The Newbie’s Guide to the U.S. Global Entry Program

The Newbie’s Guide to the U.S. Global Entry Program

Nothing makes the heart sink faster than seeing long lines at airports, especially when those long lines resemble a cesspool of copper headed snakes and are just as pleasant.  You know the drill….whether it’s waiting to go through the tiring TSA lines or through passport control/immigration, we have been conditioned to the art of the wait.

In a rare show of common sense, the government has developed a program to alleviate this inhuman form of torture.  Originally created to target frequent international travelers, the U.S. Global Entry program has been a virtual godsend for travelers who want a fast and secure way of skipping the lines altogether when re-entering the United States.

Global Entry Program

What is it exactly?

When coming back to the USA after visiting a foreign country, you will have to go through Customs.   Usually, the lines are long because at any given time there are many flights re-entering the USA at the same time that your flight arrives.  This compounds the number of people who have to go through customs and usually end up creating interminable lines as a result.  The Global Entry program is a Trusted Traveler pre-screening program that allows you to go to a computer kiosk instead of a Customs officer when you are returning home.  This will significantly expedite your re-entry into the country because there will be virtually no wait since you can just walk up to the kiosk, scan your passport, let the camera scan your face and then your fingers to identify you biometrically.

Global Entry Program

A screenshot of your flight details will pop up and you will need to verify whether or not you have something to declare.  If you are cleared through, a piece of paper will print out that you will need to hand over to the customs officer on your way out to baggage claim or ground transportation.  Time elapse?  Less than three minutes.

Is it really that easy?  Surely, I can still be searched at this stage of the game.

That is correct.  You know that little piece of paper that I just mentioned?  If it has an X on it, you will have to see a customs official.  You do not have to stand in line, just go straight to the nearest officer and they will determine why you were flagged.  It could be something very simple like not declaring something that you have brought back from your travels.  That officer will determine if you need to go through a secondary and more hands-on screening.

Who’s eligible to sign up for this program?

Global Entry is open to U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents, Dutch citizens, South Korean citizens and Mexican nationals. Canadian citizens and residents may enjoy Global Entry benefits through membership in the NEXUS program.  Applicants must be over 18 or if under the age of 18, must have parental or legal guardian’s consent. 

Global Entry Program

How do I apply?

All applications must be submitted online.  During the application process, you will be assessed a $100.00 non-refundable application fee.  Caution: be sure to follow all instructions to the letter.  Someone inputted his birthday incorrectly, so his application was denied.  He could reapply but would have to pay the fee again.

Next, you will have to submit to an in-person interview.  After your application has been reviewed, you will receive a notification in your G.E. account that you need to schedule an interview at one of their Global Entry Enrollment Centers.  All of the centers are located close to or within airports.  If they are located inside the airport, you will never have to worry about going through TSA to get there.  The offices are located outside the security area.

The actual interview consists of pointed questions (i.e. to ascertain any criminal history) and watching a short video on how to use the kiosk or they will simply demonstrate how while you are there.  The interviewer (A U.S. Customs Officer) will take your picture and scan your fingerprints.  Both biometric measures must match when you go to the computer kiosk when re-entering the country.  All applicants must bring with them a machine-readable passport or a U.S. permanent residency card.  Typically, you will be done in less than 15 minutes.

Are there any conditions that may disqualify me?

According to the Global Entry site, here is their list of reasons for ineligibility for their program:

Applicants may not qualify for participation in the Global Entry program if they:

  • Provide false or incomplete information on the application;
  • Have been convicted of any criminal offense or have pending criminal charges or outstanding warrants;
  • Have been found in violation of any customs, immigration or agriculture regulations or laws in any country;
  • Are subjects of an ongoing investigation by any federal, state or local law enforcement agency;
  • Are inadmissible to the United States under immigration regulation, including applicants with approved waivers of inadmissibility or parole documentation;
  • Cannot satisfy the Customs and Border Protection department (CBP) of their low-risk status (e.g. CBP has intelligence that indicates that the applicant is not low risk; CBP cannot determine an applicant’s criminal, residence or employment history).

Global Entry Program

When does my ‘membership’ expire?

Your $100.00 non-refundable fee gives you five years’ access to the Global Entry program.

Are there any additional benefits that I should know about?

U.S. citizens who are members of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Global Entry, NEXUS and SENTRI Trusted Traveler programs are eligible to participate in the TSA Pre program.  Canadian citizens who are members of the NEXUS program are also eligible for the TSA Pre program.  You will not be assessed any additional fees in order to participate.

This means that if you are traveling on participating airlines, after check in, you can skip the long TSA lines and head straight for the TSA Pre- approved line with your Global Entry card.  At this point, you can walk through with your shoes, belt and coat on and you will not need to take any electronics out for x-ray scans.  Naturally, the government reserves the right to search you anyway, for whatever reason.

