There are few things worse than coming back from an 8+ hour flight and then having to sit in a massive line at JFK, MIA, or LAX waiting to clear customs and immigration. In the past I have waited upwards of two hours on occasion even as a resident citizen.
What if there was a way you could buzz through the process in minutes instead of hours? Well there is! It is called Global Entry and it is the best thing since sliced bread! I just recently was approved and took my first few international trips so now feel good about sharing my experiences. In today’s article I will be covering what Global Entry is and the application process.
What is Global Entry?
Global Entry is a program from U.S. Customs and Border Protection the provides “expedited clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travelers upon arrival in the United States.” Let’s take that statement one element at a time.
- Expedited Clearance – Think of breezing through in literally (and I actually mean literally) 10 minutes. Possibly up to 15 if your arrival gate is far from the immigration area.
- Pre-Approved, Low Risk Travelers – This means that you have to apply ahead of time, pass a thorough background check including submitting fingerprints and a personal interview.
- Upon arrival in the United States – Even though it only says upon arrival in the US, the program has actually expanded to have lanes in New Zealand and Ireland as well as providing TSA PreCheck for domestic and international flights.
Who can apply?
- US Citizens and Permanent US Residents
- Citizens of South Korea, Netherlands, Panama, Germany and Mexico
Why is it Awesome?
Global Entry will decrease the amount of time you spend in Immigration and Customs from an hour or much more to less than 15 mins. In fact, with Global Entry you can go from your gate to the airport exit just about as fast as you can walk through the terminal! As an added bonus, once you have Global Entry it will also give you TSA PreCheck which gives you expedited security screening where you don’t have to take off your shoes or remove your laptop from your bag and you go though the standard metal scanners instead of the new full body scanners.
What is the arrival process with Global Entry?
Once you have Global Entry, instead of waiting in that huge immigration line you bypass the huge line and go to one of the dedicated Global Entry Kiosks where you scan your passport, scan your fingerprints, have your picture taken, and answer some questions such as the standard customs questions. A receipt will then print and you breeze right up to the dedicated immigrations officer which normally has no line queueing. Since you are prescreened the whole process moves incredibly quickly.
What is the application process?
- Fill our the Online Application and pay the $100 application fee
- Schedule your in person interview at one of dozens of different airports around the US
- Conduct your interview where they will take your picture, fingerprints and ask you some questions about your background and any criminal history.
- You will get your global entry card in the mail in a few weeks! (But you don’t need it for travel and you can still use your passport)
How much does it cost and how can I get it for free?
The application fee for Global Entry is $100 and it is valid for a 5 year period after which time you will have to pay again. But certain credit cards such as The Platinum Card® from American Express, The Business Platinum Card® from American Express, and the Citibank Prestige Card will reimburse you for the $100 fee as part of their benefits package. Even better, if you have one of these cards, you can get reimbursed even if the Global Entry fee you pay isn’t your own!
If you travel between the US and Canada or are a Canadian citizen, there is another program called NEXUS. The fee is $50 for that but the trick is you have to interview with Canada at an airport near the Canadian border as part of the process. Since I wanted to do my interview in Miami and I don’t go to the land of the maple leaf often Global Entry made more sense for me.
Is it worth it?
I will be writing another quick article in the future about my first two Global Entry experiences but for right now I will summarize with “Apply now, Global Entry rocks!” 🙂
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