My Global Entry Registration Experience

For those of you not familiar with Global Entry, it’s a “trusted traveler” program whereby you can bypass the lines at immigration if you’re a member.

I’ve been meaning to join Global Entry for a long time now, though there is a bit of work required to join, so I kept pushing it off. After waiting at immigration at LAX for about an hour back in May after arriving from London, I convinced myself to stop pushing it off and actually join. The fact that American Express recently added the benefit of reimbursing Platinum cardholders for the registration fee was the icing on the cake, as the usual fee to register is $100.

About a month ago I went to Global Entry’s website and filled out the registration form. It took maybe 30 minutes, and asked just about all the personal information imaginable, including the countries I’ve visited in the past 10 years. That was a pretty long list and I didn’t want to screw it up, so I literally found myself going through the entire list of countries and trying to recall whether or not I had visited them.

Global Entry has a page that lists your approval status, and for about 3.5 weeks my application showed as “pending review.” Just this past week I became “conditionally approved,” and was able to schedule an interview at one of their stations. As luck would have it I was in New York this past weekend, so scheduled an interview for 30 minutes after I was scheduled to land from Tampa.

I arrived early and headed straight to the Global Entry center in terminal 4 at JFK. I sat down in the waiting area since I saw the agent interviewing someone. Little did I know there were multiple agents sitting around, I just hadn’t initially seen them because I didn’t want to interrupt the interview.

An agent welcomed me and tried to find my appointment, though after much searching without luck she pointed out that my appointment was actually for the following day. Fortunately that wasn’t an issue and she was happy to take me as a walk-in.

The “interview” took maybe 15 minutes and consisted of the agent reading me basically everything I had submitted on my application to confirm it’s accuracy. She was a bit confused by what I did for a living, especially given my age, so I was asked several questions about that.

The most interesting part of the “verification” process was that she confirmed the countries I had visited. Instead of asking me questions, she read back some of the countries on the application. At first I was confused. She would say something like “so, you’ve been to Indonesia,” without asking a question. I simply said “yes,” and she paused waiting for me to say more.

So for the remaining countries she read me (that I suppose she found suspicious) I guess I quickly became the country’s tourism board, coming up with catchy phrases for why I had visited. “Thailand,” she said. I responded with “you can’t beat $5/hour foot massages.” “Indonesia?” I responded with “yep, the people in Bali are among the nicest I’ve met anywhere in the world.” I wasn’t sure what exactly she was looking for, though I guess I “passed.”

After the interview she took my picture and fingerprints, and then brought me over to a Global Entry kiosk to show me how it works. It was incredibly easy – you just place your passport in the machine until it scans, stand still looking at the camera, and place your fingers on the machine to verify fingerprints. Once that’s complete you answer basic customs questions and then they print out a receipt.

I can’t wait to use Global Entry, as it seems like a huge timesaver. The one issue is that I often travel with people internationally that don’t have Global Entry, so the downside will be that they still have to use the normal line, meaning I don’t save all that much time in those cases. Still, I travel internationally alone a ton too, so I figure after a few trips the program will have paid for itself.

In an ideal world (and I realize I’m dreaming here), I’d love to see them add a Global Entry companion immigration line so that the program is even more valuable. Hell, have membership tiers and charge extra for allowing one companion to have access to an “expedited line.”

Regardless, color me excited!

Filed Under: American Express, Security/TSA
  1. And the Global Entry program is part of the trial rollout of the TSAs trusted traveler program, so it soon could get you thought the security theater without taking off your shoes.

    Supposedly (according to my CBP interviewer) you also get to cut the customs line too. Just go to the front and show the sticker in your passport. I am looking forward to using that benefit when I return via DTW, where the customs line is often the bottleneck.

  2. For those with new Australian passports containing the microchip, when entering Australia, they have this set up for everyone.
    Immigration never takes longer then a minute…

  3. Have been a member for about 4 months and love it. My home airport is Dulles which can be a nightmare sometimes for immigration. Last week I skipped a few hundred people in line and was loving it. Plane to curb literally in 10 min. At JFK it will be a huge benefit!

