If you travel frequently, streamlining the process is essential to getting in and out of airports (and to wherever you're going) as quickly as possible. For domestic and international travelers, Global Entry has made clearing security and customs much easier, allowing you to skip the lines at both. Here's what you need to know about the program and how to sign up.
Global Entry is run by U.S. Customs and Border Protection and allows “pre-approved, low-risk” travelers an expedited means of clearing customs upon reentering the country. Travelers with Global Entry use kiosks that read their passports, fingerprints, and customs declarations, allowing them to use an express line at the customs counter. After answering the standard questions, you will receive a printed receipt, which you will hand to a customs official. You do not need to have any additional documentation with you when using Global Entry; all data is tied to your passport number.
Although this is primarily to benefit travelers coming into the United States, some international customs authorities recognize Global Entry in some capacity. Participating countries include Australia, Canada, Germany, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, South Korea, and the United Kingdom.
Global Entry travelers are automatically qualified for TSA PreCheck, which expedites the security screening process at airports. While TSA PreCheck is available without Global Entry, we highly recommend signing up for Global Entry, allowing you to access the international and domestic benefits. The application process is identical, and Global Entry is only an additional $15.
You must be a U.S. citizen, lawful permanent resident, Mexican national, or a citizen of South Korea, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Germany, or Panama to be eligible for Global Entry. (Canadian citizens can access the same benefits through the NEXUS program.) Applicants cannot have been convicted of a criminal offense or found in violation of any customs regulations in any country. A machine-readable passport or a U.S. permanent resident card is also required. See the full list of eligibility requirements here. Global Entry is valid for five years, after which you can renew it.
HOW TO APPLY
Begin by filling out the online application (there is a $100 application fee). After you have undergone a thorough background check, assuming there are no problems, you will be issued an online letter asking you to schedule an interview at a Global Entry Enrollment Center, most of which are housed in airports around the country. During the interview, a U.S. Customs Border Protection officer will ask you questions, take your picture, and scan all 10 fingerprints. Be sure to bring two forms of ID and proof of residence (like a bill or a lease agreement) to the interview. You will then be issued a Global Entry ID card.
USING TSA PRECHECK
First, ensure that your boarding pass has the green TSA PreCheck icon. Global Entry participants will be issued a Trusted Traveler number, so be sure to enter this when booking your tickets (for both domestic and international flights) so your boarding pass lists you as preapproved (you will see a green checkmark in the corner of your printed or mobile boarding pass). If you belong to any kind of sky rewards program, you can save your trusted traveler number to your profile. At the airport, look for the designated line at the security checkpoint (see list of participating airports here). You'll still have to show your boarding pass and ID, but you will be able to keep your shoes and belt on, and will not be required to remove your laptop or liquids from your carry-on (although you still must place your liquids in a 1-quart size bag).
Because the Global Entry program is so popular, the TSA PreCheck queue can still have a line, but it will be shorter and move much faster than the regular security line. Be sure to still leave plenty of time for clearing security, particularly before an international flight.
Although you’re issued an ID card, you don't need the physical card to go through security or customs. Anything with border control is just tied to your passport number.
When clearing customs at a U.S. international airport and some Canadian airports (see the full list here), proceed to one of the Global Entry kiosks and skip the lines for the customs officials. You still have to interact with a customs official to give them the printout from the Global Entry machine, so you can't completely bypass this checkpoint. However, it does allow you to skip the line and significantly expedite the process. Note: Global Entry travelers cannot bring other passengers (children, spouses, etc.) through the fast-track line if they are not also Global Entry members.
Keep in mind that not all Global Entry points are equal. If you’re flying into a small international airport, there’s sometimes just one Global Entry kiosk, which can be slow enough to make no difference. Global Entry and TSA PreCheck are now both so common that lines for each can be long, although never as long as the regular customs or security lines. However, as popularity increases, more and more airports will get better at accommodating both these services.
Global Entry is only for re-entry into the United States. If you’re flying between two international airports, Global Entry doesn't get you anywhere. Some countries have expedited lines for certain passports, and American passports are always included, but this has to do with the microchips in American passports (among others) and is not related to Global Entry.
Learn more and apply for Global Entry here.