Who of us hasn’t wished we could speed up the time we spend at the airport? No one ever accused them of being quick-moving machines, what with slow security checkpoints and endless wait lines at customs. But with a simple application and interview, you can bypass all that for slightly more than it costs to get TSA PreCheck. The Global Entry program allows you to breeze through the airport as you’ve dreamed of doing since you experienced your first international trip and despairingly thought: Is it always like this?
Thankfully, the answer is no—at least, not with Global Entry. So, get ready to fly (through security anyway) as we take you through everything you need to know to speed up your time at the airport.
Table of Contents
- What Is Global Entry?
- 6 Steps to Joining the Global Entry Program
- Global Entry Interview FAQ
- Global Entry Isn’t the Only Way to Make Flying Easier, Fly for Cheaper with Next Vacay
What Is Global Entry?
Think of it like an advanced version of the Mobile Passport Control App. Global Entry is a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) program that allows travelers coming from international destinations to bypass the nightmare of customs.
Anyone who has traveled internationally knows the lines at customs can get crazy long. If you’re headed home after an extended flight or in a hurry to get to a connecting one, the last thing you want is to get held up in slow-moving lines. Thankfully, Global Entry is your answer to avoiding all of that.
By providing travelers with expedited clearance into the country from international destinations, travelers can get through customs in fewer steps and less time.
Because the application process and Global Entry interview take care of screening, once you’re approved, you can breeze in and out of customs in minutes, whereas once it might have taken hours.
Who Is Eligible for Global Entry?
If Global Entry sounds like the perfect fit for you, you’ll be interested to know who is eligible.
United States citizens and permanent residents are eligible to apply and interview for Global Entry. However, surprisingly enough, membership is also available to citizens of select countries:
- South Korea
- United Kingdom
In addition, the CBP has international arrangements in place for more. For example, Mexican nationals can also apply for the program. And while not able to apply directly, Canadian citizens have access to Global Entry benefits through NEXUS, another Trusted Traveler Program offered by the CBP.
Though individuals who meet the above criteria are eligible to apply, access to the Global Entry Program can be denied for any number of reasons.
A surefire way to have your application rejected is to falsify the information you provide to the CBP during the Global Entry application or interview. But, while having a criminal record may raise your risk level in the CBP’s assessments, it won’t necessarily earn your application an immediate rejection.
How Does Global Entry Work?
So, Global Entry expedites the customs process, but how does it work exactly?
When returning to the US from an international destination, you usually board your flight and fill out a paper declaration form or enter your info into an APC kiosk upon arrival. You then interview with a CBP officer, and this is where the process can really drag on.
Global Entry saves you some trouble and additional steps. You can kiss goodbye time-wasters like filling out a paper declaration form or waiting for an interview with a CBP agent.
When you arrive in the US at select airports, head for the Global Entry line—if there is one—and make your way to a Global Entry automated kiosk. All you have to do is scan your passport and fingerprints and fill out a customs declaration form. The whole process takes only a few minutes. Once it’s complete, you’ll receive a transaction receipt that you can hand over to an immigration officer on your way out.
Quick and easy. That’s how we prefer to travel.
And for the easiest way to travel, you can sign up for Next Vacay alerts to score the best deals on international trips around the globe. If you need another reason to pair Next Vacay with Global Entry, other than skipping the interview when you get back, how does saving thousands of dollars and planning a few more international trips a year sound?
6 Steps to Joining the Global Entry Program
Before taking advantage of benefits like TSA PreCheck and the Global Entry kiosks, you’ll have to complete the Global Entry application process.
While the application is pretty quick, the entire Global Entry enrollment process can take months or even longer.
So, if you have an international trip on the horizon, don’t wait. The sooner you’re signed up and approved, the sooner your airport travel becomes a breeze.
1. Create a Trusted Traveler Programs (TTP) Account
The first step of your Global Entry journey is by far the simplest. Head to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security website and create a Trusted Traveler Programs Account.
While you have the choice of various programs, Global Entry offers the most value for your dollar, as it includes TSA PreCheck benefits.
After you consent to the site’s security notification, you’ll be directed to create your Trusted Traveler account.