  4. Automated immigration clearance programs are the next big thing in border controls. I was one of the most frequent users of the UK’s IRIS scheme in 2007 and 2008 (much less use in 2009 and 2010) and actually received emails from the former Program Manager advising me that I was among the top 10 non-EU users of the system in 2007, and then later congratulating me on being the first non-EU user to have been granted entry by every single IRIS gateway then in existence (LHR T1/2/3/4/5, LGW N/S, MAN T1/T2, BHX T1). Totally I have over 200 IRIS entries to the UK, which has saved me pretty much an entire passport booklet as a result!

  5. @jsgoldbe

    It’s true, you do get to skip the customs line as well! Even if you have something to declare, you go straight to the front of the line. At least that was case both places I’ve used it, IAD and IAH.

  6. @ jsgoldbe @ Sean — As far as skipping the customs lines goes, is there a dedicated lane, or how exactly do you skip in front of everyone else? Seems like it would be an awkward situation, so just trying to figure out how to approach it best.

  7. I registered just like Lucky a few months ago. When I used the GE kiosk in ATL last month, I received a receipt with a large X through it. The CBP agent then reviewed my passport (again), asked the usual questions and approved my entry. When I asked him why I was required to see him after using the kiosk, he stated that it must have been because it was my first use. Lucky, see if your first use receives the same treatment. Good Luck!

  8. @lucky

    Some places there is a dedicated line, other places there is a sign over one of the regular lines. Last time I used GE was in MIA. It was really awkward as I just walked to the front of the line with the GE sign (not dedicated). A woman in line said “excuse me, there is a line here,” and I awkwardly responded “I have Global Entry, holding my passport open to the page with the CBP sticker. She glared at me but I just walked up to the CBP officer a moment later who confirmed that I was correct to cut the line.

  9. @MSPpete, @lucky

    I’ve used GE 4 or 5 times and never had an X, including my first time. The system is supposed to randomly reject a certain percentage of travelers according to the GE site.

  10. so no more stamps for your passport? Trade-off… stamp and waiting in line or no stamp and no line

  11. @lucky-I asked the agent interviewing me whether other passengers would complain if I used GE to cut in line. He responded, “Don’t worry about that. They’re always complaining about something. Just stand out in the (arrivals) hall for awhile.”

  12. @Sean m : wow!

    @lucky: you should consider using your blog as a pulpit to try to get it so US citizens can get apac cards. Many of my friends have these in Asia/Australia…allows them visa-free travel to many countries – and the right to use the diplomats’ lane. The us is somehow in consideration mode … But if Americans could get this card, it would save hours at many far away airports and avoid many visa hassles.

  13. @ flo — Hah, I consider that to be a blessing. Getting extra passport pages is a real PITA, so anything to avoid that is a good thing, in my book.

  14. My home airport is dulles as well, and i have been to some sketchy countries due to work with my employer, think afghanistan, pakistan etc. the only question was why i was applying for GE and why i had an out of state drivers license, no nonsense about all the countries i have been to. That being said, im not sure if being with the UN and having a UN LP passport helped :). As far as customs goes, at dulles they have a dedicated GE line after you pick up your bags

  15. My experience with this was much simpler. I was in and out very quickly at JFK T4. The guys were very nice. No questions asked. And my application was approved in a matter of days from initial application, and I have long list of countries visited and am not even a US citizen (I am green card holder).

    Anyway the irony is since using it I’ve only ever landed at quiet times! I did have a race with a buddy at Atlanta coming in from Munich a couple of months ago, we basically both waltzed straight through so no real test. But I do remember coming into JFK years ago on the late nights and waiting an hour to get through

  16. I forgot to add, for people clearing immigration in Toronto before coming into the US, although there is no GE kiosk or line, i was told by the Agent, that you can talk to the handlers and they will escort you to the front of the queue. It would of been nice to know this info before waiting almost an hour and a half

  17. I wonder if I would be approved with very few international travels? I am planning some in the future, I just like lines. Any opinions?

