Is Global Entry Worth It? Here’s How to Decide

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You may be skeptical about shelling out money for a government program like Global Entry. After all, you pay for it before you get to test it out to see how it works. This program has now been around for over 12 years and it does offer some definite benefits to members.

If you’re asking, “is Global Entry worth it?” You’ll know all you need to in order to answer that question after reading this informative post!

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Trusted Traveler Programs

The Trusted Traveler Programs, including Global Entry, are offered by the United States Department of Homeland Security. They are designed to speed up the process of passing through border checks, security, and immigration.

The Trusted Traveler Programs allow members access to expedited travel lanes when crossing international borders by land or by sea. They also offer expedited lanes at United States airports.

There are five programs available in the United States:

  • TSA PreCheck—Expedites security screening in United States airports for domestic or international travel.
  • Global Entry—Offers expedited passport control to reduce your time passing through immigration and customs upon entering the United States.
  • SENTRIAllows expedited entry to the United States from southern land border ports.
  • NEXUS—Provides expedited border clearance between Canada and the United States when crossing by land, air, and marine ports of entry.
  • FAST—For commercial truckers only.

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Each program has its own set of eligibility requirements. They all require an application and an interview and are subject to availability. Check out this post on TSA PreCheck for more information about that program.

Trusted Traveler Program Benefits

The Trusted Traveler Programs serve a number of useful functions. They improve overall security in airports, at border checkpoints, and in the country overall.

They also provide modified screening procedures that expedite entry into the United States. And last, they make people’s travel experience a bit easier and more streamlined.

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In order to secure membership, people need to apply for the program and complete a rigorous screening process. Once you pay the fee, complete the requirements, and go through an in-person interview, you are eligible for approval for the program.

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How Global Entry Works

The Global Entry program fast-tracks passport control, allowing for expedited clearance for pre-approved and low-risk travelers when they enter United States airports from international locations.

According to their website, Global Entry program members scan their passport or their United States Permanent Resident card at a designated Global Entry kiosk at the airport immigration area when they enter the country.

They provide a fingerprint scan and complete a customs declaration. Last they pick up their bag(s) and hand the receipt to a customs agent.

My recent experience was a bit different and easier! I simply scanned my passport at the kiosk and that was it! I did get a receipt, which I kept in case it was required. However, no one asked for it.

It’s incredibly easy! And I have seen some airports, like Miami International Airport, has a similar passport-scanning process in place for all passengers to use. So, it’s likely this trend may continue so international travelers will be used to this type of process upon entry to the United States.

Where is Global Entry Available?

There are a lot of United States airports that offer Global Entry, and currently, the list is more than 200. It’s generally the larger international airports, though they have expanded into more airports over the last few years. Even some of the smaller international airports now accept it.

But keep in mind—the airport you will use this benefit in is the first airport you land in when you arrive in the United States and not necessarily your final destination.

In my experience, most flights arrive in the United States through a small number of airports, anyways. In five years of having Global Entry, I have never flown into an airport that didn’t accept it (though it’s possible).

Sign-Up Process

In order to get approved for Global Entry, you need to follow the process to apply for the program.

  1. Create a Trusted Traveler Program (TTP) account online.
  2. Complete the application for Global Entry and pay the fee.
  3. Your application may be conditionally approved. If it is, schedule an interview at an approved Global Entry Enrollment Center. If you are not conditionally approved, you will receive notification of conditional approval via email.
  4. At the interview, you are required to provide documentation for the background check including a valid passport and second form of identification including an ID or driver’s license. If you are a lawful permanent resident, you must bring your residency card. You will be fingerprinted.
  5. Written notification will be sent 2 to 3 weeks after the interview with your approval (or denial). You will get your Known Traveler Number and ID.

Once you apply, the system walks you through the process so it’s easy to follow. You can get a status update when you log into your TTP account online to see where you are at in the process.

