Picture this. Thursday. Thanksgiving morning. LAX airport. Our Virgin Australia flight arrived around 6:15am. The flight flew direct from Sydney, a 15-hour flight. It was a perfect recipe for long wait times since it was one of the busiest travel days of the year. But, I was confident. In years past, we had to line-up with other US Citizens and be interviewed by one of the officers. But on this crazy Thursday morning, we breezed through the process. Thanks to Global Entry.
1. What is Global Entry
Global Entry provides faster U.S. customs screening for those arriving at U.S. airports. Arriving is a breeze through immigration and customs. Forget the paperwork. Forget the Disneyland-style long lines. Instead, members whisk through dedicated automatic kiosks. It’s a five-year membership which costs $100. To go through Global Entry approval, you have to go through an interview. When you’re approved with Global Entry, there’s a separate queue for Global Entry cardholders. You approach one the kiosks, slide in your passport, take a quick picture, answer a few questions onscreen, get a printout, and then show it to an officer. Done! Global Entry is your key to an expeditious re-entry back in to the US. You can use your Global Entry benefit at any participating airports with Global Entry kiosks.
NOTE: During my March 2021 trip coming back from Mexico, when I went to the Global Entry kiosk at LAX, the system has improved. It was all facial recognition. The kiosk took my picture, I did not need to slide my passport, no need to answer a few questions. It provided me a printout….done. I handed that to the officer as I walked out.
2. What is TSA Precheck
Ever wonder why there are those who quickly go through airport security, they’re in a shorter line, and go through quicker screening process prior to departure? Chances are – they lined up in the TSA Precheck line. TSA Precheck is a quicker security screening for your flights departing from U.S. airports. It’s a five-year membership that costs $85. Look at the things that you DON’T have to do with TSA Precheck:
3. Global Entry comes with TSA Precheck
Another benefit for having Global Entry membership, you also get TSA Precheck eligibility. This means that your $100 Global Entry application also covers TSA Precheck and you don’t need to pay an extra $85 to get TSA Precheck
4. Getting TSA Precheck alone does NOT give you Global Entry
Unfortunately, it does not go in reverse for those with TSA Precheck. You do not get automatic Global Entry with TSA Precheck. If you have TSA Precheck, you would need to apply for Global Entry, pay another $100 to get the Global Entry perk.
5. Which one is better for you?
Personally, while it may come down to usage, for me, it’s hard not to look at the price difference of $15 between TSA Precheck and Global Entry. a mere $15 difference separates the two memberships. I believe getting Global Entry is a better buy. You get 2-in1 membership. TSA Precheck at $85 only gets you TSA Precheck. Global Entry gets you TSA Precheck + Global Entry- all for $100.
6. Kids have to pay for Global Entry (subject to change)
I read a few articles in the Fall of 2020 about the plans for the application fees for kids under 18 to be free. I’ve not seen anything official. I was trying to find the new fee schedule for children under 18 – but when I went to the US Customs and Border Patrol website, I’m not sure if the changes ever took effect. The changes were supposed to raise the Global Entry fee for adults from $100 to $120, and thus making the kids under 18 free. But as of March 2021, we are still at $100 fees. Here’s what I found. According cbp.gov:
“Regardless of your age, you must create a Global Online Enrollment System account, pay a $100 non-refundable application fee, and schedule an interview at a Global Entry Enrollment Center. If you are under the age of 18, a parent or legal guardian must be present at time of interview.”
7. How to get Global Entry Fee reimbursed – yes, for FREE
We strategicilly planned and applied for a few different credit cards….but not just any credit cards. Many credit cards offer reimbursement for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fees. I have used some of these cards for my family. Credit card issuers offer these perks every 4-5 years, and it’s capped at $100 credit (the equivalent of one application fee).
Here are some of the top cards that offer this benefit:
- Chase Sapphire Reserve
- United Explorer Card
- IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card
- Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card
- The Platinum Card (consumer) from American Express
- The Platinum Card (business) from American Express
- Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card
Make sure you are aware what these cards could do for you. Don’t just apply for the card/s simply for its Global Entry/TSA Precheck benefit. You have to consider and factor in the costs associated with keeping the card, the annual fee, the minimum spend requirement etc. If you know of other credit cards that offer credits to TSA Precheck or Global entry, please let me know.
