Considering Global Entry? Here’s What You Need to Know First

Your guide to how Global Entry works, what it includes, how much it costs, and if it’s worth it.

Passport with global entry paperwork

Global Entry costs $100 for five years and can help you zoom through immigration.

Photo by Shutterstock

After a lengthy international flight, few things are more frustrating (or potentially nerve-wracking if you have a tight connection) than a long line at immigration. Luckily, there is a way to get through customs quickly.

Enter: Global Entry. It’s a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) trusted traveler program that allows preapproved travelers to breeze through border security usually in a matter of minutes. Here’s what you need to know about Global Entry.

What is Global Entry, and how does it work?

Global Entry is an expedited screening program established by the CBP for travelers entering the United States from abroad. Travelers who are enrolled in the program can head to the Global Entry kiosks (rather than the regular immigration line where you have to talk to an agent), where they are more quickly identified and approved to pass through customs. Most major airports in the U.S. have switched to facial recognition kiosks, similar to those used for Clear, to identify travelers, though some still require you to scan your passport. Either way, it usually only takes a couple of minutes to be processed.

More than 50 U.S. airports have Global Entry. As do more than a dozen international airports, including Abu Dhabi International Airport, Dublin Airport, and Toronto Pearson International Airport. (They’re also the airports that have preclearance, meaning travelers can bypass TSA inspections on arrival into the United States.)

Who’s eligible for Global Entry?

To qualify for Global Entry, you must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. Applicants under 18 years old must have parental or legal guardianship consent to apply.

There are also a handful of countries that the U.S. government has partnered with that qualify for Global Entry, including residents of Argentina, Australia, Bahrain, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Germany, India, Mexico, New Zealand, The Netherlands, Panama, Republic of Korea, Singapore, Switzerland, Taiwan, and the United Kingdom. The process for residents of those countries to apply for Global Entry is the same as in the United States; however, there are only enrollment centers in Canada, so getting Global Entry on Arrival is typically the easiest route.

How to get Global Entry

To enroll in the Global Entry program, you’ll need to follow a few steps:

  1. Create a Trusted Travel Programs (TTP) account.
  2. Fill out the online application, which asks for information about your residential addresses, work history, and the countries you’ve visited in the last five years, and requires the $100 fee for enrollment.
  3. After submission, your application will be reviewed by a U.S. CBP officer. If it is conditionally approved (you pass a background check), you’ll need to schedule an in-person interview at a Global Entry Enrollment Center, usually at airports.
  4. Go to an in-person interview, where you’ll be asked some questions by the CBP officer. Typically they’ll ask you to confirm details of your application and why you want to be part of the program. They will also take your photo and scan your fingerprints. Don’t forget to bring a valid passport and another form of identification, like a driver’s license.

How long does it take to get Global Entry?

The approval for Global Entry can take several months—currently, the government is estimating a processing time of four to six months, largely due to high demand for Global Entry from pent-up desire for international travel following the pandemic slump and a temporary closure of enrollment centers during 2020.

However, there are a few ways to speed up the process for obtaining Global Entry, including:

  • Participating in enrollment on arrival: Applicants who are conditionally approved can do the interview with an immigration official when returning from an international flight. Look for the “Enrollment of Arrival” signage after landing, which will direct you to a CBP officer who can finish the process.
  • Signing up for Appointment Scanner, a service that constantly scans the Trusted Traveler site for canceled Global Entry interviews, and alerts you when an appointment become available, which you can then sign up for yourself.

After the in-person interview, new enrollees typically receive their Global Entry card within 10 business days.

How much does Global Entry cost?

Global Entry costs $100 for a five-year membership (it is nonrefundable). However, various travel credit cards offer free TSA PreCheck or Global Entry as perks, including the Chase Sapphire Reserve and the American Express Platinum card, among others. To get Global Entry for free, you’ll need to charge it to your credit card (you’ll get the funds back as a statement credit).

Does Global Entry include TSA PreCheck?

Yes, Global Entry comes with TSA PreCheck (which usually costs $78 on its own). TSA PreCheck is a trusted traveler program that lets you go through an expedited TSA security line at most domestic airports and allows you to keep your shoes on and large electronics in your bag.

How long does Global Entry last, and how do I renew?

Global Entry lasts for five years. If you plan to renew, you must do it before your Global Entry membership expires; otherwise, you’ll lose your benefits (including TSA PreCheck) and need to re-enroll. The renewal process is easier than re-enrolling, because you’ll already have an account (you will have to add any address or employment changes and list the countries you’ve visited since joining Global Entry); some applicants aren’t required to do another interview (which is determined by the vetting center).

Is Global Entry worth it?

If you travel often, Global Entry is worth it, especially if you’re able to get it for free via a credit card. When paired with TSA PreCheck, it will save you time on both ends of the airport journey. However, if you don’t fly internationally all that often, it may not be worth the cost and effort to get Global Entry, especially when other time-saving options, like Mobile Passport (a free app that travelers can upload their travel details to and go through a designated, usually shorter, line), can fill the gap at customs.

Bailey Berg is a freelance travel writer and editor, who covers breaking news, trends, tips, transportation, sustainability, the outdoors, and more. She was formerly the associate travel news editor at AFAR. Her work can also be found in the New York Times, the Washington Post, National Geographic, Condé Nast Traveler, Travel + Leisure, the Points Guy, Atlas Obscura, Vice, Thrillist, Men’s Journal, Architectural Digest, Forbes, Lonely Planet, and beyond.
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