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Travel tips

How to get through the airport faster with Global Entry

Aug 30, 2021 by The Go Ahead Tours Team

There’s nothing better than sitting on a plane, looking out at the tiny landscapes below, and knowing you’re on your way to a new destination on a guided tour. However, before you can take off and soar through the clouds to your next adventure, you’re going to have to navigate the airport. That’s why we love Global Entry. It helps get you out of the airport and up in the clouds even faster and makes coming home quick and easy—a must after a week or more of action-packed travel. So, how does Global Entry work? Keep reading for information on how to get through airport security faster with Global Entry, how to sign up for the program, and how to maximize its benefits.

What is Global Entry?

Global Entry is a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) program that makes going through airport security easier and faster for pre-approved, low-risk travelers. The program was launched in June of 2008 and allows participating travelers to skip long lines at airport security and customs. Members use automated kiosks at select airports to quickly complete their customs declaration, significantly reducing wait times. While you might have a hard time leaving the new friends you met on your guided tour, at least you’ll have an easy time in the airport once you arrive back home.

traveler rolling luggage across an airport tarmac

What’s the difference between Global Entry, TSA PreCheck, and CLEAR?

Global Entry, TSA PreCheck, and CLEAR all make going through airport security a breeze. TSA PreCheck provides faster security screening for most flights departing from U.S. airports. You get to go through a separate line and don’t have to remove your belt, hat, or shoes while going through security. You also get to keep your liquids and electronics in your bag. CLEAR uses biometric data (your fingerprints and iris scans) to verify your identity, allowing you to bypass the regular ID check line in an airport. Once this information is on file, you’ll step into a booth to verify your identity rather than waiting in line to have your ID checked by security. Global Entry includes TSA PreCheck, but it also provides a solution for getting through U.S. customs after traveling internationally.

If you’re a frequent international traveler and meet the requirements, Global Entry is a great option for you. However, if you only plan to travel domestically (perhaps on one of our National Parks Tours?) for the next 4-5 years, TSA PreCheck is easier to get and all you need. Some people choose to combine TSA PreCheck and CLEAR for even faster domestic travel.

Benefits of Global Entry

Global Entry makes international travel easier and more streamlined. Whether you’re setting off on a safari or a Food & Wine Tour, here are a few benefits of traveling as a Global Entry member.

  • You can skip the long lines. When you have Global Entry, you don’t have to wait in long customs lines when you arrive back in the U.S. You can instead go through the Global Entry, TSA PreCheck, SENTRI, or NEXUS lanes, and sometimes even use automatic kiosks at airports.
  • TSA PreCheck is automatically included. All Global Entry members receive TSA PreCheck as part of their membership—that means shorter lines when you head out on your guided tour.
  • It reduces stress and improves your travel experience. Knowing that you’ll be able to breeze through U.S. security lines can greatly reduce your travel anxiety (going guided also helps with that!) You’ll have peace of mind knowing that you won’t have to run to make a flight after getting stuck in an unusually long security line.

view of a lake and snow covered mountains from an airplane

Eligibility and application process

Signing up for Global Entry is simpler than you may think. Below, we’ll detail everything you need to know about the application process.

Who is eligible for Global Entry?

If you’re a permanent, lawful U.S. resident or citizen of the United States, Argentina, Bahrain, Brazil, Colombia, Germany, India, Mexico, the Netherlands, Panama, Singapore, South Korea, Switzerland, Taiwan, or the UK, you’re eligible. Canadian citizens and residents are also eligible for Global Entry through the NEXUS program.

You may not be eligible for Global Entry if you:
  • Provide false or incomplete information on the application
  • Have been convicted of any criminal offense or have pending criminal charges or outstanding warrants, including driving under the influence
  • Are the subject of an ongoing investigation by any federal, state, or local law enforcement agency
  • Have been found in violation of any customs, immigration or agriculture regulations, or laws in any country
  • Are inadmissible to the U.S. under immigration regulation, including applicants with approved waivers of inadmissibility or parole documentation
  • Have been denied for the purchase of a firearm
  • Don’t meet Customs and Border Patrol’s standards of your “low-risk” status for any reason

How to apply for Global Entry

The first step of the Global Entry application process can be done from your couch. You’ll head to the Department of Homeland Security’s website and apply for their Trusted Traveler Program (TTP). Every individual applying for Global Entry must have their own TTP account—even children. Once you’ve created your TTP account, log in and complete the Global Entry application. You’ll be required to pay a $100 non-refundable fee for each applicant. One thing to note is that in October 2024, the fee is scheduled to increase to $120, but after that, fees will be waived for children whose parent or legal guardian is already a member.

