The height of the travel season is almost upon us. Now that Spring is here, it will not be long before schools end for the summer and families across the global begin to travel and take much needed vacations. One of the last things people was to do are wait in long lines for security, customs and immigration. I can’t say I blame them too much.
On my last trip back to the US from Germany, I was lucky enough to be able to fly home on Lufthansa’s massive double decker Airbus 380 (A-380). While the aircraft was state of the art, the amount of passengers it can hold, upwards of 500, is staggering. I was seated towards the back of the plane and was one of the last passengers off the plane. You could see a steady stream of sleepy passengers head from the gate area towards passport control. I walked as fast as I could to the passport control area to try and be as close to the front of the line as possible.
While most of the passengers on the plane were European Union citizens., there were about 50 US passengers in line ahead of me. The non-US citizens line had about 300 people in line. The US passport holder line had 3 customs agents available to process passengers while the non-US line had about 15 agents. Needless to say progress was painfully slow. I ended up waiting about 45 minutes in line.
When I glanced over to the line next to the US passport line, I saw empty kiosks waiting to be used that said “Global Entry”. I wondered what they were for. I watched as 4-5 passengers put in some information into it and were fast-tracked through passport control. I had heard about the program previously and before I began traveling out of the US a few times a year, didn’t think much of it. I decided before my next trip out of the country to look into applying for this Global Entry program.
What Exactly is Global Entry?
The Global Entry program is a program operated by the US Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) as part of the Trusted Traveler Program that allows for expedited entry to low-risk travelers into the US. Global Entry program members go through an application process and interview to obtain the pre-approved status. They are allowed to use kiosks at select airports in place of waiting to speak to an agent.
The Application Process
I only submitted my application earlier this week, but the process is fresh in my mind. You will first need to check on the CBP website that you are eligible to apply to the program prior to submitting an application. You should note that you do not have to be a US citizen to get global entry. See here for a full list of countries that are part of the Global Entry program.
You will first need to create a Trusted Travel Programs account that will ask you for some basic information including your name, address, e-mail and phone number. You will be prompted to indicate how you would like to receive a security code every time you log in too. I have found that an SMS text message works best for me.
Once you have created an account, you will fill out the online application. It will ask you for information about work experience, places you have lived, countries visited, passport information and a few other questions. If you want to save yourself some time, have your driver’s license or state ID card, passport, and a resume available to assist you. The questions are straight forwards; if you don’t have the time to complete the full application, you are able to save your progress and continue it at a later time.
You will then be asked to submit your application and pay a non-refundable fee of $100. It may seem a little high, but keep in mind that Global Entry is valid for 5 years, and includes TSA pre-check (a security screening fast track program). It breaks down to just $15 a year. Some premium travel credit cards will cover the cost of a Global Entry or TSA pre-check application fee. After that you wait to receive a conditional approval and move to the next phase, the interview.
How Long Does It Take to Get?
That’s the million dollar question. Once your application is submitted, you will be playing the waiting game. It can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. I have heard as of right now, processing times can be upwards of 11 weeks. It’s hard to be patient, but what else can you do? You will receive an e-mail when your application is conditionally approved or denied.
I’ll update when my application has a status has been updated. From reading on the CBP’s website you have up to 1 month after receiving the status change to schedule an interview with a CBP officer. It is up to you to schedule the interview on a day and time you will be able to make. You will not receive a reminder for your appointment!
I can’t tell you how excited I am to hopefully receive Global Entry status. I am done with waiting in long lines at passport control if it can be helped! I feel that the cost is well justified and TSA pre-check will be an added bonus. I’ll do another post about the next part of the application process when I have more information!