With lines at airports getting longer, everyone is looking for a way to speed things up. We’ve already talked about TSA Precheck, but have you considered Global Entry?
Global Entry, which is run by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, helps speed up the process of entering the United States from foreign countries. If you are thinking about becoming a member, you may wonder what Global Entry is and how Global Entry differs from TSA Precheck. I recently went through the process, and learned a little bit along the way.
The information listed here is for your convenience, and we make no representations for its current accuracy – always check the US Customs and Border Protection website for the latest and most accurate information.
Things To Know About Global Entry: Traveling With Family
Will You Automatically Get Expedited Entry Into the US?
Global Entry does not guarantee a quicker entry into the US. Members might be selected at the border for further screening/examination. Of course, you apply hoping that you won’t be selected, and that you will get a quicker entry, but it’s not a definite guarantee. I’ve been lucky to have received it every time I tried to use it, and it’s always been very quick.
Keep in mind too, that even if you go through customs quickly, you’ll still have to wait at baggage claim for your bags. There have been times when I got through customs and waited a while for bags. So you don’t necessarily save time, especially if bags take a while to come out to the carousel.
If you are traveling through an international airport that offers US preclearance (US customs onsite), you should still be able to go through the Global Entry line. I experienced that on recent trips through Toronto and through Bermuda.
You won’t be able to use it to get into other countries, however. So when you arrive at your international destination, you will have to wait through the regular line to enter that country.
How is Global Entry Different From TSA Precheck? Should I Choose Global Entry or TSA Precheck?
TSA Precheck is run by the TSA (part of the Department of Homeland Security) rather than the US Customs and Border Protection. TSA Precheck is used when you go through a security line, before you fly, while Global Entry is used once you arrive back on US soil.
If you are a Global Entry member, you can use that number as your known traveler number (KTN) when checking in to a flight in the US. That should give you access to the TSA Precheck line (unless you are chosen for additional screening). However, you can’t use TSA Precheck for Global Entry. If you are a frequent international traveler, Global Entry is probably the best option because it can cover both.
I have both TSA Precheck and Global Entry, because I had signed up for TSA Precheck first. Despite that, there have actually been times when I wasn’t chosen to go through the TSA Precheck line. That too isn’t a guarantee.
How Long Can Global Entry Take To Get?
First, you’ll apply online, and wait for a conditional approval. Once you receive that, you can proceed to the next step.In most cases, you’ll need to go to a local airport for your interview, and appointments can book up well in advance.
In Boston, I made an appointment in January and wasn’t able to find availability for the appointment until May. By May, they were booked up for the whole year. If you are planning an international vacation, it’s best to start the process for each member of the family ASAP. Locally, I’ve talked to families that have chosen to drive to a nearby state, rather than wait for an appointment in Boston. Definitely look at your options if you can’t find a quick appointment locally, especially if you need one.
Once you complete your in-person interview, it doesn’t take long at all to get an answer. You’ll also receive a Global Entry card in the mail. You won’t necessarily need to show the card (I haven’t needed it yet) but it’s good to have with you.
Note that it does expire after five years. Then, you’ll have to go through the process of renewing it.
How Does Global Entry Work With Families?
If your kids want to use Global Entry, regardless of age, they’ll need to go through the process. Every single person needs their own number. Even babies need their own number. This isn’t necessarily the case for TSA Precheck, where younger kids can go through TSA Precheck with their enrolled parents.
If you are traveling with family members who don’t have global entry, you may look to see if your airport participates in Mobile Passport. That’s what my family uses when we are all together. There’s no chance of getting global entry if you don’t already have it – unlike TSA Precheck where some lucky non-members sometimes have it print on their boarding pass.
So, is Global Entry worth it when traveling with family? It really does depend. If you frequently travel, especially internationally, it may be worthwhile. If you only travel internationally on occasion, it may be best to just wait in the line, or try the Mobile Passport app. It doesn’t work at every airport, but it’s completely free.
Your Credit Card May Cover Your Membership Fee
Depending upon which credit cards you carry, you may find that your application fee gets reimbursed. If that’s the case, it really can make it worthwhile. Check out this post to learn more about which credit cards cover the fee.
In most cases, it’s only going to cover the fee for the primary cardholder, but find out from your provider before applying. You’ll usually charge the application fee to the credit card, and then will receive a statement credit.
How Does Global Entry Work?
Once you are assigned a Known Traveler Number, you can use that when you check in to your flight. If you are a frequent flyer with a particular airline, you can also add it in to your profile. That will assist with you being identified as a TSA Precheck flyer on your boarding pass.
To use Global Entry once you arrive at the US border, you’ll follow the signs at the airport. In general, these tend to point to much smaller lines, while the longer lines are generally for travelers who aren’t signed up for the program.
Once you reach a kiosk, you can scan your machine-readable passport or other accepted documentation, and then place your hand on the pad for fingerprinting. You’ll then be directed towards the agents. It’s a much quicker process than the standard line, and the line is typically much shorter.
Do you have Global Entry?
Related: 7 Air Travel Tips