  18. I’ve used my GE only once, and I was so disappointed. I was arriving at the BA terminal. I was in business class, so I was among the first off the plane. There were no lines for immigration! I used GE, but it saved me no time. I can’t wait to arrive back stateside at LAX – it will be a godsend in that port of entry.

  19. As far as bringing a companion, your GE membership gives you front-of-line privileges at the Immigration line as well–not just Customs. In other words you and your companion walk to the front of the immigration line and work with an officer together instead of you using the GE kiosk and s/he waiting in the long Immigration line.

  20. @ kneemuh — That would be awesome! How exactly does that work, though? I’ve never seen a dedicated Global Entry immigration line, so do you just try to cut in front, or is there another method?

  21. @kneemuh

    That is definitely not the case. Global Entry benefits cannot be extended to travel companions. You may get lucky with a lenient Immigration Officer, but it is not in the spirit of the program.


    If the GE machines are down or malfunction (I once had a receipt that didn’t print clearly) or if you get an X on your receipt GE members may use the diplomat lane.

  22. @Alex Brewer: If the GE machines are down, you are SOL. If you can’t get a receipt from the machine, you wait in the line like normal people. GE does not make you a diplomat or crew.

    DFW has multiple machines and a separate line for customs. It is a little confusing what to do after scanning, as there is no special pass through for GE people, just make eye contact with an Agent, flash your receipt (sans X) and you will get a nod to squeeze by. My wife the first time just squeezed by and I was sure we were headed for secondary, but an off duty agent stopped her checked the receipt and sent her on.

    MIA on AA: One machine, it was down, no feeder line so played guess the fast line. My suggestion, don’t enter the US at MIA on AA, which comes into a satellite immigration area, not the main one.

    Any questions about GE, ask a CBP agent, they aren’t TSA 🙂

  23. @gbrain, while you are correct in saying GE doest not make you Crew or a Diplomat, during my GE interview i asked this specific question, and was told you become highest priority (im not sure how it works in other airports, but was told at Dulles, the booth(s) closest to the GE kiosks are lanes for GE members who experience some sort of trouble all you have to do is queue for one of them to become free, you do not need to get in line with the rest of the non GE people)

  24. One the blogs mentioned that if you have a NEXUS card you can use the GE kiosks when coming in to US from other countries including Canada. Did any one try that?

  25. @qbrain

    That was not my experience at MIA. My receipt misprinted,I walked to the GE bypass line on the far left that is manned to check your receipt. I was then directed to the diplomat line (which is a continuation of the GE line) where I was quickly processed by a woman who said she had never seen a misprint, only the X marked receipts that she dealt with daily.

    From the GE site:

    “Q: As a Global Entry program member, or NEXUS or SENTRI member with the Global Entry benefit, do I get head of the line privilege at U.S. airports where Global Entry kiosks are not available?
    A: The head of the line privilege is only available at the 20 U.S. airports that have Global Entry kiosks. The head of the line privilege is reserved for program members if the kiosks are out of service, get referred to a CBP officer and at the egress/exit points.”

  26. I believe the setup varies across different airports. At MIA the GE lane is the diplomat lane (it’s actually not a crew lane in this instance), at other ports I’ve seen an empty line that allows you to be the next called at a specific booth. I’ve only had to utilize this line in MIA, so don’t have firsthand experience with this situation.

  27. @ikonos

    That is how I originally obtained GE, as I had NEXUS beforehand as a frequent driver between SEA and YVR. You don’t need to pay any additional fee but you must apply online using GOES, and wait for your approval (happens in a few days, no interview is necessary). Theoretically at this point you should be good to go, assuming your fingerprints are on file. In my situation this wasn’t the case, though I was told I was ready to use GE. I stopped in at a facility on a layover to get the CBP sticker and was told my passport wasn’t registered (despite it appearing in GOES) and it was easily sorted out in a few minutes.