Currently, the participating airlines are Delta, American Airlines, Alaska Airlines, United and US Airways but only at specific airports.  Be sure to check to see which airports offer this service here.

Upon approval to the Global Entry program, you will receive an invitation to the TSA Pre program.  Each airline will have to separately approve your participation.  This program is still in the early stages and will become more valuable as more airlines sign on board and more airports accommodate the program.

Another bonus is that your $100 Global Entry fee allows you to use the Mexican government’s SENTRI program and the US government’s ReadyLane programs for free.  Each will give you expedited entry through the Mexican or Canadian border if you are traveling via car.

Global Entry Program

How long will I have to wait before I know if I am accepted or not?

Typically, it will take about a week for your application to be approved.  You will then be able to schedule your appointment online.

What if my passport expires during the five-year membership?  Can I transfer the time left to the new passport?

Yes!  All you will need to do is go into your online Global Entry account and update your information.

Other tips:

  • If you travel extensively for a living, your employer may want to invest the $100.00 if time is a big factor in your job.  It will save an incredible amount of time for a paltry $20.00 per year.
  • If you are an American Express Platinum cardholder, they will reimburse members $100.00 in fees annually.  The Global Entry program would be a great way to use that benefit.

UPDATE: On May 6, 2013, The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) announced that beginning May 7, 2013, in addition to domestic travel, TSA Pre✓™ participants will be eligible for expedited screening on select international travel itineraries.

Eligible passengers traveling on Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines and US Airways will be allowed to leave on their shoes, light outerwear and belt, keep their laptop in its case, and their 3-1-1 compliant liquids/gels bag in a carry-on.

John Pistole, head of the Transportation Security Administration, stated: “We reached an agreement with the European Union, Canada and Australia for them to accept PreCheck passengers from the United States.”

UPDATE 2: Read this great article from The Points Guy that will give you more insight into the program.  You can never have too much up to date info about G.E!

UPDATE 3: I’ve just read some disheartening news about the TSA PreCheck program from Johnny Jet.  It seems that some airports are allowing anyone through whether they have been prescreened or not.  If that’s the case, what’s the point?  This seems to be happening in smaller, regional airports, but there needs to be consistency for this program to work:

UPDATE 4: Here is a complete listing of the 39 US airports that have Global Entry kiosks to date: Anchorage, Alaska; Phoenix; Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco and Santa Ana, Calif.; Denver; Fort Lauderdale, Miami, Orlando, Sanford-Orlando and Tampa in Florida; Atlanta; Honolulu; Chicago Midway and O’Hare; Cincinnati; Baltimore/Washington in Maryland; Boston; Detroit; Minneapolis-St. Paul; Las Vegas; Newark, N.J.; John F. Kennedy in New York; Charlotte and Raleigh-Durham in North Carolina; Cleveland; Portland, Ore.; Philadelphia and Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania; San Juan, Puerto Rico; Austin, Dallas/Fort Worth, Houston Bush and San Antonio in Texas; Salt Lake City; Washington Dulles; Seattle-Tacoma in Washington and Milwaukee, Wis.

UPDATE 5: Here is a list of 9 new airports that will soon have Global Entry kiosks by April 3, 2017: Fairbanks, Alaska; Oakland, Sacramento and San Jose in California; New Orleans; Kansas City and St. Louis in Missouri; Houston Hobby and Burlington, Vt.

I will continue to post new updates as they come in.  If this article has been helpful to you, please share it with your friends/followers using the social media buttons below.  Thanks!

UPDATE 6: Beginning May 8, 2017, the Global Entry program will be open to citizens of the country of Argentina.   Argentina becomes the tenth country overall whose citizens will be eligible to enroll in Global Entry.  U.S. citizens, U.S nationals, and U.S. Lawful Permanent Residents may apply for Global Entry as well as citizens of certain countries with which CBP has trusted traveler arrangements, including Colombia, Germany, Mexico, the Netherlands, Panama, the Republic of Korea, Singapore, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and now Argentina. Canadian citizens and residents enrolled in NEXUS may also use the Global Entry kiosks.



Renee King
[email protected]
  • the IBIT Travel Digest 1.27.13
    Posted at 10:05h, 27 January Reply

    […] pick up all the details on “Global Entry,” check out Renee’s article here. And then bookmark it. You’ll want to keep this one […]

  • Athena Brady
    Posted at 15:22h, 28 January Reply

    Hi Renee. I love your posts as you know. We are going to Amsterdam soon so I have favourited your post on this for nearer the time to get your tips. I have started a new weekly post on Saturdays honouring people’s blogs that I have read throughout the week. This week I listed yours here is a link if you would like to stop by.