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Global Entry Enrollment Centers

When you are signing up, make sure you check if your local airport has an enrollment center. Not all airports do, even if they accept Global Entry.

Once you check if your nearby airport(s) has an enrollment center, you go online to sign up for an interview. Keep checking back if you don’t find a date and time that work for you. they add new times and there will be cancellations opening time slots on a regular basis.

Who is Eligible for Global Entry?

Eligibility for Global Entry, as well as all of the Trusted Traveler Programs, is only for people believed to be low risk. This includes people who:

  • Are allowed to enter the United States.
  • Have not violated immigration and customs laws.
  • Have no past criminal convictions nor any pending criminal charges.
  • Provide truthful and complete information during the application process.
  • Are not subject to any ongoing investigations.

Generally speaking, as long as you are a lawful United States citizen, you will be eligible to apply for membership. This also includes United States lawful permanent residents as well as citizens of certain other countries including Canada (through another Trusted Traveler Program called NEXUS), the United Kingdom, India, Taiwan, Germany, and some others.

Cost and Membership Duration

Applying for Global Entry costs $100. You have to pay for it when you apply, so you pay it whether you are approved or not. It is non-refundable. So, if you decide to not go through with it, you don’t complete the application process, or you’re not approved, you cannot get your money back.

There are a number of credit cards that will cover the cost of Global Entry membership. This will change regularly. So, if you don’t already have one of these cards and decide to apply for this benefit, take a look to confirm that they still offer this coverage.

Another note is that the cost of Global Entry is $15 more than TSA PreCheck and it covers TSA PreCheck. Said another way, if you purchase Global Entry, you get TSA PreCheck Benefits for free!

This is a great thing and if you’re debating between the two, it may be worth an extra $15 to just purchase Global Entry.

Membership for Global Entry, as well as all of the Trusted Traveler Programs, is for five years. It’s a good idea to apply at least 6 months before your membership is due to expire as there can sometimes be delays with the application process. Also, it can take some time to get an interview scheduled at your desired location and time.

Additional Information about Global Entry

Here are some additional details you should know about the program to make sure you get the most of the benefits.

  • Airlines require that you enter your Known Traveler Number (KTN) when you book to get the benefit when you arrive at the airport. You can generally add it to your profile so this is automatic, depending on the airline. And if you forget to add it, you can generally contact the airline to update it.
  • You do not need to carry your Global Entry card while traveling, though it is a good idea to have it on you just in case. (I realized once when I arrived at the airport that my booking didn’t have my Known Traveler Number and I didn’t know it off-hand. At a minimum, save your number on your phone).
  • When you have Global Entry membership, you get TSA PreCheck as well, as mentioned above. This will add TSA Pre✓® to your boarding pass for any domestic United States flights.
  • You can check your status online and once approved, you are provided your KTN. The KTN can be used even before you get the letter with your card.
  • You may still be selected for additional screening at the airport. Having a Trusted Traveler Membership does not get you out of that!
  • Every individual applying must complete the process outlined above separately. This includes children and all family members.
  • If you violate the program terms and conditions, your Program membership will be ended.

Global Entry Renewal Process

It’s hard to believe I’m at the point of renewing my Global Entry membership! Or, I was in 2020 and, well, we all know what that meant.

What I learned, in case you’re interested, is that the process is exactly the same with one exception. You follow the process that was listed above.

  1. Create a Trusted Traveler Program (TTP) account online.
  2. Complete the application for Global Entry and pay the fee.
  3. Your application may be conditionally approved. If it is, schedule an interview at an approved Global Entry Enrollment Center. If you are not conditionally approved, you will receive notification of conditional approval via email.

Global Entry Renewal Interview

You have an interesting option for your interview. You may schedule it at your local airport if you choose. Or, if you have an international trip planned and you are flying through an approved airport (they email you a list or the list of eligible Global Entry on arrival airports is available here).

Interestingly, there are some international airports including some in Canada, Ireland, and other countries.

