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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here: Citi Prestige and Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite

Living abroad, I head back and forth between the US an average of 10 times per year. After a long trip (sometimes in a very tiny economy seat) I just want to go through the airport quickly and get to my destination, which is why I got Global Entry. The process of obtaining this benefit was relatively painless, and the service has exceeded my expectationsI’m in and out of customs in literally three minutes. Here are some important things you should know if you plan on getting Global Entry, including how you can get it for free, what to expect during the interview, how to use it and more.

1. How to Get It (For Free)

You can apply online for Global Entry and pay the $100 non-refundable application fee. You’ll then need to schedule and complete an interview. However, before throwing down cash, read on because you may be able to get Global Entry for free or gift it to a friend or family member.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve, the Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard, the Citi Prestige Card, the Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card, the U.S. Bank FlexPerks Gold American Express Card and the Barclaycard Aviator Silver (no longer available to new applicants) offer rebates for Global Entry. Plus, the Platinum Card® from American ExpressThe Business Platinum® Card from American Express and the Platinum Card from American Express Exclusively for Mercedes-Benz waive the fee even for additional cardholders. So if you pay the $175 standard fee for three authorized users ($300 per authorized user for business cards), they can all get rebates for their own Global Entry memberships.

Most of the credit cards that offer an application fee waiver allow you to buy Global Entry for someone else. So if you know someone with an unused credit on their Amex Platinum, for example, they can charge the fee for your Global Entry renewal and it will be rebated onto their account.

Another way to get Global Entry for free is to have Platinum or Diamond Medallion status with Delta. As part of Choice Benefits, Delta Platinum Medallion members can receive a $100 voucher toward Global Entry enrollment. Delta Diamond Medallion members can receive two $100 vouchers and get to select another choice benefit. Personally, I don’t think this is the most valuable choice benefit, but it’s an option if necessary.

2. What to Expect in Your Interview

Once you’ve paid (and hopefully been reimbursed through one of the aforementioned methods) and completed the application, the interview comes next. Make sure to arrive on time and bring:

  • A print-out of your letter of conditional approval
  • Valid passport(s) or a permanent resident card
  • Evidence of residency (e.g., a driver’s license with your current address, a mortgage statement, utility bill, etc.)

If things seemed to be backed up and your scheduled interview time seems like forever away, you can always try walking in. Many TPG readers and team members have had success showing up for an interview without an appointment.

Once at the facility, you may have to wait a bit if the Customs and Border Protection officers are busy. I waited about 15-20 minutes for my interview on a Friday morning in the Chicago Enrollment Center, whereas former TPG Travel Editor Melanie Wynne didn’t have to wait at all for her interview at the Los Angeles Center. During the 10- to 15-minute interview, expect to be questioned about your application. The officer I had was friendly and professional and asked to see my conditional approval letter, passport and driver’s license. I was then asked to confirm some of the countries I had visited (as per my application) and whether I’d been to each for business or leisure travel. The final step was giving my fingerprints.

A few minutes later, he told me I was indeed confirmed to have Global Entry and that I would receive my official Global Entry card within seven to 10 days (which I did). I was then given my KTN (Known Traveler Number) so that I could enter it in my frequent flyer profiles and hopefully be eligible for TSA PreCheck. It’s important to note that you also must activate your card in your GOES account within 30 days of receiving it, though you don’t necessarily need it to pass through Global Entry kiosks, which I’ll explain further below. Some interviews provide actual kiosk training, but mine did not.

3. How to Use the Global Entry Kiosk

The new US Customs and Border Protetion Global Entry Trusted Traveler Network kiosks are seen at Dulles International Airport (IAD), December 21, 2011 in Sterling, Virgina, near Washington, DC. AFP Photo/Paul J. Richards (Photo credit should read PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)
The US Customs and Border Protection Global Entry Trusted Traveler Network kiosks are seen at Dulles International Airport. (Photo by PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)

Once you’ve been approved, using Global Entry is painless. You simply head toward the line (or lack thereof) that says Global Entry when you arrive at immigration. Approach the kiosk, use your fingerprints to identify yourself (sometimes this takes a few tries), answer a couple questions and take your photo. Then, proceed out to baggage claim. You actually don’t need your Global Entry card to go through Global Entry kiosks in the US, but you will need it going through Nexus or Sentri points at the Canadian and Mexican borders when coming back into the US for expedited entry.

4. You Typically Get TSA PreCheck with Global Entry.

Entering your KTN in your frequent flyer profiles should ensure that you’re eligible for TSA PreCheck. I’ve never been declined PreCheck since I’ve had Global Entry, but some TPG readers report they have occasionally been denied the privilege. In any case, you should have TSA PreCheck almost all of the time (or perhaps even every time) if you have Global Entry. If you’ve had other experiences, feel free to share in the comments section below.

5. You Don’t Have to Be a US Citizen to Get Global Entry.

Now UK citizens can apply for Global Entry
UK citizens can now apply for Global Entry.

Global Entry service is actually available to more than just US citizens and permanent residents. Citizens of Germany, Switzerland, Mexico, the Netherlands, Panama, South Korea, India, Colombia, Singapore and the UK are also eligible. Canadian citizens and residents are also eligible for Global Entry benefits through the NEXUS program. For more information on how citizens from other countries can apply and get approved for Global Entry, check out the requirements and information here.

The application process for UK citizens is slightly different: British citizens need to first register through their government website and pay a 42 GBP (about $63) fee. If approved by the UK government, UK citizens can then apply through GOES and pay a $100 fee to the US government.

If you’re a US citizen thinking about getting Global Entry and you visit Canada often, you may want to consider getting NEXUS so you can also have expedited customs there. Clearing Canadian customs and immigration can take a while, so this would save you a lot of time. NEXUS is actually cheaper than Global Entry and once you have it (as a US citizen or permanent resident), you also get Global Entry and TSA PreCheck. The downside is you have to go one of the enrollment centers located along the Canadian border.

Featured photo by Katherine Frey/The Washington Post/Getty Images.

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  • Up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®
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