I love to travel when I can find the time within my busy work/family life. For the past 5 or 6 years, I have been fortunate enough to visit a couple of different countries each year. Along the way, someone mentioned Global Entry to me- but the hassle of going through an interview process at the airport did not seem worth it. About a year ago or so, several new locations have been created for the interview process, which makes it much easier to apply.
First, why Global Entry??
- Faster, expedited process through customs when returning to the United States
- TSA PreCheck Eligible
- No paperwork to complete and overall reduced wait times
- Good for five years
The first two benefits are the best for me. It means shorter TSA lines when entering the airport and quicker processing through customs when returning to the U.S.
The Process: First, there is a online application process which goes over your basic demographic information plus you must list any international travel within the past five years. The entire application is relatively easy to complete and then you are prompted to pay a $100 application fee. It is important to note that the application fee is not returned to you if you are not approved into the Global Entry program. After submitting the application, I waited a few days and then received a “Conditional Approval” letter and a prompt to schedule an interview with a Global Entry officer. There are multiple locations to choose from throughout the United States (you do not need to complete your interview in your city- which may be convenient for frequent travelers as many interview locations are airports). In Houston, I had the option to schedule the interview downtown or at IAH (airport located in Northwest Houston). I opted for the downtown location because it would be more convenient for me- although, I had to wait a couple of months for the first available interview versus the airport location having interview times available within a couple weeks.
The Interview: On the day of my interview, I made sure to have all of my documentation ready: passport, print-out of conditional approval, print-out of interview appointment, etc. I waited for about ten minutes in a small waiting area outside of the Global Entry office until my name was called. I sat down across from the officer as he began to ask questions regarding my travel (business or pleasure). He took my photo and fingerprint scans, and then explained the process for when I returned to the U.S. from travel abroad. Instead of the long customs lines, I would be able to go to the Global Entry kiosks, scan my passport and fingerprints and answer the usual declaration questions. In normal circumstances, I would receive a print-out to show to the Customs and Border Protection officers and go along my way. The officer also warned me that sometimes I may still be required to go through additional security processing. Finally, he explained that most of the time when I travel I should receive a TSA PreCheck stamp on my boarding pass, which indicates I can skip the longer security lines for the TSA PreCheck lane. An added bonus with TSA PreCheck is that you usually do not need to remove your shoes or takeout liquids or laptops from your bags.
Overall, the process was a little intimidating but relatively simple. I definitely recommend Global Entry for anyone who travels out of the country. I look forward to utilizing the benefits in my upcoming travels.
Happy travels, everyone!