I had the opportunity to test this out after a recent international flight. I scanned my passport in the kiosk to clear immigration and told a woman working there that I had to do my interview.

She told me to sit in the waiitng area, and someone came to get me within minutes. He asked me a handful of questions, and voila—done! He told me I was approved and would get my card in the mail within two weeks (which I did).

It was nice and easy to do and saved me an extra trip to the airport. My only word of caution, is that he told me that they end interviews an hour before they show their closing time on the website.

I did arrive after that and he thankfully did my interview, but it’s something to be aware of. Don’t cut this time too close or you may leave without it being completed.

I’m not sure there’s any real way of checking, but it would be a good idea to plan to have at least two hours before the closing time provided in case your flight is late (like mine way) or they do close early.

Renewal Timeline

Were 2020 a “normal” year, I would have almost definitely had an international trip. I would have simply made sure my first flight into the United States was a connection in one of the airports listed, and voila. However, I didn’t travel internationally last year and I have yet to renew.

As of March 2020, an 18-month extension/grace period was offered for renewals. The standard previously was 6 months (meaning you could renew up to 6 months after your Global Entry expired).

This was later extended to two years. There’s no way of knowing if this will be permanent, and you can always log in to check your expiration date.

Some people I know who applied for their renewal in 2020 and early 2021 received their card in the mail with no interview. I suspect I missed that as I had already applied in early 2020. So, don’t be surprised if you skip this step, at least temporarily.

Global Entry vs. TSA PreCheck

Global Entry and TSA PreCheck are two entirely different programs. Global Entry expedites your passage through immigration upon re-entry to the United States. TSA PreCheck expedites your process for domestic travel through security.

Though they are separate programs, they do go together in a sense. If you have Global Entry, you get TSA PreCheck. So, you have both benefits. If you do any international travel, it’s worth getting Global Entry.

If you only travel domestically and will never travel internationally, then get TSA Precheck only. Here’s a post for more information about TSA PreCheck.

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Global Entry At-a-Glance

Here is a quick summary of the Global Entry program:

  • The Global Entry program allows for expedited clearance in United States airports by fast-tracking passport control.
  • Securing the membership requires a multi-step, thorough, pre-approval process including an online application, background check, fingerprinting, and in-person interview.
  • Over 200 international United States airports provide this benefit.
  • The cost to apply is $100 for five years.
  • United States citizens, lawful permanent residents, and citizens of certain countries are eligible.
  • You must add your Known Traveler Number to all international bookings in order to use the benefit.
  • Approval for Global Entry also provides the TSA PreCheck benefit, which provides for expedited security checks for domestic flights.
  • Membership can be revoked for any violations of the program rules.

So, is Global Entry Worth It?

I travel by plane internationally once or twice a year so for me, it’s worth having Global Entry. It makes the re-entry process so much faster. I have generally walked right up to the machine and within minutes, I’m on my way.

No bleary-eyed waiting after a long international flight! Win! And having TSA PreCheck as well is a really nice touch.

Travel can be stressful, so finding way to reduce that stress is a great thing. So, is Global Entry worth it to me? You bet!

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4 Comments

  1. John Selden says:

    We already have TSA-pre but applied a year ago, during Covid, for Global Entry. We got lost in the shuffle, and never were able to schedule an interview. How do we resolve that, short of starting all over again?

    1. I am in the same situation. You can log in to see your status and the deadline at https://ttp.dhs.gov/. They offered an extension. You can still schedule an interview at an airport, or if you have an upcoming international trip, you can do the interview when you arrive in the US for participating airports.

  2. It used to be worth it but not anymore really. I keep re-upping because after initial sign up it’s really not that much trouble to get again and I would get TSA pre check anyway. For entering the US from over seas the passport app is just as fast so if that’s all you are getting it for then it’s not worth it at all.

    1. How interesting! I haven’t used the passport app but do agree that it’s worth it as it’s not much more than TSA Precheck. I do enjoy the convenience of both!

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