Updated: Nov 10, 2021
Have you ever heard of Global Entry (GE)? If not, let me enlighten you. In this post, I'll discuss what is Global Entry, price, how to apply, tips to get an interview sooner, things to do after you're approved, and more. But first I’ll start with a quick anecdote.
I’m currently writing this blog post on a plane from Chicago to Atlanta (on one of the busier travel days of the week: Sunday). My flight was scheduled to leave Chicago O’Hare (one of the largest airports in the world!!) at 7:07pm. According to my boarding pass, it was supposed to start boarding at 6:22pm. Do y’all want to know what time I PULLED UP to the airport? Not what time I walked in, not what time I got in the security line, but what time I pulled up to the airport… it was 6:09pm. BESTIES, that’s 58 minutes before my flight was supposed to take off. 43 minutes before the doors were scheduled to close. And I was just pulling up.
I grabbed my stuff out the backseat, hugged my mama, and walked into Terminal 3 of ORD. My mom always waits for me to get through TSA before leaving the airport (just in case), so it’s customary to text her once I’m through the line so she can head home. I texted my mama at 6:16pm, y’all. That’s only 7 minutes after we pulled up to the airport. SEVEN MINUTES is how long it took me to get through the security line. AMAZING.
I know you might be thinking, “okay Deja that’s because you have PreCheck.” And if you’re thinking that, you are absolutely correct. The most beautiful thing is that Global Entry includes PreCheck!! Not only does Global Entry allow you to bypass the long customs lines when returning back to the United States from an international trip… but it also provides significantly shorter security lines when flying domestic as well. How could you pass this up??
But, for real let me tell y’all what Global Entry is. Global Entry is a Trusted Traveler Program (TTP) hosted by the Department of Homeland Security. If you’ve heard of SENTRI or NEXUS, they are also TTPs. Global Entry gives you expedited customs screenings when returning to the United States from international travel. With Global Entry, you bypass the normal customs lines and go to one of the GE
kiosks. The kiosk will take a photo of you, and most of the time it will use facial recognition to determine who you are and what flight you are traveling in on. It will then print out a ticket with those details, and you will show it to the customs officer, then continue out past customs. Sometimes if the machine doesn’t catch your photo right, you will be required to scan your passport. In either case, it will ask you a series of yes/no questions about what you are bringing back to the country with you. Then your ticket will be printed and you will do what is mentioned above. Almost all travelers who have Global Entry do not wait more than 10 minutes in a customs line. (I’ve had it since 2018 I can personally vouch for that — even the one time I was randomly selected for further screening, I was still finished with customs in less than 10 minutes).
Some people might be saying “oh well I don’t travel internationally often so Global Entry isn’t for me”. But ohhhh to the contrary, and let me tell you why. In July 2021, my parents and I traveled to Jamaica. They returned to Chicago and waited TWO HOURS in the customs line. Meanwhile, I was through in under 6 minutes. My mom even texted me and said she wished she had GE. So moral of the story, unless you want to wait in customs lines for hours, just go on ahead and purchase GE. If that story isn’t convincing enough, let me remind you that you also get PreCheck with GE. I have gotten to ATL airport (another HUGE airport) with as little as 40 minutes prior to takeoff (not boarding) and still made my flight because of PreCheck. Don’t get me wrong, I literally had to channel my inner track star to make that flight AND I was trying to catch my breath the entire 2hr flight — but I made it (-10/10 do not recommend cutting it that close). Without PreCheck, it would have definitely been over for me. Which is why I am one of the biggest GE stans out there.
Wondering about cost? No worries, I got you. As of the original writing of this blog post (August 30, 2021), Global Entry had a cost of $100 for five years (only $20 per year, and I know you spend more than $20 /yr on fast food). For the amount of saved time and flights that should have been missed, it has definitely paid itself off. Plus, certain credit cards even give you a credit for it every 5 years so you don’t have to come out of pocket at all. And to put things in perspective, TSA PreCheck costs $85. So for only $15 more you get to save as much as 2-3 hours of time each time you return to the United States. It’s definitely worth it in my opinion.