8. Once you apply for Global Entry
To apply for Global Entry or the other Trusted Travel Programs, click here. Once we applied online, we received a conditional approval. What does that mean? Simply put, we had to show up at one of the Global Entry locations for an interview, a very low-key due process (including fingerprinting). This process, at the time of this pandemic, could take a bit of time for you to get your conditional approval and perhaps even more time to get an appointment for an interview. Getting a conditional approval is not enough for you to begin traveling using the Global Entry privileges. You still have to go through the interview process.
9. About the Global Entry interview
Bring the following to your Global Entry interview:
- Letter of conditional approval
- Valid passport or permanent resident card
- Proof of residency (something with your name and current address – a bank statement, your driver’s license for instance)
The interview itself? It was a pretty straightforward interview. I remember being asked what I do for a living, if I had any criminal history, places I’ve traveled, who I work for. If you have some kind of criminal record, be prepared to discuss it, or if you have any proof that the charges were dropped, bring it with you. You will also be asked to take a picture, get your fingerprints. It could be very short – mine lasted no more than 5 minutes. The drive to the airport, finding parking, and walking to the interview took longer than the interview itself.
10. After the Global Entry Interview
In my family, most of us got approved for Global Entry shortly after the interview. The officer informed us that we would get our card within 10 days or up to 2 weeks. Someone from my family took over a week to be approved, so we just had to wait. There was nothing we could do to expedite the decision.
11. Once approved for Global Entry
You will be given a Known Traveler Number, this is used for TSA PreCheck. The physical ID card that you get in the mail, in all honesty, I’ve kept that at home. I never brought it with me during my trips. All I needed to make sure to do was to enter my Known Traveler Number in my airline profile. This is what triggers you to get TSA Precheck and Global Entry when you return to the US. You have to do this prior to your flight.
12. When does your Global Entry expire (and what NOT to do)
Your Global Entry is good for 5 years and it expires on your birthday. Don’t do what I did. My Global Entry was due to expire on my birthday in November 2020. Two months prior to the expiration, I received an email advising me that it was time to renew. I didn’t renew. The expiration date came and I totally forgot to renew. I realized that I missed the renewal period. It took me two weeks to finally renew. By the time I renewed, i was placed in Pending Review – GRRR!!! What does that mean? It means that I was not able to use the Global Entry and TSA Precheck until I get approved. Here’s what I was told via email:
Thank you for contacting the CBP Traveler Communications Center.
Your application was successfully submitted and is pending review.
We are currently experiencing a backlog in processing. Processing times vary by applicant, but on average you can expect your application to be processed as follows:
• GE & NEXUS: 10 months or longer
• SENTRI: 12 months or longer
These are average times. Unfortunately, we cannot anticipate a date of completion for your specific application at this time.
All applicants should check the Trusted Traveler Program website (https://ttp.dhs.gov/) periodically for updates or status of their application.
13. If I renewed BEFORE the expiration date, this would’ve happened to me:
Additionally, if you submitted your renewal process before your membership expired, then you may continue using your benefits until the renewal is finalized (up to 24 months after your expiration date). We recommend that you print out a copy of your pending renewal to show the Customs and Border Protection Officer, if requested.
14. Lesson-learned: I will make sure to renew before the deadline
I traveled to Mexico without TSA Precheck and Global Entry approval. When we departed LAX, this meant that I had to line-up at security just like all the other travelers. So what’s the difference? Well, I had my work laptop in my carry on luggage. I had my personal laptop in my backpack. I took my the laptop out of my backpack, and forgot about the laptop from my carry on. The agents flagged me and I had to remove that as well. Along with removing my jacket and shoes. I know it sounds like first world problems, but I was upset at myself that I didn’t renew my Global Entry before it expired (which gives me TSA Precheck). If I had my TSA Precheck, no need to remove my jacket, my shoes, my laptop.
The Global Entry stars were aligned
While we were in Mexico, I was already contemplating the return back to the US, how the lines would be long and that I didn’t have my Global Entry approval. Well, would you believe that my application for Global Entry was approved while we were in Mexico. Without even thinking about it, I just hoped all would be in place when I get to LAX. First indicator when I checked in, my boarding pass now shows the TSA Precheck logo. That was a good sign. So I was confident that I’d have my Global Entry access once we arrived in LAX.
Sure enough, the line for those with NO Global Entry was so long. And I heard one of the airport personnel say “to those with Global Entry, go to the left side and proceed” – music to my ears. We must have easily skipped over 100 passengers. What a timesaver!!!
Do you have Global Entry and/or TSA Precheck? Do you like using your benefits? Do you have a credit card that reimburses the Global Entry/TSA Precheck Fees?