The US Customs and Border Protection’s Global Entry Program has been around since 2011 and to be honest, I don’t know why I waited until last week to apply for the program!
For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, Global Entry is one of the few expedited programs for trusted travelers that speeds up entry into the US. For those of you who fly abroad frequently, you know that immigration at LAX or JFK can be horrific! There have been occasions where I had to wait well over an hour (and this was after a 12+ hour flight as well) just to reenter to country.
Well, with Global Entry, you can simply bypass the normal immigration and customs line and use a kiosk by scanning your passport and fingerprints, saving the hassle and unpredictability of the excruciating long line (and possibly dealing with an immigration officer who isn’t very pleasant).
Another advantage? You don’t have to fill out any forms at all (save the trees)! Simply scan your passport at the kiosk and input what you’ve got to declare and you’ll be good to go!
Not only can you skip the lines when coming back into the US from an international flight but you can also take advantage of the TSA Pre-Check program when flying domestically and keep your shoes on and not have to remove your laptop or liquids from your carry-on baggage. Coming back into the US through a land border with Mexico or Canada? Take advantage of the expedited lines for Sentri and Nexus members! Even a few select Canadian airports have pre-clearance for Global Entry members!
Ok, so you’re probably excited and planning on signing up now! There’s a catch. You need to have a slate clean record and have no criminal convictions on your record (DUIs, caught with marijuana, etc., etc.). And the program is $100. But it lasts 5 years so that rounds up to $20 a year to bypass those horrific immigration lines! Some credit cards will credit you back the $100 as well (AMEX Platinum for example).
When you fill out the online application, be sure to be 100% honest as they do quite an extensive background check and WILL FIND OUT anything that has happened in the past. Once you submit it, it takes anywhere from a few days to a couple weeks before you find out whether you’re “conditionally approved” or rejected. If you’re conditionally approved, you will still need to visit one of the enrollment centers to have an interview with a CBP officer.
Be sure to make an appointment within 30 days after you get the conditional approval, otherwise you will forfeit the $100 (forfeited if you’re also rejected). When I applied, the earliest appointment available at the nearest enrollment center was about a month later (just days before my flight to London). So I checked again the next morning and got lucky and found an opening just 3 days later! Be sure to check frequently as people cancel their appointments pretty often and you can manage to squeeze in at an earlier time.
Give yourself some extra cushion time as well once you go to your interview appointment. If you’re familiar with the DMV’s horrendous lines, then you are ok. My appointment was at 6pm but I got there at 5:30pm hoping to squeeze into the interview a little earlier. They didn’t call me up until nearly 7pm so be informed of the wait.
Though some other people I know said the approval process can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks, I was lucky and got approved on the spot (whoo-hoo) and the CBP officer said that the Global Entry benefits on the passport was immediately in effect.
I have yet to use my Global Entry benefits but will update all of you on it once I am back from my UK and France trip in less than a month!
Until next time folks!