To apply, click this link: https://www.cbp.gov/travel/trusted-traveler-programs/global-entry/how-apply. Be sure to double check the link that you use to apply if you're going to Google it because some 3rd party websites will try to claim it costs as much as $300 to apply - and you don't want to get got (we like saving money over here). When you apply, you will have to wait to get conditionally approved. The wait for this can be as short as a 2-3 days, orrrrrr if you're unlucky like my BF, it can take up to 12 months to receive the conditional approval. (For context, we submitted his GE application in February 2020 right before the pandemic and he didn't get approved until January 2021). Usually though the wait is around 2-3 weeks. Once that approval happens, you will have to have an interview. The interview is only like 5-10 minutes and a nothing crazy, buttttt you do have to wait for an in-person interview. (They are piloting virtual interviews, but as of now you can only do virtual interviews if you are renewing, not for your initial interview). & Depending on where you live, the nearest interview may be 1-6 months out. I know you're thinking, "ugh Deja I don't want to wait that long." Y'all know I have a tip for that too.
Once you've received your conditional approval, here are my recommendations:
Go into the CBP site and book the next available interview appointment at your preferred airport.
The next day: go back into the scheduling site like you would like to change your appointment
Repeat EVERYDAY (multiple times a day if you're committed like I was) until you find a closer slot that fits with your schedule
Get cute and head to the airport for your interview!! (they will be taking a picture of you... and I legitimately look a hot mess in my GE card picture so learn from my mistakes)
This seems time consuming, I know. But I personally was able to get an appointment the very next week after my conditional approval (when the original date was about 4 weeks out). I have been able to help at least 5 different people get interviews sooner using this method. The reason for this is cancellations. There is not a way for the system to alert you of cancellations, but there are usually cancellations at least every couple days. This means if you check at the right time, you are likely to find an earlier timeslot than originally shown. Try it! I swear it works!!
Note: There is an option called Enrollment on Arrival (EoA) from an international destination. If your closest international airport is super far or inconvenient to get to and you have time upon arriving from an international trip, then this could be an option for you. When you come back you would ask the employee (probably the person guiding people to the different customs lines) where the GE office is. If you do this upon arrival, you will go through the same actual interview, but you don't have to make an appointment like you would for a regular appointment. You must be already conditionally approved before your flight to qualify for this option. More info on this process can be found here: https://www.cbp.gov/travel/trusted-traveler-programs/global-entry/enrollment-arrival
After you complete your interview, you will know soon after if you've been fully approved. My interviewer told me I was approved before leaving, but not all do. But if you are directed to take a photo, then you're probably approved lol. In 1-2 weeks, you'll receive your GE card in the mail. You don't really have to travel with the card, but it does have your KTN (Known Traveler Number) and that is the hot commodity [in the yellow box below].
Once you have your KTN, you are all set and ready to roll!! The first thing you should do is add your KTN to all of your existing domestic and/or international flight reservations. While Global Entry is an international travel benefit, you do NOT have to be traveling internationally to use the Pre-Check benefit on your US domestic flights. As long as you add your KTN to your reservation (regardless of where you're flying to), you will generally get PreCheck printed on your boarding pass*. Adding the KTN is fairly easy to do, but let me know if you have questions on how to do it and I can add some photos. The next thing you should do is add your KTN to all of your frequent flyer accounts (Delta SkyMiles, American AAdvantage, Spirit FreeSpirit, etc). This will make it so that you don't have to add your KTN to any future flight reservations you make. Always double check though, because no system is perfect!!
Alas, Global Entry is 100% worth it, even if you only plan to travel internationally once per year. If you aren't really into international travel, perhaps consider getting just PreCheck? But, since GE is just $15 more, 100/10 recommend just applying for Global Entry.
Let me know if y'all have any other questions about Global Entry!!
Ciao for now,
*Pre-Check is not technically guaranteed on all domestic flights. You can be randomly selected to not have pre-check benefits on a specific domesic US flight. However, I've had GE for 3+ years now and have never not had my pre-check on a domestic flight.