Maya Kachroo-Levine
November 28, 2018

If you’ve ever arrived on an international flight carrying 500 passengers, you know that the line at customs can be brutally long. And when you’ve been traveling for 18 hours and have already been through two layovers, the last thing you want is to spend another hour in line waiting to officially reenter the country. Time spent in the customs line is really just time you’re never getting back—and it’s further delaying the post-flight shower you’ve been longing for. This is where Global Entry benefits come in handy. For international travelers with Global Entry, there’s little-to-no line at customs, and instead of meeting with a customs agent, you just scan your documents at the kiosk and are on your way. If you’re ready to expedite your homecoming, here’s everything you need to know about the U.S. Global Entry program.

What is Global Entry?

Global Entry is essentially a way to not stand in the customs line when coming back into the U.S. Travelers who have gone through the Global Entry application and screening process are able to enter the U.S. after a quick check-in at an electronic kiosk. There are no customs lines, no paperwork (it’s an environmentally-friendly system!), and you end up reunited with your luggage and family faster as a result of Global Entry.

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 associated fee. U.S. Customs and Border Protection will review your application and conduct a background check once you’ve submitted, and if it’s conditionally approved, you’ll make an in-person interview appointment at a U.S. Global Entry Enrollment Center.

What’s the Global Entry Interview Like?

First off, applying for U.S. Global Entry doesn’t mean your interview is going to happen next week. 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).

How Much Does Global Entry Cost?

It costs $100 (non-refundable) 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. Credit cards like the American Express Platinum Card offer a rebate if you use your credit card for the Global Entry application fee. Furthermore, on some cards — AmEx Platinum included — you can use your credit card to pay for someone else’s Global Entry and still receive the rebate. (This is only true if you haven’t used the card for your own Global Entry fee.)

What if the Person I’m Traveling with Doesn’t Have Global Entry?

You can’t take anyone through Global Entry kiosks with you, and that includes your young children. In other words, if you want your four-year-old to enter the U.S. with Global Entry, they need to undergo the same global entry application and screening process in order to enroll.

How Does Global Entry Help Me?

Travelers approved for Global Entry also get TSA PreCheck. So in addition to getting back into the country faster, you’ll have an easier time getting through security. Once you’re approved for Global Entry, you’ll receive a Known Traveler Number, which you can add to your frequent flyer profiles and plug in when you’re booking flights.

How to Use Global Entry

First, when you’re given a Known Traveler Number after getting approved for Global Entry, you’ll want to start entering that number when booking flights. 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 customs form flight attendants hand out on international flights.

How is Global Entry Different From TSA PreCheck?

Is TSA Global Entry even a thing? Is there some sort of fusion between Global Entry and TSA PreCheck? To be clear, 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 only costs $15 more than TSA PreCheck alone.

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