  28. I believe that if all adults have GE then the minor children are processed via the adjacent agent and there is no need to go through the regular line.

    This is what I was told at least.

  29. Alex Brewer – Thanks for the info. I have been thinking of applying for NEXUS as I drive often between SEA-YVR. I will go that route. If Amex included NEXUS registration as well as a platinum benefit it would have been sweeter.

  30. @qbrain

    If the GE kiosks are down GE members jump to the head of the line at the nearest immigration both. That is the stated purpose of the “CBP” sticker that was placed inside your passport.

    General question:

    I wasn’t aware of front-of-the-line privileges extending to the *customs* (ie after immigration booths) portion of the screening, only the immigration portion, and then only when the machines are down. Does anyone have a source for this?

  31. Also, after checking the GE site, it sounds like as of very recently (7/12/11), they are now issuing RFID cards as part of the program- anybody know what this is about?

  32. I just wish that non-US citizens – especially those from the UK could have them. We’re still stuck in the queue!

  33. Where did they out your sticker that says CBP? They put mine on the inside back cover, but for TPG they out it on the back side of the passport

  34. @Alex Brewer and ikonos

    I stand corrected on the SOL comment and am glad to hear it.


    At DFW there is a reserved line for Global Entry at customs, thus no “front of the line”, it is like a priority security line, it just dumps you at the front of the customs line. MIA was different, you really do just walk to the front of the line (station 3?) which has a big Global Entry sign above it.

    The RFID card is a one way (into the US) Nexus and Sentri card for land border crossings. If you already have Nexus and Sentri, you don’t need the card.


    The CBP Agent asked me where I wanted the sticker put, so there is no real standard, it just need to be somewhere that you can flash at the agent.

  35. @ qbrain

    Land border crossings…i.e. not applicable to the nightmare that is pre-clearance at YYZ?

  36. @Chas

    Sorry. The new Global Entry card allows you to access the Nexus line at land AND air borders into the US. You can will be able to use the Nexus line at YYZ with a Global Entry card.

  37. What a stupid US system…

    They have a similar system in Israel. Cost $0 as it saves time and labor. You apply at the airport and five minutes later you get the card and you are all set. No interview or wait. Then, all you do is just place your palm on the pad after inserting your card and you get a receipt that you show later.

    System works there for years.

  38. @Lucky

    Unfortunately you do just simply need to cut the line–there’s no officially correct way to do it. Flashing the CBP sticker is the best solution if someone gives you grief.

    As for my campanion suggestion, Alex Brewer is technically correct–the program doesn’t officially extend to companions, but at the end of the day it’s just a technicality and it can can easily be worked around using the method described (i.e. indicating you had trouble with the kiosk and you had to cut the line… and oh, by the way, this is my travel companion).

  39. Regarding traveling with non programs members, the Global Entry FAQ states the expedited benefits cannot be extended to travel companions, anyone had a personal experience otherwise?
    Q: As a Global Entry program member, or NEXUS or SENTRI member with the Global Entry benefit, can I extend my expedited benefit to my travel companion(s) (children, spouse, or co-traveler) who is/are not part of the Global Entry program?
    A: Global Entry benefits are member specific and cannot be extended to others.

  40. I’m not sure what they mean by extended to family members but I was specifically told that when using GE if all the adults in the family were members then we should use the machines and the minor children would be processed by the agent.

    The reason for this is that minors under that age of 14 are not permitted to apply for GE and they wanted families to be able to use the system. Once the child reaches 14 then he needs to apply on his own.

    This came straight for GE although of course there is no guarantee that any given airport will know about and follow this procedure. Or maybe the agent I spoke to on the hot line was misinformed.

  41. Hahah reading this now sitting in my car at passenger pickup at JFK. I have GE and was plane to curbside in under 10 min–mostly just the time it takes to walk that distance! Zero line. Went and got the car at offsite parking and came back to pick up my traveling companion…. Over 70 min later, still waiting! Ughh! Haha

  42. Is this just a US system or something? Never seen anything called Global Entry in UK or EU airports.

  43. @ Justin — Yes, Global Entry is only in the US. Other countries have similar programs, though not Global Entry.

