Even if you are not a regular international traveler, I believe Global Entry is the preferred U.S. trusted traveler program over TSA Pre✓™ even though it is slightly more expensive, more difficult to apply for, and includes PreCheck as a benefit. Here are some reasons why:
REASON #7: Get through U.S. Immigration and Customs much faster!
Global Entry is a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) program that allows expedited clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travelers upon arrival in the United States. Though intended for frequent international travelers, there is no minimum number of trips necessary to qualify for the program. Participants may enter the United States by using automated kiosks located at select airports. List of current airports with Global Entry kiosks is here.
It’s as easy as 1-2-3:
- Before landing, you do NOT need to complete any paperwork! That’s right, the blue Customs Declaration form is NOT required, as you answer the questions on the kiosk (no more playing the “find a pen” game during the last hour of your flight!).
- Skipping the processing lines, you proceed directly to the Global Entry kiosks, present your machine-readable passport or U.S. permanent resident card, place their fingertips on the scanner for fingerprint verification, get your photo snapped by the kiosk and make a customs declaration (i.e. answer the on-screen questions).
- Take the kiosk issued transaction receipt (with a photo likely even worse than your driver’s license), obtain your baggage, and hand your receipt to the CBP officer as you exit (who will likely want to see your passport to confirm they match).*
* Yes, you can always be stopped for primary, secondary and other screening or questioning by CBP Officers.
REASON #6: U.S. Customs & Immigration isn’t open yet upon arrival? It is for you!
Upon the chance that you might be arriving late at night / early in the morning on an international flight to find Customs & Immigration has not yet opened, you may be in for a wait, right? Not with your trusted (traveler) GE access!
CPB Immigration might not be open yet, whereas Global Entry may be! For example, arriving into MIA after an overnight flight before 4am? Immigration doesn’t open until 4am, but GE is open. You’ll be getting your bags while most of the plane is queuing for immigration.
REASON #5: Get through other countries’ immigration and customs faster!
Mexico – U.S. citizens (age 18+) with Global Entry membership may apply for Mexico’s Viajero Confiable program. More info here.
New Zealand – U.S. citizens with Global Entry membership traveling to New Zealand are able to use a dedicated lane arriving at Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch airports. The lanes will streamline border processing for U.S. Global Entry members. To be eligible to use the lanes, U.S. Global Entry members simply present their membership (Trusted Traveler) card, their U.S. passport, and arrival documentation. More info here.
Australia – U.S. citizens (age 16+) with Global Entry membership traveling to Australia are able to use Australia’s SmartGate kiosks for faster service. Note that use of SmartGate does not change the visa requirements or the visa process for travel to Australia. More info here.
South Korea – U.S. citizens with Global Entry membership may apply for the Korean Smart Entry Service (SES) program. Korean citizens must first become an SES member, and may then apply for Global Entry. More info here.
REASON #4: Keeping your shoes, belt and light outerwear on through TSA security is a great perk!
Now, read that again and remember it! Part of Newton’s First Law of Motion includes that a body in motion will remain in motion unless acted upon by an outside force. The TSA PreCheck line SHOULD be in constant motion! Don’t be that “outside force” acting to stop the motion! Please, in TSA Pre✓™ keep your shoes, belt, and light outerwear ON, and your 3-1-1 items and laptop IN your bag.
REASON #3: More time to enjoy the airport lounges to grab a snack, drink, and some reading materials for the trip!
Whether it is for an hour or just 15 minutes, I enjoy stopping in the nearby lounges for a snack (and maybe something for the road… I’m looking at you, carrots and shortbread cookies), a coffee or free beer, and my favorite part, stocking up on some of the latest magazines and daily newspaper for reading now and later.
My go-to airport lounge finder and reviewer is LoungeBuddy. Check it out and download the app here.
REASON #2: Those enrolled in a Trusted Traveler program are more likely to be selected for TSA Pre✓™ than those just enrolled in PreCheck as an airlines’ frequent flyer!
In a recent article by “Travel Detective” for CBS News Peter Greenberg (“Travel Detective Blog: What’s Going Wrong with TSA PreCheck“), I was completely shocked to learn one of his main problems with TSA’s PreCheck Program:
First, just because you may be a member of PreCheck does [sic] not guarantee you will get to go through that special lane. Randomly, the system will often opt you out of PreCheck. On my last five flights, I was declined PreCheck on two of them. On 60 percent of my flights I was deemed trustworthy, but on 40 percent of my flights I was stopped from PreCheck. I’m either a trusted traveler or I’m not. That’s absurd.
While Global Entry is the US government’s expedited immigration and customs program, it also enrolls you in TSA PreCheck as a “Trusted Traveler” for domestic flights. More importantly, the TSA’s Trusted Traveler Program expressly gets you a better chance of getting the coveted “Pre✓™ “ logo on your mobile phone or paper boarding pass than if you entered the PreCheck program alone via an invitation from an airline as a frequent flyer.
