The Ultimate Guide To Global Entry – Application, Interview And How To Get It For Free

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Anyone who regularly travels in and out of the United States can benefit greatly from becoming a member of Global Entry. Run by the US Customers and Border Protection, the scheme allows its members expedited entry when arriving back in the US, cutting down the irritations of standing in queues after your long flight. Given the frequent long processing times at major airports, Global Entry membership can be an excellent investment.

But applying for and securing your Global Entry can feel like a daunting process. Aside from the forms and ID checks to get through, the program has a reputation for lengthy delays in getting approval, not to mention reported problems in securing an appointment. But things are getting better, and some travelers are finding their applications processed in just a couple of weeks.

The Ultimate Guide To Global Entry – Application, Interview And How To Get It For Free Global Entry can expedite your entry into the USA. Photo: CBP

Getting set up on the Global Entry program need not be a massive headache. Here, we take you through the steps to applying, interviewing, and how to use Global Entry, as well as some top tips on getting your membership cheaper, or even for free!

What exactly is Global Entry?

Traveling internationally outside the United States can be an incredible experience but is frequently marred by the extensive queues encountered on return to our home country. Big, busy airports such as LAX or JFK can often have waits of two hours or more to immigrate, so the US brought in Global Entry to lessen the pain of getting back into the States.

The program is one of just five available under the Trusted Traveler initiative. The others, which you may have heard of, include TSA PreCheck, SENTRI and NEXUS. There is also one for commercial trucking called FAST. All these initiatives are administered by Customs and Border Protection (CPB), apart from one – TSA PreCheck, as the name suggests, is administered by the Transport Security Administration (TSA).

The Ultimate Guide To Global Entry – Application, Interview And How To Get It For Free The program is one of five recognized TTPs in the USA. Photo: CBP

For airline passengers, TSA PreCheck and Global Entry are the most popular and widely used programs. They each work at different ends of the journey – TSA PreCheck helping you breeze through security before boarding your flight, and Global Entry, helping you get back into the country faster.

One of the biggest perks of Global Entry is that it includes TSA PreCheck benefits in the membership. Indeed, getting initial members TSA PreCheck costs only $15 less than the full Global Entry package, so it’s almost nonsensical to purchase TSA Pre on its own.

Almost 10 million people are signed up to Global Entry already, and CBP says that it expects to receive a further 3.5 million applications in 2022. Most major US airports are signed up to the scheme, and it has also extended to a select number of international facilities. Most recently, Global Entry was extended to residents of Brazil, taking the number of international preclearance locations to 14. The list includes Germany, India, The UK, Mexico, Colombia, Argentina, and more.

Who can use Global Entry?

Qualification for Global Entry is based on your citizenship. To qualify, you must be a US citizen or a lawful permanent resident. However, thanks to recent expansions, residents of some select countries can also apply. These include the following:

  • Citizens of Argentina

  • Citizens of Brazil

  • Citizens of Bahrain

  • Citizens of India

  • Citizens of Colombia

  • Citizens of the United Kingdom

  • Citizens of Germany

  • Citizens of The Netherlands

  • Citizens of Panama

  • Citizens of Singapore

  • Citizens of South Korea

  • Citizens of Switzerland

  • Citizens of Taiwan

  • Mexican nationals

For international applicants, there may be additional requirements to be met before you are accepted into the program. You can find out more at the CBP website, where it details specific requirements for each of the partner countries.

If the applicant is under 18 years of age, they must obtain their parent or guardian’s permission to participate in the program.

The Ultimate Guide To Global Entry – Application, Interview And How To Get It For Free Most US citizens will be accepted to the Global Entry program, providing they meet certain criteria. Photo: GBP

Who cannot use the program

The CBP reserves the right to refuse membership to anyone who has been convicted of a criminal offense or who has pending criminal charges against them. This includes charges relating to driving under the influence. It will also not allow membership to anyone who has been in violation of any customs, immigration of agriculture laws or regulations in any country.

It also does not look favorably on anyone who has been denied the purchase of a firearm, or who is the subject of an ongoing investigation by any law enforcement agency.

How much does Global Entry cost?