2. Complete Your Global Entry Application
After your Trusted Traveler account is squared away, you can finish your application. Though the first part of the online application is quick, you’ll then have to wait for conditional approval before you can schedule your interview.
Global Entry Online Application
The application will take several minutes, as you have to answer questions regarding your personal information, past residences, work history, and travel history. Before starting, make sure you have your driver’s license and passport on hand, as you’ll need to copy over information from both.
On top of that, you’ll want to have a payment form ready. The Global Entry application fee is $100 (and may increase to $120 in the future). That price may seem steep, but it’s well worth the cost, even if you only travel internationally once a year.
And with the right travel card sitting pretty in your wallet, you can even get the Global Entry fee credited.
The biggest rule to follow as you fill out your information is to keep your answers honest. Don’t leave out any information regarding your previous residences, past employers, or destinations you’ve traveled to. Part of the Global Entry Application Process is an extensive background check. You’ll also undergo an interview later on. Being 100% honest and upfront will save you time and help avoid complications later on.
Pro-tip: Double-check your information before submission.
You can’t make edits to your Global Entry application after hitting submit. So, if anything’s incorrect, it can only be edited by contacting an enrollment center.
Global Entry Conditional Approval
At this point, CBP has to finish processing your application and run a background check before they can grant conditional approval. For Global Entry, this simply means you’ve passed the initial vetting process and can continue with the next steps.
So, strap in for the waiting game once you’ve paid the fee and submitted your online application. Receiving conditional approval could take as little as a few business days, or you could be stuck waiting over six months. Unfortunately, there’s no telling how long the process will take for your application.
While you wait, keep an eye on your email for a notification regarding your TTP application status. Once you receive the message, you’ll have to log into your account to view whether your application has been approved or denied.
3. Schedule Your In-Person Global Entry Interview
If you receive conditional approval, you can now move on to scheduling your Global Entry interview.
Scheduling can also be a lengthy process, but you may be able to speed it up a little bit, which we’ll get into in a moment.
You’ll want to start by finding the nearest appointment location and the soonest time available. You could end up scoring an appointment just a few weeks out!
But, depending on where you live and the number of enrollment centers nearby, the earliest appointment could be months out from the date of your conditional approval. If that’s the case, continue with scheduling your interview for the soonest date available.
If no dates are available, consider booking an appointment at a distant airport. Your main goal here is getting your foot in the door with something at least scheduled.
Here’s how you can speed things up, though. Simply reschedule your interview.
People are constantly canceling and rescheduling appointments, and you can change yours as many times as you want. So, make it a point to hop on and check available slots, adjusting your appointment until you get a more desirable date and location.
Pro-tip: Your best bet for getting an optimal interview slot is to check multiple times a day, specifically in the mornings and evenings.
You may still have a tough time scheduling an interview. In that case, check your travel calendar. If you have an international trip coming up, consider skipping the appointment and completing your Global Entry interview upon arrival back in the US.
Global Entry Enrollment on Arrival Program
Designed to speed up the application process, the Global Entry Enrollment on Arrival Program can help you avoid long waits and inconvenient trips to schedule your interview. Instead, you can complete your interview upon returning from an international destination.
When the program began in 2017, it had just five locations. However, that number has grown to over 60 airports in the US and abroad. That makes getting your Global Entry interview out of the way much easier. Just make sure your arrival is scheduled for a time when the CBP offices are open!
On the website, CBP makes finding where to interview seem simple. Follow the signage, and it’ll take you directly to the airport CBP officers who can conduct your interview. No sweat.
However, you may run into issues such as a lack of signage and airport employees who don’t know where to direct you.
In that case, simply proceed through the standard immigration line. Tell the immigration officer there that you want to enroll in Global Entry. They’ll be able to direct you to the proper location, and you can get your interview all squared away!
4. Gather Your Documents
Before you depart for your interview, make sure you have all your necessary documents on hand.
The last thing you want to do is show up for your appointment only to have forgotten your driver’s license at home.
Speaking of, you’ll need to bring your passport and another form of identification, such as a driver’s license, to your interview. In addition, lawful permanent residents will have to bring their permanent resident cards.
