If you do a fair amount of traveling—especially internationally—then you’re probably pretty familiar with the process of going through customs and immigration once you arrive back home. This process can be time-consuming and is one of the last things you probably want to deal with after an international flight.
What you might not have known is that a program exists that allows some travelers to bypass lines at customs and speed through the process upon arrival back in the United States. This program is known as Global Entry—and if you’re eligible, you may want to consider applying for it to take some stress out of traveling internationally.
Global Entry vs. TSA PreCheck: What’s The Difference?
One of the most common questions travelers have about Global Entry is how it’s any different from the TSA PreCheck program. While both programs are designed to make traveling easier, they are actually quite different. Specifically, TSA PreCheck allows approved travelers to expedite security screening on all domestic and some international flights. These passengers also aren’t required to remove belts/shoes or take laptops and other electronics out of their carry-on bags. The end result is a quicker pass through airline security and less stressful travels.
Global Entry, on the other hand, expedites your travel in a different way. Specifically, those who have been approved for Global Entry enjoy the luxury of bypassing customs/immigration lines upon returning to the United States from another country. Instead, these travelers are permitted to check in at a designated Global Entry kiosk using a uniquely assigned Trusted Traveler number and fingerprint scan.
It is also worth noting that Global Entry automatically includes TSA PreCheck—but TSA PreCheck does not include Global Entry.
Benefits Of Getting Approved For Global Entry
Now that you have a better understanding of the differences between TSA PreCheck and Global Entry, perhaps you’re interested in applying for Global Entry as a means of making your travel easier.
There are many benefits of being approved for Global Entry, such as saving time at the airport when you return to the United States. Rather than having to wait in long lines at customs/immigration, you can simply check in at a Global Entry kiosk and continue on your way to baggage claim. In addition to saving time in line, you can avoid the hassle of filling out paperwork at customs upon your return as well.
Global Entry is available at all major United States airports for your convenience—and many airports in other countries also recognize the Global Entry program, so you may be able to expedite your travels there as well.
All of this, combined with the included TSA PreCheck designation, make getting approved for Global Entry a great solution for frequent travelers who are tired of waiting in long lines at customs and immigration.
Determining Eligibility For Global Entry
Before you apply for Global Entry, it’s a good idea to make sure you meet all the eligibility requirements. In order to apply for Global Entry, one of the following must apply to you:
- you’re a United States citizen with a US passport
- you’re a United States permanent resident
- you’re a citizen of a recognized Global Entry country (examples include Colombia, the UK, Mexico, and Germany)
Please be aware that if you are not a United States citizen, you won’t receive TSA PreCheck benefits as part of your Global Entry designation. Furthermore, if you’re under the age of 18 and wish to apply for Global Entry, you’ll need permission from a parent or legal guardian in order to complete the application process.
Also keep in mind that if you have a criminal record or any pending criminal charges, you may apply for Global Entry—but it is possible that your application will be denied. A criminal record or pending criminal charges aren’t always grounds for denial, as each application is looked at on a case-by-case basis. Still, this is something you’ll want to be aware of.
Creating An Online Account And Scheduling Your Interview
If you meet the eligibility requirements to apply for Global Entry, the next step is the application and interview process. In order to complete a Global Entry application, you’ll need to create an online account on the Global Online Enrollment System website.
Once you’ve created an account, you’ll have access to begin filling out your online application. Be sure to set aside a fair amount of time to fill out your application, as it is quite extensive. Be prepared to answer many questions and provide a great deal of personal information. From basic contact information to your Social Security number, height and weight, and employment history—it’s all fair game.
In order to submit your application, you’ll also need to pay a $100 application fee; if you end up being approved for Global Entry, the $100 will be applied to your five-year membership in the program. Unfortunately, there are no refunds for rejected applications.
After submitting your application, it will be screened for conditional approval. However, this is not the end of the process. You’ll need to schedule an in-person interview to confirm your approval. Typically, you will find out via e-mail within a few weeks after submitting your application whether it’s been conditionally approved or not. If it is, you’ll be given further instructions for scheduling your interview at a Global Entry Enrollment Center near you.
In most cases, interview requests can be accommodated within 30 days. If you need an earlier appointment due to an upcoming trip, you can call the Enrollment Center frequently to check for cancellations.
Preparing For A Successful Interview
While your interview may seem like more of a formality than anything, it’s important to take it seriously. Even though your application has been conditionally approved, your demeanor at the interview could still lead to a denial of Global Entry benefits.
First and foremost, be sure to arrive at your interview on time. If you show up late, your interview may need to be rescheduled. You’ll also need to provide proof of your identification at the interview, so be sure to bring along the documentation you’ll need, such as a state ID, utility bills, and the like.
Your photo will be taken at your interview and the photo will be used for your Global Entry ID card if you’re approved. Your fingerprints will also be taken. For the most part, you can expect to be asked many of the same questions you already answered on your online application during the interview—and the entire appointment likely won’t last more than 20 minutes or so.
As long as everything goes well at your interview, you should be approved for Global Entry and will receive your Known Traveler Number, which can be used right away to begin enjoying your benefits. Within a few weeks, you should also receive your official ID card in the mail.
Overall, getting approved for Global Entry can be a great way for you to better enjoy your travels, especially if you do a lot of international traveling. Now that you better understand the eligibility requirements and application process, you can make a better-informed decision regarding whether you might want to apply for Global Entry.