Global Entry is an incredibly useful program for anyone who travels internationally with any frequency. I’ve now had Global Entry for over a decade, so it has been some time since I’ve started the application process from scratch. However, I just completed the Global Entry application process for our infant son, so I wanted to report back on the current state of applying for Global Entry.
First let’s cover some of the basics of Global Entry, and then I’ll share a step-by-step guide to the application and approval process.
Global Entry application basics
Global Entry is run by US Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and offers expedited immigration clearance at airports in the United States when arriving from abroad. Rather than having to wait in an immigration line, you can instead go to one of the Global Entry kiosks. These kiosks will verify your identity based on biometric data, and then there’s typically an immigration officer who will clear you to pass through immigration without having to wait in line.
Global Entry really is such a game changer for the frequent international traveler. I remember that back in the day I’d always have to deal with the stress of worrying whether an immigration line would take five minutes or an hour. Nowadays I consistently breeze right through, and am landside within minutes of landing in the United States.
Who is eligible for Global Entry?
You need to specifically apply to join Global Entry. Global Entry is open to US citizens and US permanent residents.
Furthermore, Global Entry is available to citizens of select foreign countries, including Argentina, Bahrain, Brazil, Colombia, Germany, India, Mexico, the Netherlands, Panama, Singapore, South Korea, Switzerland, Taiwan, and the United Kingdom. Canadians are also eligible for Global Entry privileges by applying for the NEXUS program, which is essentially the Canadian equivalent of Global Entry.
Lastly, note that in order to be eligible for Global Entry, you can’t have been convicted of any criminal offense, and can’t have been found in violation of any customs, immigration, or agriculture regulation or laws in any country. I know plenty of people are in a situation where they may have been arrested for something minor decades ago, so technically that would make you ineligible for Global Entry.
How long is Global Entry valid for?
Global Entry is valid for roughly five years after you’re approved. The reason I say “roughly” is because it’s valid for five years from your next birthday. In other words, if your birthday is December 1, and you apply January 1, 2023, your membership would be valid through December 1, 2028.
If you strategically apply for Global Entry, you can get it for almost six years with one membership. Just apply shortly after your birthday. The process of renewing Global Entry is pretty straightforward, and each renewal is valid for five years.
How much does it cost to apply for Global Entry?
It costs $100 to apply for Global Entry. Fortunately, many credit cards offer a fee credit toward Global Entry. You can also use your credits for others, so if you have extra credits, you can have a friend or family member use your credit card for their Global Entry application fee.
At what airports is Global Entry available?
Global Entry is available at virtually all airports with US immigration facilities. This not only includes international gateways in the United States, but also includes US Pre-Clearance facilities outside the United States, including in Abu Dhabi, Nassau, Toronto, etc.
Do kids need their own Global Entry?
Rather frustratingly, kids of all ages need their own Global Entry — parents having a membership isn’t sufficient. So even if you have an infant, they can only accompany you at Global Entry if they have their own membership.
Does Global Entry include TSA PreCheck?
TSA PreCheck is another awesome program, which can save you time at security at US airports. Note that if you get approved for Global Entry, you also automatically get TSA PreCheck, while the inverse isn’t true.
Step-by-step Global Entry application guide
There are several steps to applying for Global Entry, including the following:
- First you need to create a Trusted Traveler Program account
- You then need to complete your Global Entry application
- You then need to pay the Global Entry application fee
- You then need to wait for conditional approval
- You then need to schedule and attend an interview, at which point you’ll be approved
How much time should you plan for all of this?
- I’d expect the entire application process to take 15-30 minutes, depending on how fast you are
- Then you need to wait for conditional approval; the CBP states that approval times are currently an average of four to six months, though my son’s application was approved within two days (in fairness, he’s only 10 months old, so has a limited record) 😉
- You then need to schedule an interview; availability can be hard to find, though fortunately you can also be interviewed on the return of an international trip, which is what I recommend
Let’s go over each of those steps.
