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Global Entry - Yay or Nay?

If you've ever landed from an international flight packed with 500 passengers, you're familiar with the excruciatingly long customs queue. After enduring hours of travel, possibly with a couple of layovers, waiting in line to reenter your own country is the last thing you want. This is where Global Entry proves invaluable.

The Global Entry queue is not only shorter, but sometimes non-existent. Instead of facing a customs officer, Global Entry holders can swiftly scan their documents at an automated kiosk, which typically takes a fraction of the time. Ready to streamline your homecoming for all your future trips? Here's all you need to know about the U.S. Global Entry program.

What Is Global Entry?

Global Entry is like having a golden ticket at the airport - a VIP pass that lets you skip the customs queue and breeze through security like a boss. Picture this: no more filling out forms or waiting in endless lines. With Global Entry, jet-setters who have aced the application process can zip through by simply tapping away at a fancy electronic kiosk. It's a fast pass to reuniting with your bags and loved ones in record time!

How Does Global Entry Help You?

Once approved for Global Entry, travelers also receive TSA PreCheck benefits. This means not only faster entry into the country and select destinations but also access to quicker security lines and streamlined screening before boarding your flight. Upon approval, you will obtain a nine-digit Known Traveler Number or "PASSID." The Known Traveler Number is for TSA PreCheck, and it transforms into a PASSID when the member has both Global Entry and PreCheck. Simply add your PASSID to your frequent flier profiles for easy use during flight bookings.

How Is Global Entry Different From TSA PreCheck?

TSA PreCheck expedites your security process when entering the airport, whereas Global Entry eases your customs experience when returning to the U.S. However, Global Entry travelers qualify for PreCheck as a perk of their Global Entry status. Global Entry essentially gets you PreCheck and then some — and it costs just $22 more than TSA PreCheck alone.

How Much Does Global Entry Cost?

It costs $100 (nonrefundable, even if you're denied) to apply for Global Entry, and that fee covers you for five years. However, you may be able to get Global Entry for free, or even help a friend or family member do so, just by using a certain credit card.

Do Credit Cards Pay For Global Entry?

Some credit cards — such as several by American Express, Capital One, Bank of America, and Chase — will reimburse you if you use them to pay for the Global Entry application fee. Furthermore, you can sometimes use a credit card to pay for someone else's Global Entry and still receive the rebate (though you usually have to choose whether to use the benefit for yourself or someone else, not both).

How to Get Global Entry

The first step is to create a Trusted Traveler Programs account on the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website. Once you're logged in, fill out the Global Entry application and pay the fee. U.S. Customs and Border Protection will review your application and conduct a background check, and if it's conditionally approved, you'll make an appointment for an in-person interview at a U.S. Global Entry Enrollment Center.

What Do I Need for the Global Entry Interview?

First off, applying for U.S. Global Entry doesn't mean your interview is going to happen in the following days or even the following weeks. In fact, it could take a few months. However, if you don't want to wait, you can try your luck as a walk-in. Whether you walk in or show up for a scheduled appointment, you'll need to bring a printed copy of your conditional letter of approval, your passport or permanent resident card, and proof of residency (your driver's license works).

For super-expedited approval, you can opt for Enrollment on Arrival (EoA), which allows applicants "who are conditionally approved to complete their interviews upon arrival into the United States," Customs and Border Control says. "The EoA program eliminates the need for a Global Entry applicant to schedule an interview at an enrollment center to complete the application process." The EoA interview could take 10 minutes or less.

How Long Does It Take to Get Global Entry?

The entire process, from applying for Global Entry to getting your card, could take as little as three weeks or as long as six months. You should prepare for the latter. Wait times depend on the number of Global Entry applicants Customs and Border Control is fielding at a time. Of course, you can try to expedite the process with a walk-in interview or Enrollment on Arrival.

How to Use Global Entry

When you're given a Known Traveler Number after getting approved for Global Entry, you'll want to start providing that number when booking flights. Then, when heading to customs to get back into the U.S., follow signs for Global Entry and wait in the (wonderfully short) kiosk line. You'll scan your passport or permanent resident card at the kiosk, verify your fingerprints, and declare any items you're bringing back into the country. You'll then get a receipt, and you won't have to fill out the infamous blue-and-white paper customs form flight attendants hand out on international flights.

Which Airports Have Global Entry?

There are currently Global Entry kiosks at about 80 airports in the U.S. and abroad. In the U.S., major travel hubs like Los Angeles International Airport, John F. Kennedy International Airport, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Chicago O'Hare International Airport, Miami International Airport, San Francisco International Airport, Dulles International Airport, and Newark Liberty International Airport have the kiosks, as do smaller airports like Ohio's Toledo Express Airport and Vermont's Burlington International Airport. Alaska has them in Fairbanks and Anchorage, and Hawaii has them in Honolulu. Keep in mind that some of the locations do not offer Enrollment on Arrival.

Abroad, you'll find Global Entry kiosks at Abu Dhabi International Airport, throughout the Caribbean and Canada, and in the North Pacific and Ireland.

What If the Person You're Traveling With Doesn’t Have Global Entry?

You can't take any travel companions who don't have Global Entry with you through the kiosks because the system is automated and requires proof of membership. That also goes for young children, so if you want your four-year-old to enter the U.S. with Global Entry, they would need to undergo the same application and screening process to enroll.

How Long Does Global Entry Last?

Global Entry lasts five years starting on your first birthday after receiving a card and expiring on your birthday in the fifth year (the expiration date can be found on your card). Members become eligible to renew their Global Entry status one year prior to that expiration date and can do so by logging into their Trusted Traveler Programs account and submitting a renewal application, which requires another $100 fee. If you submit the renewal application before your membership expires and it isn't approved before the expiration date, you will be able to continue using your benefits for 24 months after the expiration.

Reader Resources

Banks & Credit Card Providers that offer credit reimbursement for precheck purchases.

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