  3. Pay your $100 non-refundable application fee via debit or credit card.
  4. Upon approval, schedule an interview at a Global Entry Enrollment Center. Bring your valid passport(s) and one other form of identification. At the end of the interview, you will find out if you’ve been accepted.

If accepted, your Global Entry membership is valid for five years. After five years, you’ll need to reapply.

You can begin using your Global Entry and TSA PreCheck benefits right away. Within two weeks, you’ll receive your membership card and related materials in the mail.

How Do I Renew Global Entry?

You can reapply up to one year before expiration. The renewal process is the same as the initial application. Some applicants are required to interview before their renewal is approved.

I set calendar reminders for six months before my family’s Global Entry memberships expire. This way we remember to reapply and get renewed in plenty of time. Don’t worry; you’re not shortchanging yourself. Your next five years start at the end of the previous five years, not from the date of renewal.

Where Can I Schedule My Global Entry Interview?

Once you are conditionally approved for Global Entry, it is time to schedule your appointment. Click here for the list of interview locations.

Most Global Entry interview locations are in international airport terminals. However, there are some exceptions. For example, the Port of Long Beach (California) is a hidden gem for those in Southern California who didn’t want to wait for an opening at LAX.

Do I Need An Appointment For My Global Entry Interview?

You are supposed to schedule a Global Entry interview to complete your application.

However, I have seen situations where applicants have walked in and been interviewed after a reasonable wait. Understand that the Global Entry officers are under no obligation to interview walk-in applications. You may be turned away if there are no openings that day.

Do Children Need To Sign Up For Global Entry?

With TSA PreCheck, children ages 12 and under do not need their own membership.

However, that is not the case with Global Entry. And I know this from firsthand experience.

My family was traveling back from Cancun when Scarlett was only six months old. As we proceeded through the Global Entry line at customs, U.S. customs agents questioned why Scarlett didn’t have a membership. Luckily for us, he let us continue on rather than go to the end of the normal customs line.

We learned the hard way that all passport holders need to have their own Global Entry membership. And as soon as we returned home, we signed up Scarlett for her own using one of my credit card application reimbursements.

Don’t make the same mistake. If you have children who travel with you, get them their own membership.

Should Travelers Get CLEAR Instead?

Global Entry and TSA PreCheck are designed to save you time at the airport while traveling. However, if you’ve traveled recently, you might have noticed that the TSA PreCheck lines are getting longer. You might even find that frustrating.

One way to combat this is by signing up for CLEAR. CLEAR uses biometric markers in your eyes and fingerprints to identify you. There are over 50 airports, stadiums, and other venues nationwide where CLEAR is available.

You don’t have to pick between Global Entry and CLEAR. Although they are similar, these two memberships offer different benefits. For instance, CLEAR allows you to skip the airport security lines entirely, allowing you to even pass other TSA PreCheck and Global Entry members! Then Global Entry expedites the process as you and your bags go through security screening.

If you sign up for CLEAR without having TSA PreCheck or Global Entry, you can skip the airport security lines. However, you will still need to go through the normal security screening. This means removing laptops and liquids from your bag, taking off your shoes, and undergoing a full body scan.

With a CLEAR membership, you can add up to three additional family members for $50 each per year. Children under 18 years old are free and do not need to be added to your membership.

Check out our full review of CLEAR here.

How Does The Global Entry Program Work?

When you become a member of the Global Entry Program, your information is stored in a database. Upon arrival at an airport that offers Global Entry, simply scan your passport and fingerprints, take a picture, and digitally complete a quick customs form at the kiosk.

The form prints out and you’ll hand it and your passport to the customs agent. Then you’re off to baggage claim.

The entire process takes just a few minutes.

Why You Should (Or Shouldn’t) Use The Global Entry Program

If you plan on flying at least once a year, I recommend signing up for Global Entry. TSA PreCheck is $15 less, but the benefits when traveling internationally are worth the extra money and effort. In fact, I strongly believe that you’ll take at least one international vacation in the next five years. When you take that trip, that is when the Global Entry membership’s value will shine.

For people who are still uncertain about traveling internationally, I recommend that you register for TSA PreCheck. You’ll get familiar with the process and enjoy skipping the more invasive airport security searches that other travelers have to deal with.

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Choose FI has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Choose FI and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. Disclosures.
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