Create a Trusted Traveler Program account
CBP has a variety of “Trusted Traveler Programs,” and Global Entry is one of those. Before you can start your Global Entry application, you’ll have to create a Trusted Traveler Program account at this link.
Once at that link, you’ll want to select Global Entry as the program you want to apply for.
You’ll then need to provide the email address you want to use for your account, and create a password that’s at least 12 characters long.
Next up, you’ll have to share some very basic personal details, including your name, date of birthday, place of birth, etc.
You’ll also be asked if you’ve applied for any Trusted Traveler Programs in the past.
At that point your Trusted Traveler Program account will have been created, and you’re ready for the next step, which is to complete your Global Entry application.
Complete your Global Entry application
The next step is to complete the actual Global Entry application process. This starts with requiring you to confirm your citizenship, as well as your general eligibility for Global Entry.
Once you’ve done that, the application process is six steps. This is for the most part pretty straightforward.
First you’ll have to provide some personal information, including gender, eye color, height, etc.
You’ll then have to provide proof of citizenship. This is as simple as providing your passport details, including the passport number and expiration date.
The next step requires you to share your address info, including how long you’ve lived there.
Next is the step that will be really easy for some, and super complicated for others. You need to share all the countries you’ve been to in the past five years (excluding the United States, Canada, and Mexico).
The fifth step requires you to answer some background questions, including whether you have any criminal convictions, etc.
The last step is a final review, whereby you have to confirm all the details of your application, and certify that the information shared is accurate.
Pay the $100 Global Entry application fee
Next up, you’ll be asked to pay the $100 Global Entry application fee. You can do this by credit card, and of course I’d highly recommend using a credit card that offers a Global Entry fee credit, so that this doesn’t actually cost you anything.
Once you’ve made your payment, you’ll see that your application shows as “pending review,” and the next step is to wait for conditional approval.
Wait for Global Entry conditional approval
Now we’re at the hardest part of the application process, which is waiting. 😉 CBP states that current application processing times for Global Entry are four to six months (which is absurd, if you ask me, but…).
Fortunately you don’t have to constantly check on the application status, because you’ll receive an email when the status of your application changes. Specifically, you’ll receive an email with the subject line “TTP Application Status Change,” and it’ll be sent from [email protected].
Hopefully at this point you’re conditionally approved, which means that you need to schedule an interview to get your final approval.
Here’s the interesting thing — while it’s stated that processing times are four to six months, my son’s application was approved in under two days.
I assume that there’s a system in place that automatically conditionally approves certain applications based on a low risk profile. I imagine that young kids are easily approved, since they’re unlikely to have any suspicious things associated with their profile.
So be prepared to wait many months, but don’t be surprised if you’re approved within a couple of days.
Schedule & complete your Global Entry interview
Once you’re conditionally approved, you can schedule your Global Entry interview, which will get you fully approved. There are a few ways you can go about this:
- You can schedule an interview at any Global Entry interview location, of which there are many; the catch is that appointments are really hard to secure
- You can schedule a remote Global Entry interview, though this comes with additional restrictions, and also has limited availability
- You can have your Global Entry interview on arrival from an international trip, eliminating the need for an appointment, or even a separate trip to an enrollment center
Personally I think that last option is the best, and that’s what we’re planning on doing for our son. It seems easiest to just have the interview conducted when you’re returning from an international trip anyway.
What should you expect from the Global Entry interview? Most people report that it’s pretty straightforward, and you’re basically just asked to confirm all the details that were in your application. If you’ve been to certain countries, you may be asked about your reason for traveling there.
Don’t expect to get grilled too hard, but rather this usually just lasts a few minutes, and covers very basic things.
Global Entry is a fantastic program that can save you time when entering the United States. You do have to specifically apply for Global Entry, and it’s valid for roughly five years, with a $100 application fee.
The process of applying for Global Entry is pretty straightforward, and should take under 30 minutes. The catch is that you then have to wait up to four to six months for a conditional approval, and then need to schedule an interview, which can take just as long. So you’ll definitely want to apply for Global Entry well ahead of any planned international travel.
If you’ve applied for Global Entry, what was your experience like?