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What is Global Entry and Why Do You Need It?

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Now that you’re learning the ins and outs of miles and points and are traveling the globe on the cheap, there’s probably one downside that you’ve discovered: the long wait to pass through customs upon re-entering the United States after a trip overseas. There’s good news though. Smart travelers can sign up for Global Entry, which eliminates waiting on that long customs line.

What Is Global Entry?

Global Entry is your fast track back into the United States after a trip overseas. If you are pre-approved because you were deemed a “low risk, you’ll be labeled as a “trusted traveler. Then, all you need to do is step off your international flight, follow the signs to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and look for the lane with Global Entry kiosks.

Official website of the Department of Homeland Security
Official website of the Department of Homeland Security

There’s no need to fill out the customs form the flight attendant gives out on the airplane. Instead, walk up to a kiosk, swipe your passport, scan your fingerprints, and answer a few questions that pop up on the screen. The machine will spit out a form that you will show to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agent at the exit of the airport.

Imagine the time this saves. You will zip past the extensive lines at Customs and be on your way home before the rest of your plane mates are even lining up at the baggage carousel after passing through Customs.

Where Can I Use Global Entry?

More than 30 airports in the United States and most Canadian airports have Global Entry kiosks. You can also find kiosks at U.S. territory border crossings such as San Juan-Luis Munoz Marin International Airport in Puerto Rico. Click here for a full list of Global Entry kiosk locations.

Some foreign countries are installing Global Entry kiosks as well. You’ll see them in New Zealand (Christchurch, Auckland and Wellington) and Ireland (Dublin and Shannon). In Australia you can use their SmartGate in lieu of a Global Entry kiosk.

There are also other countries like Mexico that partner with Global Entry but you have to go through that country’s application system and pay an addition fee.

Who Can Apply for Global Entry?

Global Entry kiosks
Global Entry kiosks

If you’re a citizen of the United States or are a permanent resident, you can apply for Global Entry. Foreign nationals from Mexico, South Korea, and the Netherlands can also apply for Global Entry. Canadians can access Global Entry as long as they are enrolled in NEXUS, their own country’s version of this program. Children may apply for Global Entry, but a parent must sign off on the application.

Apply for the program via the Global Entry Online Enrollment System (GOES).

How Much Does It Cost and When Does It Expire?

This program carries a $100 application fee and you won’t get it back even if you’re denied. (Yes, U.S. Customs can deny your application for a few reasons such as violation of certain laws, criminal convictions and incomplete or incorrect information on your application.) If you are approved for the program, you will have access for five years. You’ll then need to renew your membership (and pay another fee).

Is There Any Way to Get Global Entry for Free?

Yes. A variety of credit cards include Global Entry as a benefit. Simply apply for the program, charge the application fee to that credit card, and you will be reimbursed. Some of the cards that offer this perk include:

American Express Platinum

Some airlines are also comping Global Entry. United gives its Global Services, MileagePlus Premier 1K, and Mileage Plus Premier Platinum members a $100 credit that can be redeemed through the Global Entry Online Enrollment System during the application process.

What to Expect During the Application Process

Start by filling out an online application and pay the application fee. In a few days (it can take up to two weeks), you’ll get an email from GOES if you were conditionally approved. If that’s the case, you need to log back into the system and schedule an in-person interview at a participating enrollment center.

A U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer will interview you in person, review your passport and photo ID, and take your picture and scan your fingerprints.

If you are approved you’ll receive a Global Entry card in the mail as well as a sticker to place on your passport. Make a note of your “trusted traveler number and insert it into your online profiles at the airlines you use most often.

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