Seriously- Get Global Entry Already! FAQ & Ways to Get It For Free
Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here.
While traveling to Chile with my mom last month, an airport etiquette question came up when I was given TSA PreCheck while she had to wait it out in the regular security line. At my mom’s urging, I went through the quicker line, but a similar conundrum came up on last week’s trip to Italy where I had Global Entry and could bypass the immigration line at JFK while my friends could not. This time I waited it out with them, but I thought it might be time for a reminder post on why Global Entry is such a great travel tool and how easy it is to get – especially as many of you jet off this weekend and European summer travel heats up.
Global Entry is the US government’s expedited immigration program for frequent travelers. It costs $100 and is good for 5 years. However, if you have the Amex Platinum, Mercedex-Benz Platinum or Business Platinum (or Centurion) cards, the fee is refunded to you as a statement credit. The good news is that this fee is even refunded to additional cardholders as well - and the annual fee for up to three additional Platinum cardholders is just $175 ($175 per cardholder after that), so even if two of your friends/family members gets Global Entry you'll recoup that fee and then some. Plus, remember that the additional cardmembers also get lounge access to Delta, American, US Airways and Priority Pass Select, so this can be a screaming good deal. Additional cardholders are not eligible for their own annual $200 airline fee rebate, though and eligible charges they make will get refunded out of your $200 total. 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 actually refund Nexus.
American Express is not the only kid in town giving free Global Entry- if you have the new Citi Prestige card, you also get the fee refunded, and if you are a United Global Services, Premier 1K or Platinum, United will also refund you.
How to Apply
You apply through the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website at www.globalentry.gov. The application process takes about 10 minutes and you get an email confirmation. Then within usually about a week to 10 days (though it can be as quick as just 1-2 days), you get an email that lets you know you are conditionally approved. Then you must log back into your GOES account and select an appointment time and location. A Customs and Border Protection officer asks you questions and whether you have a criminal record, takes your photo (so try not to schedule one after you’ve been on a long flight!), and scan your fingerprints. It’s all pretty quick and painless.
Here is the list of 35 enrollment centers, most of which are at international airports including:
Albuquerque Airport ABQ
Atlanta Port Office
Austin-Bergstron Airport AUS
Baltimore/Washington Airport BMI
Boston Logan BOS
Bowling Green Customs House
Chicago O’Hare ORD
Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky Airport CVG
Dallas/Ft. Worth DFW
Denver Airport DEN
Detroit Metropolitan Airport DTW
Ft. Lauderdale/Hollywood Airport FLL
Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta Airport ATL
New York JFK
Los Angeles LAX
McCarran International Las Vegas LAS
Miami International MIA
Minneapolis St. Paul MSP
Newark Liberty EWR
Philadelphia International PHL
Phoenix Sky Harbor PHX
Portland International PDX
Salt Lake City SLC
San Antonio SAT
San Francisco SFO
San Juan Airport SJU
Note: As of June 2015 there are many more Global Entry Enrollment Centers. See this website for a complete list.
Assuming you pass the "interview" – and there’s no reason you shouldn’t if you are conditionally approved in the first place – you should receive your new Global Entry card in about two weeks, but your Global Entry profile is activated in about 24 hours. Then when you enter the United States (there are also kiosks in two Irish airports) you can skip the huge immigrations line and instead go to the Global Entry lane, put your hand on the scanner, smile into the camera and check the boxes to answer a few questions on the touchscreen then breeze through immigrations and head straight for customs. Plus, GE recently partnered with Australia's SmartGate program to expedite your entry into Australia as well. To find out how the SmartGate system works, you can check out this page. Now if only the EU would offer something similar!
The Fun Doesn't Stop There
Once you get your card, you will find your Trusted Traveler number on it and you can then log into your frequent flyer accounts and enter that information into your profile under “Known Traveler ID.” And it should automatically register you for TSA PreCheck on reservations you make on each airline that participates when you fly through airports that have PreCheck. Granted, this can be something of a crapshoot and people don’t seem to qualify every single time, but even if it works just most of the time, it’s such a timesaver and a valuable tool – plus you don’t have to take off any clothes or remove anything from bags! – that it’s worth the couple minutes’ of time you take entering this info in your profile on each airline site individually.
Those few minutes will really seem worth it when you hit the ground after a 14-hour flight and see a huge, snaking immigrations line waiting for you then realize you can simply bypass it thanks to Global Entry.
Happy (expedited) travels!