Disclaimer: Information posted on this blog page is a general resource and should not be construed as professional advice. Recommendations are made based on personal experience alone.

Four years ago, in June 2013, the JJ family set out on a short weekend trip to Houston. Like other trips, it involved a ride to the George Bush Intercontinental Airport. Unlike other trips, we weren’t taking a flight but were rather there to meet with an officer of the CBP, the US Customs and Border Protection, the agency charged with safeguarding our borders and facilitating seamless international travel. There was a nervous anticipation to that visit as it was “the interview” we had scheduled to complete the Global Entry process. There were two officers that interviewed us in pairs. We showed them the necessary documents and questioned us about our (then) recently concluded trips and upcoming ones, including of the children, who were 12 and 7 years old then. They were business like but polite. After obtaining our biometrics, we were done! We had been prepared for a long morning and were done in less than 30 minutes, all-inclusive. Totally anticlimactic! We spent the rest of the day at the Galveston beach and headed home the next day.

So what is Global Entry and why did we drive to Houston to obtain it? The CBP runs a Trusted Traveler Program called Global Entry that allows low risk international travelers expedited clearance for entry into the US at select airports. In other words, travelers enrolled in this program do not have to wait in snaking immigration lines. Rather, they can walk quickly to an automated kiosks which shoots a picture of the traveler, verifies biometrics and all relevant flight data, customs declaration and then spits out a printed receipt to be carried to the baggage claim exit. All travelers under this program have to apply for and undergo an exhaustive background check after which conditional approval is given. An in person interview is then scheduled at this stage and following successful completion of this, the final approval is given.

Additionally, enrollment in Global Entry also automatically assigns TSA Pre✓® status for domestic travel in select airports and on certain airlines. This allows the same traveler to go through expedited security check lanes at participating airports. Passengers with TSA Pre✓® do not have to remove the liquids, shoes, jackets etc. On really busy weekdays and during long weekend travel days, there is no greater boon than TSA Pre✓®, especially if one flies out of busy airports like DFW.

At the time of our Global Entry processing, the Dallas enrollment center did not have any available dates for nearly 2-3 months and we were already booked on family international trips. We felt it would be worth the trip to Houston to make it happen.

I have compiled information on Global Entry that I hope will be useful. I am writing this post since I get lot of questions about Global Entry from family and friends. I have condensed all relevant and most current information from the CBP site.

Benefits of Global Entry:

  • Expedited clearance upon re-entering the US at many airports
  • No need to fill the Customs Declaration form upon re-entry (the blue form handed out on the return flight)
  • Special lines for Global Entry members with automated kiosks for processing, saving time
  • Automatic TSA Pre✓® eligibility
  • Access to expedited entry lines in a few reciprocating countries like the UK, New Zealand,  and eleven other countries

Who is eligible for Global Entry:

  • US Citizens, US lawful permanent residents
  • Citizens of the following countries: India, Colombia, UK, Germany, Panama, Singapore, South Korea, Switzerland, Mexican Nationals (some may need to meet additional requirements based on their nationality)
  • No age restriction for eligibility. However, all  applicants under 18 years of age must have legal consent from parent or legal guardian to participate. Such parent or guardian does not need to be a Global Entry participant but must attend the interview and show proof of address.
  • Every traveler under the age of 18 years undergoes the same process (online application and in person interview) as an applicant over 18

How to apply:

  • Create an online Global Online Enrollment System (GOES) account for each applicant, irrespective of age
  • Complete the online application for each GOES user
  • Submit a $100 nonrefundable fee with each application, payable by credit card or electronic bank transfer. Funds are not refunded even if the application is denied
  • Await conditional approval from the GOES account, then schedule an interview when instructed to do so
  • Every applicant has to schedule an interview, regardless of age
  • Attend interview with required documentation

Where to apply:

  • Enrollment Centers (to complete interviews) are available in 36 states, District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, Canada and Qatar, each of which has one center or more
  • Enrollment Centers are not located in the following states: Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Mississippi, New Hampshire, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, West Virginia, Wyoming
  • Enrollment on Arrival (EoA), a new program as of July 2017, has been rolled out in George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH), William P. Hobby Airport (HOU), Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS), San Francisco International Airport (SFO) and Vancouver International Airport (YVR) for conditionally approved Global Entry applicants to complete their interview. In this case, after conditional approval is obtained, the traveler entering one of these airports after international travel can choose to complete the interview via EoA. He/ She will be directed to a dedicated booth for EoA at these airports and will finish the Global Entry interview along with their CBP primary clearance and then biometrics will be obtained.

Global Entry Cards:

  • Once a person is approved for Global Entry, he/ she will receive the Global Entry Cards that are activated online using the GOES account. Global Entry cards are only needed for land crossings from Mexico and Canada into the US. Global Entry Cards cannot be used at airport kiosks.
  • Global Entry is validated using the traveler’s passport or machine readable lawful permanent resident card (green card)

International reciprocity:

  • Australia’s SmartGate (needs electronic US passport and traveler age at least 16 years)
  • New Zealand’s dedicated lane for US global entry travelers, doesn’t specify age limits
  • Other countries that need separate enrollment with their respective programs: Germany, Mexico, Republic of Korea, Panama, United Kingdom

Global Entry validity:

  • Once approved, Global Entry is valid for five years. Renewal can be done in the year before expiration
  • Any changes in passport information in the interim must be updated via the GOES account

Benefits of TSA Pre✓®:

  • Expedited security screening at over 200 domestic airports and on 37 airlines
  • No need to remove laptops, shoes, belts, thin jackets, 3-1-1 liquids
  • TSA Pre✓® can be applied for separately as well, this includes an online application with a membership fee of $85 for 5 years, then schedule an in person background check and fingerprinting at the enrollment centers, wait for approval
  • Children 12 and under can go through expedited screening as long as a parent(s) with them is/are TSA Pre✓® eligible and marked on the boarding passes. This is different from Global Entry where every member has to be individually approved before they can use the kiosk as a group. 

Credit cards that reimburse for Global Entry:

Further reading:

Our family has found Global Entry/ TSA Pre✓® to be invaluable tools during our travels. It’s a pleasure to avoid long security lines, removing shoes, belts or laptops during domestic travel. It’s also a huge benefit to bypass a long CBP processing line upon entering the US from international travel, saving time and aggravation. We have boarded many flights on time using these programs, in really busy airports or with short connections. Of course, the drawback is that this program is not available in all airports and enrollment centers are not located in all states. Still, for anyone traveling with reasonable frequency, Global Entry is indispensable.

All information has been condensed from the CBP website and is current as of August 2017.