by Heather Meliski
While my international travel for work has left me spending too much time in customs and immigration lines around the world, I recently watched a friend with Global Entry wave at me as she breezed through customs in under five minutes. I was left waiting for a highly frustrating hour. At that moment I decided I absolutely had to get Global Entry. I recently applied and was approved in less than two weeks and found the process incredibly simple and efficient.
Global Entry is a pre-clearance program that allows you to essentially bypass the customs and immigration lines when re-entering the United States. There is no waiting and no paperwork. Through this program you also receive expedited entry at select airports around the world.
The process was surprisingly simple. Creating a Trusted Traveler Programs (TTP) account and completing the application process takes under 30 minutes. At the time of application, you will need to provide your passport information, driver’s license information, as well as some background details. You are also required to pay a $100 non-refundable fee. This starts the process of the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol performing a rigorous background check to ensure that you qualify for the program.
It typically takes less than two weeks to find out if you have received your conditional approval. Once you receive this, you can schedule an in-person interview at a Global Entry Enrollment Center to finalize your approval. The interviews book up well in advance but there are cancellations and if you check frequently you can often grab an interview more quickly. I was able to get an interview for the day after I received my conditional approval.
For the in-person interview you will need to bring your passport and either a driver’s license or ID card and you will be fingerprinted and asked a few questions. As the website said it would, my interview started on time, lasted 10-15 minutes, and the whole process took under 30 minutes.
For re-entry at airports, you simply scan your passport and your fingerprints. If you are re-entering via vehicle at the Mexican or Canadian border or if you are re-entering the United States from a cruise, you use a special Global Entry card that you receive within 2-6 weeks once you are approved.
TSA Pre-Check is included with Global Entry which is another great perk that allows you to bypass the security lines at most major airports if you are flying both domestically and internationally. And Global Entry is valid for five years so the cost averages out to only $20 per year – a great deal if you travel often or you are traveling with children.
Every person in your travel party must have their own Global Entry to take advantage of the program, including minor children. And everyone that applies for Global Entry, including minor children, must complete an in-person interview to be approved.
I will be using Global Entry for the first time during my upcoming travels this month to Mexico and can’t wait to avoid the long lines when I return home!