    • Renee King
      Posted at 08:06h, 08 April Reply

      Thanks, Athena! You’re the best!

  • Greg Prohl
    Posted at 21:58h, 31 January Reply

    Great posting Renee, chock full of very useful and pertinent info for all manner of travelers. I’d heard a little about this program but your article contains a lot of helpful details. Still not sure if this program is for me or not as I only get out of the country about once a year on average, but it sounds tantalizing.

    • Renee King
      Posted at 08:05h, 08 April Reply

      Yeah, I hear you, but I think it’s cool even if you travel internationally once a year. That would add up to sailing through customs a total of five times. Sounds good to me! lol

  • Lee
    Posted at 14:57h, 16 March Reply

    When I gave a friend of mine a hand bringing his boat back from Mexico to Miami. We arrived and got threatened with a 3000 dollar fine for not following the right procedure my friend had done the trip many times but they had changed it while he was away. Which he new nothing about. Just goes to show you how things change.

    Great stuff lee

    • Renee King
      Posted at 08:04h, 08 April Reply

      Just goes to show you, the only constant is change. It’s always helpful to check things out before leaving to avoid such inconveniences.

  • Lance
    Posted at 00:28h, 08 April Reply

    Check and done. Just applied! Now, waiting for my interview. Thanks for sharing your experience!

    • Renee King
      Posted at 08:02h, 08 April Reply

      Good for you, Lance!! Good luck!

  • Amber
    Posted at 21:12h, 28 April Reply

    Great info on a great program! I finally applied last year, just before leaving the US for a RTW. I have only used it a couple of times, but it has saved a ton of time already. It is definitely worth it.

    And, because my employer arranged for the program, and a minimum number of people were interested, the GE interviewers came to our office, saving a trip to the airport for the interview.

  • Micah Vargas
    Posted at 17:03h, 12 May Reply

    In May 2009, Global Entry membership was expanded to include Netherlands citizens who are also members of The Netherlands Privium trusted traveler program under the FLUX (Fast Low-risk Universal Crossing) alliance . Present members of Global Entry are now permitted to apply to join the Privium program at Amsterdam-Schiphol International Airport allowing entry into the Schengen area .

    • Gary
      Posted at 18:28h, 31 May Reply

      Does this mean if we are traveling to Schiphol (and we are we are Global Entry approved) we can apply to Privium and zip through their immigration lines? do you know the cost?
      Thank you.

  • Scot Strems
    Posted at 04:58h, 05 August Reply

    Nice program, Thanks for sharing link about globalentry…

  • Raj
    Posted at 04:58h, 09 August Reply

    Very nice post Renee.
    Thanks for sharing this information with us.

  • aviewtoathrill
    Posted at 19:55h, 15 August Reply

    Check out this post!: The Newbie’s Guide to…

  • Mary
    Posted at 00:44h, 26 November Reply

    I’m going on my second month waiting to get passed my “initial review.” Your article said it takes about a week to get to the schedule an interview part, do you know of anything that may cause a delay?

    • Renee King
      Posted at 05:59h, 26 November Reply

      Ouch! Sorry to hear about the delay, Mary. This program is going bonkers right now. It seems that a lot of people are learning about it and applying for it. You would not believe the number of hits this article gets from Google. People have heard, they are telling their friends, etc. There is a literal run on G.E. right now. I’m glad that you’re sharing your experience so that anyone who is reading the comments will know that it will take longer. I will wait a while before updating this article, but I will add this caveat (thanks to you, Mary): Please be patient, there is an obvious backlog but they will get to you. You should definitely plan ahead and plan accordingly. Don’t wait until the last minute, put your application in as soon as you know you will need this service….and good luck!

  • Suzanne Fluhr
    Posted at 21:26h, 31 May Reply

    As recently as earlier this month, I was still frequently getting TSA Precheck on my boarding pass despite not being enrolled in the program by application. The rub is that I was not finding terminals with TSA Precheck lanes open. The only advantage I had was not having to take off my shoes. As you point out, things with TSA are kind of a mess right now. I’m not looking forward to having to fly out of O’Hare Airport in Chicago next month.

  • The Newbie’s Guide to enduring long International Flights - A View To A Thrill
    Posted at 14:31h, 03 August Reply

    […] you are not currently signed up with the Global Entry program, I would advise you to do so.  It will save you a major headache when traveling period, but […]

  • Sonali
    Posted at 01:58h, 05 December Reply

    Very nice post Renee.
    Thanks for sharing this information with us.

  • A Decade of Desire: My Ultimate Travel Bucket List Part I - A View To A Thrill
    Posted at 14:32h, 13 December Reply

    […] I was inspired by my recent Global Entry application. Obviously, I’m in it for the long-haul if I’m willing to pay for the […]

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