Global Entry costs $100 for five years of membership. The fee is nonrefundable and must be paid at the point of your application. If the application is denied, you will not get the money back. CBP accepts credit cards or bank transfers for this amount.

How to apply for Global Entry

Before you go ahead and apply for Global Entry, be sure that you are eligible for the program, and have all the necessary documents to be accepted onto the scheme. Incomplete or invalid applications could leave you $100 out of pocket if they are rejected, so be prepared before you launch into your application.

Mostly, your personal details are all you need to complete your application; however, there are a couple of pieces of data you’ll need to be able to provide, and accurately. For one, you’ll need to provide five years of employment history and your past addresses. This shouldn’t be too much of a challenge, but if you’ve moved around a lot, make sure you’ve got the correct dates and zip codes to hand.

You will also need to be able to give details of any travel you’ve taken abroad over the last five years, For this, the CBP will expect the months and years of the trips, so note these down from your old airline bookings or other records.

The Ultimate Guide To Global Entry – Application, Interview And How To Get It For Free You won't be able to start a Global Entry application without a TTP account. Photo: US Government

The first thing to do is to set up your account on the Trusted Traveler Programs (TTP). Whether you are over or under 18 years of age, you need an account in your own name before you can progress with your application. Once you’ve got this, you can head to the Global Entry sign-up page on the Department of Homeland Security webpage.

When you first click to set up your Global Entry membership, you’ll be met with a pop-up box warning that there may be significant delays to Global Entry processing. Homeland Security is currently advising only those traveling multiple times per year and not traveling soon to apply for Global Entry. It warns that, in some cases, Global Entry applicants can be waiting as long as 6 – 18 months for an application review, and that interview availability is suffering from a backlog in some regions.

The Ultimate Guide To Global Entry – Application, Interview And How To Get It For Free CBP is working to funnel people away from the Global Entry program to alleviate backlog. Photo: CBP

The alternative is to apply for TSA PreCheck, which will generally be processed in less than two weeks. After having the interview appointment, most applicants will get their Known Traveler Number (KTN) within 3 – 5 days. While the processing speed is definitely a positive, the benefits of TSA Pre are limited, so if you can wait for Global Entry to be awarded, it’s definitely worth it.

Once you have your TTP account and have signed into the application platform, it’s just a case of filling in the application form details. With everything to hand, this should take no longer than around 10 minutes to do. On completion, you’ll be asked to pay the $100 fee and then simply submit the form. Now, it’s time to play the waiting game.


Scheduling an interview

Keep an eye on your inbox for an email alerting you to a change of status for your application – with any luck, this will signal your conditional approval to the scheme. Once you’ve received this, you are free to go ahead and make an appointment for an in-person interview. Sounds easy, right? Not always.

The Ultimate Guide To Global Entry – Application, Interview And How To Get It For Free Sometimes appointments are not available for many weeks ahead. Photo: Global Entry

Depending on whereabouts you live and how many enrollment centers are in your area, you could find an appointment in a matter of days, or could see nothing available for many weeks, or even months. The general rule of thumb here is to book the nearest appointment you see, even if it’s several months away, and then check back frequently to see if you can move it up.

The Ultimate Guide To Global Entry – Application, Interview And How To Get It For Free New blocks of appointments are added all the time and could see a nearby time appearing at any point. Photo: Global Entry

Appointment availability is pretty fluid, with new spots opening up all the time as others cancel their existing appointments. CBP officials will add and remove new blocks of appointments on a daily basis, so it pays to be patient and keep checking if you want a closer appointment than you can initially see. Once you’ve found a date, click on it to bring up the times that are available that day.

The Ultimate Guide To Global Entry – Application, Interview And How To Get It For Free Appointment times available are shown on the next page. Photo: Global Entry

Enrollment on arrival – another option

There is another way to complete your Global Entry application faster once you’ve received that initial conditional approval – Enrollment on Arrival. This is a new CBP program that allows you to complete your interview at the airport, when you arrive back in the USA. It bypasses the need to arrange a Global Entry interview before travel and can be a faster way of having your status authorized.