  44. I tried to use the GB (Nexus) cart this week (06/13/2012) at ATLANTA airport but unfortunately there is not kiosk !. Instead they have a small version of the TSA security. It moves fast because is not so many people but does not difference.

    Then when I was returning from CHICAGO OHARE, TSA people there does not know what the GB card is. Aparently airport in USA works like independent entities and TSA the sadly the same.!!!

  45. Getting Global entry was the BEST thing I have done : hands down.From the first time I used it after a 24 hour flight back from Indonesia ;not having to stand in Immigration or customs.. it was worth its weight in Gold..
    The aquistion process was a bit lengthy; now a bit easier as there is an interview office in NYC..I had to go to Kennedy for that..
    To get out of the airport in under an hour..amazing..

  46. My interview is in Aug in Atlanta. So what happens after they print out the receipt? Do they mark your passport a certain way? Do they give you a GE card or mail it to you 8 weeks later? I have an int’l trip 5 weeks after my interview so I was hoping to have it.

  47. Sorry, I didn’t read earlier, it appears they give you a card or a sticker. But you are good to go as soon as it’s over.

  48. @Paul

    🙂 Nice name. Anyway they put a CBP sticker in your passport and you can immediately use it. They also mail you a global entry card that you can use as identification in some countries rather than walk around with your passport (ie, Canada and Mexico).

  49. I don’t see the point. After waiting in line for a good 30 minutes and going through immigration at ORD, I still have to wait for my luggage; there is still nothing in the carousel by the time I get there. That makes it hardly worth the $100 only to still leave at the same time as if I were to be expressed through.

  50. @ William — Fair enough, though for those of us that usually just travel with carry-ons, it saves time every time. Also, there are some immigration queues that are outrageous, often over an hour, in which case you save time either way. It also saves the time of having to fill out the immigration form and talking to an officer.

  51. FYI, Korea just started a joint Global Entry program with US. Any GE Koreans are able to use the kiosks, and same for GE Americans at Korean airports. Same application process and fee. Waiting on my interview at ORD.

  52. Mr. Silver Springer and I just finished our Global Entry interviews today at PHL. No problem, except my finger prints were not able to be properly captured. This means that every time I go through the kiosk, I will need to see an immigration officer, who is supposed to be close to the kiosk, to check my passport. This is not the first time I have had problems with digital capture of fingerprints. The officer said sometimes doing hand cream to moisture your skin helps but I don’t carry it in my purse due to frequent air travel.

    FYI–this may help someone in the same situation.

  53. Just a quick question for those of you who have scheduled and attended your appointment:

    beggining to end, how long does the actual interview take? We’re trying to squeeze it in between flights, and want to be sure there is plenty of time. thanks!

  54. It has been 5 weeks since I applied and I’m still in “Pending review” status. Anybody else wait this long or longer than 6 weeks? 🙁

  55. Just got an approval. I had GE back in 2009 and apparently it expired as I never had a card or a passid that i can find or remember. I knew it was coming up for renewal but I could never find out in the system as it requires the passid number i never could find or had. So i submitted a new application, which it says don’t do. A week later I got an approval without any interview.
    Thus I think I got a renewal since I got this without an interview and have never heard of someone getting a new application without an interview. There is no way to find your passid online and the phone system was busy for 2-3 days with numerous random calling times. Oh well seemed to work for me and I will get the GE card in the mail soon. BTW GE is priceless, have loved it. It is most valuable at connection points, not destinations IMO. I travel with luggage so it is minimized somewhat, but for connections it allows you to clear immigration and customs when luggage comes of before most get out of immigration in IAD for example. If you have carry on even better. I can make a tight connection in IAD with GE, but without never.

  56. as a green card holder, when you use GE. do you still get “entry stamp” on your passport? if not, how can you prove the you did not stay outside USA for more than one year?

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