If you are a regular traveler, by now you have probably seen the PreCheck lines that allow certain travelers the privilege of not only bypassing long TSA lines but also keeping their shoes on and leaving liquids and laptops in their carry-on. Precheck membership is by application only and costs $85. But did you know that for only another $15, you can take advantage of both PreCheck privileges and expedited customs and immigration processing for international travel. If you do any kind of regular travel outside of the United States, it may be worth your while to apply for the Global Entry program.
Global Entry requires a $100 application fee (note: this fee is non-refundable if an application is denied). It also requires proof of residence and citizenship, and applicants must have a valid passport. It takes about a week for the application to be reviewed.
Successful applicants met then schedule an in-person interview at a Global Entry Enrollment Center. Typically, these are located at airports. The time-frame for the interview will depend on which center you want to visit. The appointment takes maybe 20 minutes, and half of that time was dedicated to an explanation of how to go through customs as a successful applicant. At the interview, you will be photographed and fingerprinted.
Why would anyone pay to go through all of this?
- Global Entry comes with TSA PreCheck status.
- Global Entry members do not need to fill out the blue customs declaration forms to re-enter the United States.
- When traveling to an airport that participates in the Global Entry program, members need not wait in the long customs lines upon re-entry.
Instead of waiting in line, Global Entry holders proceed to the GOES kiosks, where their passport is scanned. The kiosk also scans fingerprints and takes a picture of the holder which is matched against facial recognition software. The holder also answers a series of questions (from that blue customs declaration form), and when you are finished, a receipt is printed out. Holders take the receipt to the next available customs agent at the exit area. Note: only GOES holders can use the kiosks. If you are traveling with family members or others who do not have GOES status, you can opt to proceed through customs as usual, or you can separate from your fellow-travelers to go through customs and rejoin them afterwards.
A couple other important facts:
- Global Entry status is good for a period of 5 years.
- If you hold certain credit cards, you may be eligible to have your $100 application fee waived.
- The GOES background check is very thorough so be sure to disclose any past history with law enforcement and be sure to avoid typos in your application.
- If you travel with children, they must also be have Global Entry status to use the kiosks with you (Note: this is one important difference from the domestic PreCheck service where children can go through PreCheck security with a parent who has been cleared).
- If you need to renew your passport during the five-year period that you have your GOES card, you need to visit a Customs & Border Patrol office at your airport before traveling so they can update your GOES information with your new passport. This visit does not require an appointment and, according to TSA, only takes a few minutes.
- After you are granted GOES status, you will receive a GOES photo ID card in the mail. This card is used when traveling across the border to Canada or Mexico by automobile. It also serves as a form of federally-issued photo ID if you need something in addition to your passport.
I have yet to have an occasion to use the Global Entry features myself, but I have gotten to take advantage of TSA PreCheck, and I had forgotten how nice it is to keep my shoes on.
Do you do a lot of international travel? Have you applied for Global Entry or PreCheck? Please share your tips in the comments section below.
[Creative Commons licensed image by Flickr user Dave Heuts].