When you land at your international terminal, follow the signs directing you to CBP officers who will be able to complete your Global Entry interview during your usual inspection. You will need to make sure you have the right documentation on you at the time, which includes:

  • Your passport, or all passports in your name if you have more than one

  • Evidence of residency, such as your driver’s license, a mortgage statement, or utility bill

  • A resident card, if you have one

Enrollment on arrival is available at more than 60 US international airports, as well as a handful of overseas locations. These include facilities in Aruba, Bermuda, Canada, Ireland, The Bahamas, and the UAE. You won’t get the expedited arrival you wanted for this particular journey, due to the interview time required, but you will be able to benefit from Global Entry immediately after, potentially sooner than if you waited for a local interview opportunity.

The Ultimate Guide To Global Entry – Application, Interview And How To Get It For Free Getting interviewed on arrival could make it easier to start using your Global Entry privileges sooner. Photo: CBP

What to expect at your Global Entry interview

Anything with the word ‘interview’ in it is already a reason to panic. Usually, interviews only happen when we’re trying to get a new job, being questioned about a crime, or similarly other unpleasant experiences. But there’s not much to worry about with your Global Entry interview – indeed, most people are done within 10 – 15 minutes, with few questions asked. Even so, it pays to be prepared.

Be sure to bring all your required documentation with you, including your passport as well as your driver’s license or utility bill. It can also be a good idea to bring the conditional approval letter with you. Top tip – if you found it tricky to identify past addresses and travel dates, bring a note of these with you to in case you’re asked about them.

By this stage, most of the hard work is done. The CBP has already given conditional approval to your application, so they’re already pretty satisfied with the information you’ve provided on your application. Mostly, they will ask the same questions that you were asked on your form, although you might have a few curve balls thrown in, too – for example, “What do you do in your spare time” or “Why do you want to join Global Entry.”

In most cases, the officials will already know the answer to the question and will just be double-checking you do too. If the question seems a bit random, they’re likely trying to see if they can rattle you with something unexpected. Take all the questions seriously, and don’t spoil things with a poorly timed joke!

The Ultimate Guide To Global Entry – Application, Interview And How To Get It For Free You'll get your card, like this popular fellow did, but you don't need it to start using your benefits. Photo: CBP

During the appointment, whether it’s at your local application center or on arrival, you’ll need to provide your fingerprints and will have your photograph taken. You will be given a Know Traveler Number at the conclusion of your interview, which you can start using immediately for your travels. Your card will usually turn up within two weeks, but is only required for land and sea borders, not for the airport.

How to use Global Entry

Once you’ve got your Known Traveler Number, using Global Entry is a breeze. You don’t need to have your card with you, but you do need your passport or US legal permanent resident card to use at the Global Entry Kiosks.

On arrival at the kiosks, the machine will show you the correct way to slide your passport into the passport reader. When your data has been read and displays on the machine, take out your passport and look up at the camera. The kiosk will then ask you to press your four fingers on the fingerprint scanner to verify your biometric data.

The Ultimate Guide To Global Entry – Application, Interview And How To Get It For Free Kiosks use biometric data to ensure you are who you say you are. Photo: CBP

The kiosk will also ask you to declare any goods you’ve brought into the country with you. This bypasses the need to complete the Customs Declaration form number 6059B. The machine will ask a series of yes or no questions, regarding currency and import amounts.

Finally, the kiosk will display your flight information. Simply touch yes if it is correct or no if it isn’t. If it’s wrong, you will have the opportunity to provide the correct airline, flight number and city of departure. Once this is complete, the machine should spit out a receipt which you can show to the CBP officer assigned to the exit control point.

In the unusual event that the kiosks are out of order, you will be able to use the staffed passport control processing facility. Don’t worry; you’ll be expedited to the front of the queue, so you’ll still get the rapid processing that you’ve paid for.

As mentioned, your Global Entry membership comes complete with TSA PreCheck, available for use from the moment you have your Known Traveler Number. However, TSA PreCheck is only available on airlines that participate in the program. There are around 80 international airlines participating today, so the chances of being on a participating flight are relatively high.