After accepting your completed Global Entry application and fee, CBP will review your application and run a background check. If your application is conditionally approved, your TTP account will tell you to schedule an interview at a Global Entry Enrollment Center. You’ll also get an email. Each applicant has to schedule a separate interview, and a parent or guardian must give permission and be present during the interview for applicants under 18.

How long does it take to get Global Entry?

It usually takes around six months from the initial application to be conditionally approved. Then, you can schedule an interview. Our experts recommend logging into your Trusted Traveler Program dashboard often to check the status. If your application status is “Pending Review,” your application has been received and is being processed.

Wondering how to activate Global Entry? Once you have your interview and provide fingerprints, you’ll be confirmed on the spot, and you’ll get your Known Traveler Number for immediate use. Your official Global Entry card will arrive within a couple of weeks, and you’ll just have to activate it online by logging into your TTP account and selecting “Activate Membership Card.” One thing to keep in mind is that your Global Entry card will allow you to use SENTRI and NEXUS lanes—expedited security lanes for travelers entering the United States from Mexico and Canada, respectively, but you’ll still need to scan your passport when using a Global Entry kiosk (more on that below).

What to expect during the interview process

Approved Global Entry program applicants have a full two years (730 days) from the date of their online approval notice to complete their interview, but our experts recommend trying to book an appointment sooner rather than later. Some enrollment centers have limited availability with no appointments for months, so it’s crucial to get in there before it’s too late.

Just bring your valid passport (or passports if you use more than one) and one other form of identification that confirms your residency, like your driver’s license or ID card, to the interview. If you are a lawful permanent resident, you’ll need your machine-readable permanent resident card. The interviewer will ask you a series of questions—like why you want Global Entry, where you work, and where you like to travel. That way, they can confirm you’re a low-risk traveler. The whole interview shouldn’t take more than 10 to 15 minutes. If your interview is approved, you’ll be deemed a “Trusted Traveler” and be issued an ID number known as a Known Traveler Number (KTN).

One tip: If you’re having trouble securing an interview slot, check back often to snag someone’s canceled appointment—and don’t forget to check the airports. They’re often the least crowded enrollment centers.

Enrollment on Arrival program

If you don’t want to wait weeks—or months—for your interview appointment, and you happen to have an international trip scheduled (if you ask us, this seems like the perfect excuse to explore ancient ruins on a trip to Greece or go vineyard-hopping on a tour of Portugal), you can expedite your interview through the Enrollment on Arrival program. Enrollment on Arrival allows travelers who have already been conditionally approved to conduct their interview on the spot when arriving home from an international trip. After you land back in the U.S., follow the signs that will lead you to CBP officers who can complete your interview while you’re being inspected through customs. Once you’ve done this, your Global Entry status will be approved. If you partake in Enrollment on Arrival but already have an upcoming interview scheduled, it will automatically be canceled.

Unfortunately, you’re only eligible for Enrollment on Arrival if you’re already going through customs on your way home, so you won’t be able to sneak in a quick interview on your way back from one of our U.S. tours—though you can always try to coordinate a scheduled interview at your airport’s enrollment center with your arrival. In addition, CBP is currently testing an Enrollment on Departure program for international flights leaving Washington D.C.’s Dulles International Airport. It works the same as EoA but in reverse, so if you’re leaving D.C. on one of our guided tours, you’ll have the option to complete your interview before you board your flight.

How to use Global Entry at the airport

Want to know how to get through airport security faster? It really doesn’t get much faster than TSA PreCheck and Global Entry, but first, you’ll want your membership status indicated on your boarding pass. All you have to do is enter your KTN when you’re booking your flight or signing up for one of our guided tours (it’s in the info section fields along with your name and frequent flier information), and you’ll be good to go. When you get your plane ticket, it will have “TSA PreCheck“ or “Global Entry” written right on it, and that’s how the airport will know you’re cleared for expedited security checks and customs review. You’ll feel like a VIP every time you travel.

When you get to the airport, your PreCheck or Global Entry status will allow you to join the (much shorter) PreCheck security lane. Not only is the lane exclusively for Trusted Travelers, but it also moves quickly due to its lighter restrictions. You won’t have to remove your shoes, belt, or lightweight jacket, and you can keep your laptop and your travel-size liquids in your carry-on. (Check out our comprehensive carry-on guide for information on luggage restrictions.)

Using Global Entry to get through customs is even easier—all you have to do is know how to use Global Entry kiosks. When you arrive back in the U.S. after your international guided tour, simply follow the signs to the Global Entry kiosks at the airport. Then, scan your machine-readable passport or U.S. permanent resident card, look into the camera so it can snap a photo of you, place your fingertips on the fingerprint scanner for verification, and answer the customs declaration questions that come up on the screen (check out our tips for getting souvenirs through customs.) The kiosk will print out a transaction receipt that you’ll show to the CBP officer at the area’s exit point. And just like that, you’ll be on your way back home in no time. If, for any reason, further inspection is required (like if your imports exceed the personal exemption amount allowed), you’ll be directed to the regular inspection line.

