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Although the summer travel season is winding down, plenty of Americans are still traveling abroad on last-minute summer trips, so getting Global Entry is a time-saving tool no international traveler should be without.
Global Entry is the US government’s expedited immigration program for frequent travelers and helps speed travelers through customs and immigration without having to wait in hours’-long lines that makes the $100 fee (which might be waived if you carry the right credit card – read more below!) more than worth it.
Today, TPG contributor Jason Steele talks about some things you might not know about this innovative program and ways you can take advantage of its many benefits.
Global Entry is a great program, but it is shrouded in a little bit of mystery. But I did some research and went through the process myself, and here is what I learned:
1. It can take months to get an appointment for an interview – but don’t get discouraged! It seems that the Global Entry program has gotten so popular that appointments are now being filled up months in advance at many locations. As of May 6, there were 88,000 appointments scheduled for the 35 enrollment centers, so the math is not on your side. After I completed my application earlier this year, I contacted a Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) office to see if there was any way to get an earlier appointment, and I was told to keep checking their web sites for cancellations. To my surprise, an appointment opened up the following week and I was in. It appears as if the typical GOES applicant travels frequently on business but often needs to cancel their appointments with little notice. So don’t get discouraged – there are plenty of ways to get around the appointment backlog including just walking into an appointment office. After all, someone might miss their flight and their appointment and you can slip in. Another tip, don’t confine your search to your home airport, browse the airports at the destinations that you are already scheduled to visit.
2. Kids must have Global Entry to bypass customs with their parents. Just as all children, regardless of age, must have a passport to travel internationally, all passport holders must have GE in order to skip the standard line when entering the country. For maximum inconvenience, each child needs to have a separate appointment, and I don’t know how they would “interview” our 10-month-old baby, but there you have it.
3. Children do not have to have Global Entry to go through TSA PreCheck with their parents. Those with GE qualify for the TSA’s PreCheck program, which can expedite security screening at US airports, depending on which carrier you fly. But since PreCheck is an entirely separate program than GE, the rules are different. Unlike GE, adults that can utilize PreCheck (because of GE or elite status with carriers) can go through security with children 12 an under, even if the child does not qualify for PreCheck on his or her own.
4. Customs and Border Patrol officers know when and where your next trip is. When you go to the interview, CBP officers will ask you when you are traveling next. When I offered the destination of my next trip, I was met with a confused look. It turns out that the CBP officer knew of my first ticketed destination, even though it was essentially a stopover on the way to the destination I cited, so if you’re using your passport to get somewhere, expect them to know about it.
5. You need to re-visit an airport Customs and Border Patrol office when you get a new passport. Even though my passport was expiring within a few months, I applied for Global Entry first in order to make sure I received it before departing on my next international trip. After I received my Global Entry card, I then renewed my passport. But I had to return to a CBP office to have them update their system with my new passport to match it to my Global Entry number. Fortunately, an appointment was not required this time and I could just stop by and talk to an officer on duty.
6. Global Entry kiosks don’t read some people’s fingerprints. The New York Times reports that a small percentage of GE users have difficulty using the fingerprint readers at the Global Entry kiosks. They even say that some CBP officers recommend rubbing their fingers over their neck and forehead. Fortunately, GE users get expedited through the standard line if they can’t get the machines to work, but if at first you don’t succeed, try that trick.
7. You don’t have to fill out the blue entry form they give you on the plane. No more digging out your passport and fishing around for a pen before landing, as Customs agents will simply crumple up the form and throw it away once they see that you are a GE member, so save a tree!
8. There are several ways to have the $100 fee reimbursed. Recently, TPG wrote about credit cards that offer GOES application fee reimbursements, the Amex Platinum, Mercedex-Benz Platinum or Business Platinum (or Centurion) cards (the fee is even refunded to additional cardholders as well); and the new Citi Thank You Prestige card. In addition, United offers its Global Services, MileagePlus Premier 1K and MileagePlus Premier Platinum members the $100 reimbursement as well. If you qualify, log into this page to get your personalized code.
9. Customs and Border Patrol keeps your $100 if you are denied. That’s right, the $100 is an “application fee,” not a membership fee, which non-refundable if you are denied for any reason. If you think you might be denied, save your money.
10. Customs and Border Patrol knows of any time you have been arrested. I had read that the CBP’s background check is highly exhaustive, but I got the chance to witness the extent of their scrutiny. The applicant who had his appointment before mine began the process cordially, but their conversation quickly became heated. Apparently, this gentleman had his application denied due to an arrest 40 years ago. And according to him, the arrest (for armed robbery) was a case of mistaken identity that was quickly dismissed without trial. Nevertheless, he was told that he would not be approved for GOES until he was able to produce the records from the incident. Even if you don’t have an arrest record, be very careful filling out your application. A minor typo caused my application to be initially denied, but the friendly officer was willing to correct the issue and reschedule my appointment two days later. We all know that bureaucracy doesn’t always function as efficiently as that, though, so be careful with your application.
11. Global Entry cards are a great form of secondary Federal ID. The final result of the application process is credit card sized picture ID. But this card also happens to be a Federal ID that can be valid at the TSA, DMV, and the federal courts. So keep your card separate from your driver’s license and passport, and don’t forget this fact if you need an extra form of identification in a pinch.
12. Global Entry is not just for Americans. According to the CBP website, “Global Entry is also available to citizens of the Netherlands who are enrolled in Privium and Korean Smart Entry Service members. Citizens of Mexico may also apply for Global Entry. Canadian NEXUS members have Global Entry benefits, but are not eligible to join.” However, holders of certain types of travel visas are not eligible. See this page for more information. And as TPG pointed out previously, the GE card can also be used for expedited entry into Australia in partnership with that country’s SmartGate program.
And one last thing. Throughout this process, keep in mind that the CBP officers you meet will be armed Federal Officers, and I can’t imagine that processing GOES applications was their first choice of assignments. The ones I met in Denver followed their rules to the letter, but were always courteous and professional. I always referred to them as Officer (as I do to anyone with a badge and a gun), and it seemed to help smooth out some bumps in the process.
Global Entry is an extremely popular program, and the first time you are able to catch a connecting flight because of it, that will be well worth the $100 you paid (unless you’re reimbursed by your credit card or United!). You can also get Nexus for $50 and that includes Global Entry, however it is a more complicated process (you have to go to Seattle or one of the 8 Canadian airport facilities) and Amex recently sent out notices saying they will now only reimburse for Global Entry, not any other program, though in reality their systems may still refund Nexus (feel free to comment below with your experience on this matter).
Even if you do pay for Global Entry, the $100 is well worth it because of the time saved both in security screening and immigrations lines and it’s one of the top travel tools out there for frequent flyers.