Here’s a quick Global Entry interview documents checklist:
- Conditional Approval Letter
- Driver’s license
- Permanent resident card (if applicable)
- PASSID (membership number)
- Located on your TTP dashboard or on the back of your Conditional Approval Letter
5. Ace Your Global Entry Interview
Whether you scheduled your Global Entry interview in advance or plan to enroll upon arrival, you’ll find the enrollment centers located in airports around the country and in a few international ones.
Plan to arrive 15-30 minutes ahead of your scheduled interview time. The interview itself should only take 10-15 minutes. Remember, you’ve already been screened and given conditional approval, so the interview is all a matter of verifying your information and a few new details.
Most interviews only include three simple steps:
- Answer a few questions
- Pose for a photo
- Have your biometric information collected
Others who have gone through the Global Entry interview process report answering simple questions regarding travel history, the purpose of your travel, past convictions or arrests, and customs violations.
After that, you can pose for your picture. Expect DMV-quality photos here. If you’re familiar with the new REAL-IDs, you’ll already be prepared for the grayscale coloring. Then, you can get your face and fingertips biometric data scanned in.
Depending on your CBP officer, they may also show you a short video and give you a rundown of working the Global Entry kiosks, but reports on that have been mixed.
And that’s it! Take a deep breath of that stale airport air and know you’ll be breathing a lot less of it from here on out.
6. Learn How to Use the Global Entry Kiosks
There’s one final step to your Global Entry Enrollment process: learning to use the Global Entry kiosk. If your agent skipped this part of your interview, you’ll still want to know how you can use the kiosks to expedite your time at customs.
You’ll be pleased to know it’s as quick and easy as the CBP makes it out to be! You don’t even need your Global Entry card.
When you arrive in customs, Global Entry members can head directly to the Global Entry line and an open kiosk. Scan your passport and fingerprints, answer a few questions, and declare any necessary items. Snap your photo, and you’re all set! Just grab your receipt and give it to an immigration agent as you leave.
You may notice a few updates at some airports, like no fingerprint scans. That’s because several airports have switched to facial recognition, and the good news is that these are even easier to use! The kiosk will take a photo and print your receipt. No scans and no customs declarations. Is this what airport heaven looks like?
Global Entry Interview FAQ
Hopefully, this guide makes your journey to Global Entry membership as smooth as a turbulence-free flight through the clouds. But just in case you have any lingering uncertainties, here are a few quick answers to some of the most burning questions we’ve noticed travelers have.
Where Are the Global Entry Interview Locations?
You can find an interview location at your nearest Global Entry Enrollment Center. These enrollment centers are located in 95 airports nationwide and a select few international ones. Unfortunately, not every state has an enrollment center available.
You can find your closest location on the list of enrollment centers here.
Can I Just Show Up for the Global Entry Interview?
Yes! You can skip scheduling an interview by completing your Global Entry application process via the Enrollment on Arrival Program. Upon returning from your international trip, follow signage to the CBP office to have your interview take place immediately.
What Questions Are Asked During the Global Entry Interview?
Global Entry interview questions are relatively straightforward and often verify your already provided information!
- Have you ever broken customs or immigration laws?
- Do you have any prior arrests or convictions?
- Where have you traveled in the past X years?
- What was the purpose of your travel?
They may ask slightly different questions or no questions at all! Mostly, the CBP agents want to get a feel for you and confirm the results of your prior screening and background check. The interview should take less than 30 minutes, and you should learn within a few minutes if you’re approved for Global Entry!
Global Entry Isn’t the Only Way to Make Flying Easier, Fly for Cheaper with Next Vacay
Slow airport lines and sky-high ticket prices, two things that haunt a traveler’s worst nightmares. Global Entry takes care of the first, but how can you score inexpensive flight tickets and fly for cheaper? Sure, you could spend hours finding deals on your own, or you could take the smart approach and sign up for Next Vacay.
The Next Vacay newsletter keeps you up-to-date on the best deals from your airports, so as soon as a deal becomes available, it’s in your inbox and ready for booking. It’s that simple. No application or interview, just book your flight to anywhere and everywhere in the world.
Global Entry paired with Next Vacay makes it easier than ever to travel the world and fill up the pages of your passport!