Maximizing the benefits of Global Entry

On its own, Global Entry can make international travel easier and less stressful, but there are a few ways to maximize the program’s benefits. Check out a few of our favorite ways to make the most of Global Entry when traveling on a guided tour.

  • Combine Global Entry with other programs. Global Entry can be combined with CLEAR or airline-specific elite programs that allow you to bypass long lines and avoid some of the hassle associated with getting through the airport. Global Entry will get you through security and customs faster, and many airlines offer priority boarding programs to get you seated right away. Combining Global Entry and CLEAR will allow you to skip even the TSA PreCheck line and simply scan your biometrics when departing for a trip.
  • Use NEXUS and SENTRI. Global Entry allows you to use the NEXUS lanes when entering the U.S. from Canada and SENTRI lanes when entering from Mexico. It’s just another way that Global Entry helps you get through the airport faster.
  • Have your credit card reimburse you. Many travel credit cards will reimburse you for the Global Entry application fee. It’s worth checking with your credit card provider to see if this is an option.
  • Renew early. Global Entry members can renew their membership a full year in advance of it expiring. Renewing early means you won’t have any disruptions to your service or run the risk of forgetting. If you keep your membership up to date, you’ll always be ready to fly off on a guided tour with ease.

Important reminders for Global Entry travelers

Once you’ve signed up for Global Entry, using it is relatively straightforward, though there are a few key points to keep in mind. Global Entry and PreCheck benefits only apply at U.S. airports, so you’ll still have to join the regular security and customs lines in other countries.

  • If you’re setting off with friends or family, remember that every member of your group will need Global Entry status—even small children and infants.
  • Not all airports have Global Entry kiosks, and not every airline participates in TSA PreCheck. You’ll find these programs in most major U.S. airports, but if you frequently fly out of smaller regional airports, you might not get to use your Global Entry benefits every time you travel.
  • The Global Entry application fee is non-refundable—even if your membership is denied.
  • Even if you’re using Global Entry, you’ll still have to declare things like food and souvenirs at customs.

a women gazing at the coast line of Santorini from a building

Renewing and maintaining Global Entry status

Your Global Entry membership is valid for five years, and it’s very easy to renew once you’re already a member. Just head to your Global Entry dashboard online and select “Renew.” The process is much simpler because it doesn’t typically require an interview, though you will have to pay the application fee again. You can renew your membership within 365 days of expiration, which means any time after the fourth year. Once you renew it, it’ll be valid for another five years.

If you need to update your personal information on an existing membership, you can do so through your TTP account—just log into your account and click “update documents.” If you need to change your name on your account, you’ll need to visit a Global Entry enrollment center in person.

FAQs about Global Entry

How much does Global Entry cost?
Currently, Global Entry costs $100 for five years. In October 2024, the fee will increase to $120 for five years.

Does Global Entry include TSA PreCheck?
Yes, Global Entry includes TSA PreCheck. On its own, PreCheck costs $78 for five years. That means that for only $22 more, you can have all the benefits of both programs.

Is Global Entry worth it for infrequent travelers?
Whether or not you think Global Entry is worth it is entirely up to you. If you’re an infrequent traveler and don’t plan on leaving the country in the next five years, it might not be worth the cost and interview process. If you think you might have at least one or two international trips in your not-so-distant future, you may deem Global Entry worth it to get through the airport faster.

Can family members use Global Entry together?
Family members can only use Global Entry together if each individual family member has Global Entry. Even infants will need their own account and membership.

What happens if I’m denied Global Entry?
If you’re denied Global Entry, you’ll be provided written information on why you were denied. If you believe you were wrongfully denied, you can request reconsideration through your TTP account online.

How long does it take to go through airport security with Global Entry?
It depends on what airport you’re in, but it could take as little as just three minutes to get through security when you’re departing and as little as five minutes to get through customs on your way home.

Global Entry can streamline your time spent at the airport—allowing you more time to prepare for your trip before departing and reminisce about your adventures once you’re back home. Whether you’re a seasoned solo traveler or planning a family tour, Global Entry can help make your international trip hassle-free.

Ready to put your Global Entry membership to use? Join us on tour!

Know before you go
About the author | The Go Ahead Tours Team
We’re a team of passionate travel experts, dedicated to helping people explore the world. From inspiring stories to tips for an amazing trip, the topics we cover are all about getting you out there and making discoveries.

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