While the TSA does say it “will always incorporate random and unpredictable security measures” it does confirm that Trusted Travelers ARE “more likely to be selected for TSA Pre✓™” per this and other tweets. Don’t just take it from me, take it from Ross Feinstein, Press Secretary for the TSA, DHS, @TSAMedia_RossF:
The TSA/DHS selection algorithm surely must remain classified for security reasons. U.S. Citizens currently enrolled in Global Entry, SENTRI or NEXUS Trusted Traveler programs are automatically eligible to participate in TSA Pre✓™. Canadian citizens who are members of NEXUS are also qualified to participate in TSA Pre✓™.
REASON #1: The cost differential is greatly outweighed by the benefits received, especially if it saves you making your flight!
Global Entry costs $100 for five (5) years as a Trusted Traveler.
TSA PreCheck Program costs $85 for five (5) years as a Trusted Traveler.
So, for an extra $15 you might be able to move up quickly to the major leagues by batting 1.000 or thereabouts, instead of a so-so .600 like Det. Peter Greenberg. That’s why I say if you’re going to join the program, pay the extra cost and enjoy the benefits of Global Entry. Even if you don’t have an international trip in mind for the next year or two, plans and life events can change quickly. Plus, you can renew your Global Entry online and may not even need a new interview to continue to enjoy the benefits for more years down the (international) road. Who knows, that one time you REALLY need PreCheck to make your flight may end up saving you a lot more than $15 in money, time, and comfort!
Better yet, you may have your $100 fee refunded to you (along with many other perks such as lounge access!) if you have certain credit cards such as the AmEx Platinum Card. The refund comes in the form of a statement credit and may be refunded as well for additional cardholders. Additionally, United Global Services, Premier 1K or Platinum members may have it refunded to them as well. If you know of other ways, feel free to share in the comments below.
HOW TO APPLY
Have I finally convinced you? Go apply at www.globalentry.gov.
The application process just takes a few minutes online and emails you a confirmation. Approximately 1-2 weeks later (at most), you will received word by email if you’re approved and need to schedule your in-person interview, which is also selected online. These interviews typically take place at the international terminal CBP offices of certain airports, but may take place at off-site locations, which CBP continue to open around the country. List of current GE Enrollment Centers is here. Your application will be reviewed along with other questions from the CBP Officer, and your fingerprints and photo are taken.
A couple things to note:
- Age – ALL persons, regardless of age, must have GE to use the kiosks. Yes, get your baby GE too if traveling a lot internationally.
- HOWEVER, for TSA PreCheck “family members ages 12 and under, traveling with an eligible parent or guardian that has a TSA Pre✓™ indicator on their boarding pass, can participate in expedited screening.”
- Application Fee – If you do not qualify, CBP keeps the $100 fee. No refunds.
- In-Person Interview – Shop around for your interview time, as locations can vary greatly. While the interview should take no more than 15 minutes, the wait time may be long, even with a set appointment time.
- Walk-In – While some locations will not take walk-ins under any circumstances, I suggest you still try, you might get lucky.
- Check Online – Keep an eye out for cancellations online, as appointment windows do open up routinely.
- Term – Global Entry is valid for 5 years and renewable. Actually, the first issuance of GE will be valid for five years starting after your next birthday, this sets future renewals on your birth date. For example, my wife got her GE about a month after her birthday, so she is getting almost an extra year for her $100. Cool!
- Global Entry ID Card – 1-2 weeks after GE approval, you’ll receive your new Global Entry photo ID card with RFID chip. This CAN be used as your official ID when checking in and with the TSA at the airport. Be sure to use a RFID protected sleeve or wallet with the ID, as you should with all RFID chip cards (see OVERTIME below).
- Removal from Program – Yes, CBP can remove previously qualified GE trusted travelers from its program and has done so.
- For example, in March 2014, CBP announced three travelers enrolled in GE were removed due to “zero tolerance violations of program rules” (in these cases, the violators were all returning U.S. citizens who failed to declare personal use steroids and prescription drugs and failed to report the transport of currency over $10,000). “Global Entry provides a level of trust not afforded to regular air travelers,” said Devin Chamberlain, CBP Port Director. “Violations of any kind will result in removal from the program.”
Lastly, it is important to enter your Trusted Traveler number into your airline frequent flyer accounts, typically in your profile and referred to as your “Known Traveler ID.” Also, your name should match the name ON YOUR GLOBAL ENTRY CARD EXACTLY to your airline account profile name (or the name the airline may assign as your “security name” such as Delta’s “Secured Flight Passenger Data” name). It is not the name on your driver’s license or your passport, but on your GE card, e.g. with your full middle name or just middle initial or no middle name or initial. Once that is saved, TSA PreCheck should automatically link with you when a new boarding pass is generated.
More questions? See Global Entry FAQ here.
Overly protective like me!? If you have concerns regarding credit cards, IDs and your passports with RFID chips, I suggest you protect yourself with protective shield sleeves or a wallet. This is the wallet I personal use and LOVE!
Pacsafe RFID-Tec 150 Compact Organizer
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Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.