The complete guide to Global Entry

Global Entry can be a lifesaver for those looking to skip the customs queue. Although the program was launched over a decade ago, customs and border protection rules are constantly evolving – which means eligibility guidelines and expected benefits can change too. Let’s take a closer look at Global Entry as it exists today, so you can assess whether the program is right for you.

Global Entry explained

Global Entry is a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) program that allows members to get through customs more quickly.

The idea is that low-risk travelers can be screened when they apply to join the program and have the necessary background checks done at that time. Once your membership is approved, you can start enjoying quicker clearance whenever you arrive back into the US at any of the 75 participating airports by using Global Entry kiosks. The biometrics taken at the time of your application are stored and used to verify your membership at these kiosks.

The membership fee will set you back $100, but it’ll last five years, and there are a number of credit cards on the market that will reimburse this cost through statement credits. You can start renewing your membership up to a year before it’s due to expire.

Why is it necessary during travel?

Imagine a homecoming that involves minimal clearance queues — no processing lines, no paperwork and reduced waiting times. Yes, that’s the Global Entry promise!

The Global Entry proposition is centered around the value of time, and it can make a significant difference for someone traveling internationally regularly, such as an overseas student, an ex-pat or a businessman/businesswoman. It’ll also appeal to savvy travelers who want to speed up international travel in a technologically advanced way.

What’s more, you’ll get TSA Precheck benefits with Global Entry membership, meaning you’ll receive expedited screening benefits when going through security for flight departures. This might mean leaving on your shoes and belt, as well as leaving laptops or liquids in your hand luggage.

While most often used at airports, Global Entry also allows expedited clearance when traveling by land and sea as well.

Global Entry eligibility

To be approved for membership, you’ll need to complete an application, undergo a background check and an in-person interview.

Who’s eligible?

For starters, US citizens and permanent residents.

However, it’s worth noting that New York residents won’t be able to apply for or renew Global Entry membership because of the “Green Light Laws” passed in the state.

Citizens of the following country can apply too: Argentina, Colombia, Germany, India, Panama, Singapore, South Korea, Switzerland, Taiwan and the United Kingdom. Mexican nationals are also eligible.

Canadian citizens and residents are entitled to Global Entry benefits through membership in the NEXUS program. 

What are the possible hurdles?

You’ll need to complete your application honestly and accurately. 

Any convictions or pending charges, outstanding warrants, violations of customs or ongoing law enforcement agency investigations would make it difficult for the CBP to assess you as having a low-risk status. 

Steps to apply for Global Entry

Ready to get started? The application process for Global Entry is simple if you follow these steps.

  1. The first thing you do is create a Trusted Traveler Programs (TTP) account for the Global Entry program. 
  2. You then log-in to your TTP account, complete the Global Entry application and pay the $100 non-refundable fee.
  3. Once completed, you’ll have to wait for CBP to review your application. This could take anywhere from a week to several months. All being well, your application will be conditionally approved. 
  4. You’ll be prompted to schedule an interview at a Global Entry Enrollment Center in your state. Expect the interview to last for around 10 to 15 minutes. If there are no Global Entry Enrollment Centers near you, you may be able to take advantage of the Enrollment on Arrival program, which lets you complete your interview without an appointment after returning from an international flight.
  5. When attending the interview, be sure to bring documents requested, such as your passport or permanent resident card, and another suitable form of identification.

What to do after approval

You’ll be informed of your application outcome on the completion of the interview. If approved, you’ll receive a Global Entry card in the mail within seven to 10 working days. While you can’t use the Global Entry card at airport kiosks, it’ll come in handy when you travel by land or sea.

You’ll need to log into your TTP account and activate your card within 30 days.

What to do once you’re at the airport

As a member, you can use a machine-readable passport or U.S. permanent resident card at the Global Entry kiosks. You’ll be shown the right way to position your passport on the passport reader so it can be read.

The machine will retrieve your data and display it on-screen. You’ll be asked to look up at the camera. 

You’ll then be asked to place your fingers (your right or left hand) onto the scanner to verify your identity.

But how do you go through customs?

Once your identity is verified, you’ll need to complete the customs declaration on-screen by answering “yes” or “no” to a series of questions (this means you can skip the 6095B paper form that’s normally completed before arrival).

If you’re carrying more than $10,000 U.S. dollars in cash or traveler’s checks or your personal imports exceed the limit allowed, you’ll be asked to join the regular inspection queue. 

If you’re bringing in stuff like plants, meat or dairy products, you’ll need to let the CBP officer know.

Finally, you’ll be issued a receipt and directed to the baggage claim and exit — unless your receipt is marked with an “X,” meaning you might be the subject of a random inspection, or your fingerprints may not have matched. If your receipt is marked with an “O,” you have declared something. In either case, you’ll need it cleared before leaving.

Other useful things to know

While Global Entry facilitates a quicker customs process, members can still be selected for random examination. And if Global Entry kiosks aren’t working, you’ll get front-of-line privileges when you queue up at the passport control processing line for inspection.

In a nutshell

Global Entry can definitely save time spent at the airport if you’re a regular overseas traveler. Double-check you’re eligible for membership before applying, and consider whether you would benefit from having a credit card that will reimburse the $100 fee.

Kristie Kwok

Kristie Kwok is a finance content writer with in-depth knowledge of the banking industry from her previous work experience in banks such as UBS, Lloyds Banking Group and Royal Bank of Scotland. She is a qualified accountant with a Bachelor of Commerce degree, specializing in Accounting and Finance.