Thanks to miles and points, many people have traveled the world for what others pay to travel to a different state in the US. With them, many of us have gotten to enjoy learning and experiencing many countries and cultures. However, with all of those experiences, we sometimes forget that there are many aspects of international travel that can be confusing to people just starting out. Hopefully this multi-part Guide To International Travel will help to simplify things for the travelers just starting out to explore the world around us. Previous parts covered – Guide To International Travel – Passport and Guide To International Travel – Visas
Guide to International Travel – Global Entry
Global Entry is a program by the US Customs and Border Patrol that is just a fantastic way to streamline one of the biggest international travel annoyances – the long wait at immigration and customs upon reentry to the United States. Plainly speaking, it just works! I cannot imagine not having it now as it has seriously changed my international travel.
What Is Global Entry
Global Entry is a trusted traveler program administered by the US Customs and Border Patrol. Once the application and interview process is completed, if you are approved, you will be able to enter the US at airport entry points and go right to a special kiosk where you insert your passport, answer a couple of questions, place your fingers on the digital fingerprint pad, pose for a snapshot, and you are done! While it may sound like it takes a while, I am honestly through with it in less than 90 seconds. No more waiting in line at passport control while you mingle with the passengers from 5 international arrivals that pack the immigration area!
What Does It Take To Receive Global Entry?
The process to receive Global Entry involves an application, a background check, and an interview. This is because this program allows people to enter the US pretty much un-touched and un-checked by US officials. As a Global Entry holder, you are pre-cleared for entry into the US and this involves a certain level of risk for the US. So, the US CBP works to minimize the risk by ensuring that only low-risk individuals are granted Global Entry. Also, as of 2012, an individual of any age can apply for Global Entry (read this post for information about Global Entry for children – and how you can get it for them for free!)
There is a multi-step process involved to receive Global Entry.
- Register for a GOES (Global Online Entry System) account – here
- Fill out the Global Entry online application – found here
- Pay the Global Entry fee ($100 – good for 5 years)
- Wait for the Conditional Approval (takes a couple/few days)
- Log on to your GOES account to schedule an interview (must take place at a CBP Enrollment Center)
- Go for the interview
- All goes well – skip the long lines at US Immigration!
What Does The Application Ask?
The application is going to ask for a lot of historical information – job history, residence history, countries visited, etc. It is several (online) pages and asks for all the personal information you would imagine they would seek. This information is not telling the government anything they do not already know. This information is to confirm your identity and check your facts. To download a step-by-step guide for the application, click here.
Here is the list categories it will ask you about:
- Personal Information
- Other Names Used
- Date and Place of Birth
- Contact Information
- Citizenship Information
- Admissibility Documents
- Primary Residence
- Driver’s License
- Current Address
- Address History – going back 5 years
- Current Employment Status
- Employment History – going back 5 years
- Travel History – countries visited over the last 5 years
- Additional Information – have you ever had any criminal issues, etc
- Conveyance Information
- Final Review
What Is The Cost?
The cost for Global Entry is $100 for 5 years. While that may sound high, it breaks down to just $20 a year. If you take one international trip per year, that makes the amount completely worth it! Even if you take only two trips within the 5 year period, you still may receive value out of it because of the time it will save you.
There are several ways that you can receive a credit for that fee, however. In other words, you do may not have to pay that amount out of pocket.
The American Express Platinum card family (the personal Platinum card, the business Platinum card, and the Mercedes Benz Platinum card) all offer a credit for Global Entry. You need to use your card for the fee and then you will receive a statement credit within a few days for the $100. You only receive one credit per card. However, you can request additional cards – 3 cards for $175 total – and get the Global Entry credit for each card. The Global Entry application does not have to be in the name of the cardholder. I do not receive a commission for these cards.
Delta Airlines Choice Benefits
Delta Airlines changed some of their Choice Benefits for their Platinum and Diamond Medallion members for this year. One of the additions to the list was a Global Entry voucher. Platinum members, should they choose the Global Entry voucher as their Choice Benefit, get one voucher while Diamond members receive two vouchers (and they get to choose two Choice Benefits). To see details and choose the voucher, go here.
United Airlines Elite Benefit
United Airlines also grants their highest elite members a certificate for a Global Entry application. It is available to their Global Services members, Premier 1K members, and Premier Platinum members. This is not a choice benefit (like Delta) but simply a perk for achieving that elite level. So, if you earn the full status, you will receive the certificate, as well as those who have status challenged to United from another airline and those who receive United status as a companion benefit from a United Airline Million Mile member. To see details, go here.
Citi Prestige Card
In addition to the above options, the Citi Prestige card also gives a statement credit for Global Entry applications. I do not receive a commission for this card.
What Happens With The Interview?
Many of the enrollment centers are actually booked up for interviews months in advance. From the time you receive your Conditional Approval, you have 30 days to schedule the interview. Once scheduled, you can cancel it (as long as it is cancelled more than 24 hours in advance of the appointment, you can cancel online) and rebook a different enrollment center or scheduled slot.
There are some enrollment centers that accept walk-in appointments (though most require an appointment). One such is JFK. They would prefer you schedule an appointment, but all you need to do is grab an appointment at any hour on the day you want to interview and then just show up. However, if you are flying through JFK, you can always just stop downstairs (in Terminal 4 on the ground floor) and ask if you can get an interview. My whole family (my wife, three kids, and myself) all had our interviews conducted there (at three separate times) and cannot say enough about the professional appearance and conduct of those agents, all while being friendly. When our kids had their appointment, my youngest was just a little over 1, and they were very patient and helpful with him as we got the photos done.
The interview does not take that long. They will basically ask questions about your application. Some of those questions will center around the countries you may have visited. Just answer truthfully to all questions and you should be fine. You have already been approved to a certain degree and now just are going through the formal interview process. After they are done, they will show you how to use kiosk and then send you on your way!
To find all of the Global Entry Enrollment Centers, click here for a list with their locations/addresses.
How Much Time Can I Save?
To me, the time savings is completely worth the fee (if I had paid for it, which I did not thanks to some of the methods above). I have timed how much time I can save by splitting from my companions and running the clock on it. The average time is about 70 minutes. Now, that can vary greatly depending on the airport of entry and how many incoming aircraft there are, but that is still a fair estimate of the time savings. For instructions on how to use the kiosk (which they will show you at the interview), click here.
How beneficial is that kind of time savings? Very! It has allowed me to book tighter connections almost every international trip so that I can get to my destination earlier and not have to wait in the airport an extra 3-5 hours. It also allows me to spend some time getting some things done instead of standing in line for over an hour at immigration. Read this report for one instance that allowed me to make a flight I had not business making!
A couple of years ago, Delta used to escort their Diamond Medallion members to the front of the line at Immigration and then escort them through customs to security (at JFK). I have had that done (before that little perk was canned) and can say that Global Entry at least equals or surpasses the time savings I had with that!
Is it worth it? If you plan on traveling internationally at least twice in the next 5 years, I would say yes. Once you get it and find out how great it is not to have to spend over an hour on your feet after a long international flight, you will enjoy it! Also, not only does it help you with US Immigration, but it can also help you with airport security in Toronto (and soon other Canadian airports). Read this post for my experience in Toronto as a Global Entry member.