The Ultimate Guide To Global Entry – Application, Interview And How To Get It For Free Using TSA PreCheck is as easy as following the signs. Photo: TSA

Again, you don’t need to do anything special to enjoy your TSA PreCheck benefits. Simply join the lane labeled TSA PreCheck or ‘Expedited screening.’ Your boarding pass should have something similar to this printed on it and will help you move through security processes faster than other travelers.

Part of the reason TSA Pre passengers get to go through so quickly is you no longer need to remove your shoes, jacket and belt – hallelujah! In some cases, heavy coats or belts with large metal studs or buckles may still have to be removed, but the security staff will advise you if this is the case. You also no longer need to take out your liquids and laptop – simply send your bag through the x-ray machine as it is. You may still be subjected to additional screening or a pat down, but generally, there is much time to be saved when you’re entering the airport, thanks to this scheme.

The Ultimate Guide To Global Entry – Application, Interview And How To Get It For Free

Can you get Global Entry for free?

Believe it or not, there are ways to get your Global Entry membership at a discount, or even completely free of charge. Spending out $100 for five years of expedited entry and exit to the USA ($20 per year) sounds like a bargain already – but you know us, we’re always happy when there are even more savings to be made!

Some credit cards give you back statement credit when you spend out on Global Entry fees. Right now, there are almost 50 different travel credit cards offering this perk, including:

  • Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

  • Chase Sapphire Reserve

  • United Explorer Card

  • American Express The Platinum Card

  • Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card

  • Delta SkyMiles Platinum and Reserve American Express Card

  • Bank of American Premium Rewards Credit Card

There are a whole load of other cards, co-branded or not, that offer this benefit. If your credit is good and you’re into saving money (why would you be here if you weren’t), then it’s worth checking out some of these offers to get your investment in Global Entry back in statement credit. However, be aware that many of these cards come with annual fees, so be sure you’re going to make the most of the benefits before signing up.

The Ultimate Guide To Global Entry – Application, Interview And How To Get It For Free You can cash in miles and points for money towards your Global Entry, but it's not always the best way to spend these assets. Photo: CBP

If you’re a regular traveler and have built up some miles, you can also cash in some of your nest egg to get discounted membership to Global Entry. For example, IHG Rewards Club, United MileagePlus, and Marriott Bonvoy all allow you to redeem points for $85 worth of application credit. This would leave you with just $15 of real money to pay for Global Entry.

However, please do keep in mind that your points and miles are probably worth a whole lot more in other places. For example, The Points Guy values Marriott Bonvoy at 0.84 cents per point, and yet you need 25,000 miles to get the application credit - that means you’re throwing away potentially $210 worth of points for an $85 saving.

What about when it’s time to renew Global Entry?

Global Entry membership lasts for five years, but when it comes time to renew, you’ll be pleased to hear it’s a much more straightforward process. You can begin the renewal process up to a year before it expires, and it’s worth starting this particular ball rolling as soon as you can, given the occasional backlogs in the program. As long as you’ve started a renewal application, you will be allowed to continue using your existing benefits for up to 24 months after expiry if the renewal process is slow.

To renew your membership, simply log onto the Trusted Traveler Programs website and select Manage Membership. Here, you should find a blue button signposted ‘Renew Application,’ which will open up your personal information. Correct any information that has changed since you first applied, select Global Entry in the list of programs, and make a payment of your fee.

Most renewals do not require another interview to be undertaken. Once you’ve submitted your application, keep an eye out for the status change email in your inbox. With any luck, this will simply confirm you are renewed and that a new card is being sent out, but occasionally it may be that the CBP has additional questions or requires another interview.

The Ultimate Guide To Global Entry – Application, Interview And How To Get It For Free Most people will not need a second interview for renewal. Photo: CBP

Global Entry – In summary

Global Entry can save you a whole heap of time at the airport, both when you are leaving and arriving back in the USA. The fee of $100 might feel steep at the time, but when you break it down over the five-year duration, it’s not bad value at all. If you hold certain credit cards or have points to burn, you could get your membership for less or even for free.

The application process can seem daunting and can take a little while in some cases. However, patience is a virtue, and whether it takes six weeks or six months, it’s well worth the effort in the end. Check you are eligible and have all the required documentation before starting the application process, and it should be plain sailing.

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