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Traveling with kids can be a challenge for parents, especially when it involves international flights.
Experienced travelers know the benefits of Global Entry to reduce wait times at airport security and customs. But can kids get Global Entry? The answer is yes.
Unlike TSA PreCheck, which allows kids 12 and younger to use the expedited lanes with adults, Global Entry is required for travelers of any age.
Learn more about Global Entry, including how much it costs, how children can apply and what the interview is like for kids.
» Learn more: Global Entry vs. TSA PreCheck: Which is better?
What is Global Entry?
Global Entry is a program from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) that allows expedited processing of travelers through customs when returning from international travel.
Membership pre-approves low-risk travelers so they have access to expedited security lanes when returning through customs.
At Global Entry kiosks, returning travelers present their passports and answer a customs declaration. The kiosks also use fingerprints or facial recognition to identify the traveler and provide a transaction receipt they give to the customs agent.
Global Entry members also receive access to the TSA PreCheck lanes at airport security. They benefit from less invasive searches and body scans, and carry-on bags that streamline their way through airport security.
» Learn more: Is Global Entry worth it?
How much is Global Entry?
Global Entry is a membership program that costs $100 for five years. This breaks down to an average of $20 per year. There is no difference in price whether you're an adult or a child.
A lower-cost option is TSA PreCheck, which is $78 for five years. However, it only covers domestic travel.
Credit cards that reimburse Global Entry application fees
Instead of paying for application fees out of pocket, numerous credit cards offer $100 credits for Global Entry.
Most credit cards limit the reimbursement to once every four to five years. Check with your credit card for specific details on how often you can use this benefit.
If you have a credit card that reimburses these fees, you can use this benefit to pay for anyone's application fees. It can be anyone you choose, including your spouse, children, siblings, parents and friends.
At what age are kids required to have their own Global Entry membership?
When returning from Cancun when my daughter was six months old, we learned the hard way that everyone needs Global Entry — even a baby.
Unlike TSA PreCheck, there's no minimum age requirement. You must have a Global Entry membership to use the Global Entry security lanes.
My wife, son and I all had Global Entry, but our baby didn't.
As we handed the customs agent our passports and interview slips, he asked for the baby's documentation. I replied that she didn't have an interview slip because she was so young. He said, "Sorry, but everyone needs Global Entry to use these lines."
Fortunately, we plead ignorance, and the agent was sympathetic and let us through. However, we received a stern warning and were reminded that our baby needed a Global Entry membership.
When we returned home, I applied for that Global Entry membership. Then, we booked her interview appointment as soon as she was conditionally approved.
» Learn more: Mobile Passport vs. Global Entry
How to apply for Global Entry for kids
The Global Entry application for kids is the same as for adults. It starts by setting up an account and answering questions through the online application.
The application questions include identifying information, such as date of birth, home address and Social Security number. Additionally, you'll need to provide information about recent travel, including listing the countries you've been to in the last five years.
When your application is complete, pay the application fee through the CBP website. This fee is nonrefundable (though, as discussed above, can be reimbursed by certain credit cards). The fee is charged to your debit or credit card whether you're approved or not.
The CBP conducts a background search based on your child's application. Once this process is completed, you'll be conditionally approved and can book your child's interview.
» Learn more: The best travel credit cards right now
Booking an interview
Once your child has been conditionally approved, you can book their interview at an appointment location.
However, booking an interview for Global Entry can be a challenge. Many offices are understaffed, and appointment slots are in high demand. You may have to wait weeks or months for an appointment at your local interview office.
For example, there were no appointments available at the Nashville Enrollment Center for the next three months as I was writing this article.
One way around this is to drive or fly to another city that has more availability. When my wife first applied for Global Entry, we booked her appointment during a layover at New York-JFK. For my son, we drove about 90 minutes south to Huntsville, Alabama for his interview.
» Learn more: The guide to Global Entry appointments
Enrollment on arrival
If you're having trouble finding available appointment times, another option is to conduct an "Enrollment on Arrival." These interviews are unscheduled and conducted at customs when you return from an international trip.
Simply go through the Global Entry line, walk up to an agent and let them know that you'd like to do an interview upon arrival.
We did this with my son a couple of years ago on a return flight from Cabo. Our Southwest Airlines flight had a stop in Phoenix. He answered a few questions from the customs agent, then he was fully approved. The entire process took just a few minutes.
Keep in mind that not all Global Entry interview locations participate in enrollment on arrival. Visit this page for the current list of participating locations.
What is the Global Entry interview like for children?
At your Global Entry enrollment interview, the agent asks numerous questions to verify your identity and the information on your application. Additionally, they'll take your photo and fingerprints. However, the process is a little different for kids.
Depending on their age and comfort level, your child might be unable to respond to the interviewer's questions. Parents or legal guardians are required to be present at the child's Global Entry interview for this reason. Instead of the child answering the questions, the adult does so. Once again, the main goal of the interview is to confirm the data on the application.
At the conclusion of the interview, the interviewer takes a photo and fingerprints the child. However, the CBP does not fingerprint children under the age of four.
Global Entry for children recapped
Global Entry is an invaluable membership that saves time while traveling internationally. Unlike TSA PreCheck, you need Global Entry for kids of any age — even infants.
The program application and fees for children are the same as for adults. However, the interviews are often quicker, and your child may not need to be fingerprinted depending on age.
How to maximize your rewards
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Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
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