What Is Global Entry & How Do I Get It?

Global Entry shortens your wait at security and U.S. Customs. It's a great value, even for infrequent travelers.
Lee HuffmanAug 23, 2021

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When you travel internationally, you have to clear U.S. Customs before being allowed back into the U.S. Depending on how many people are on your plane and how many other flights are arriving at the same time, these lines can be extremely long. One way to reduce your wait time and get through Customs quickly is by signing up for Global Entry.

Here's what Global Entry is, how it compares with TSA PreCheck, what it costs and how to get it for free.

What is Global Entry?

Global Entry is a membership program offered by the Department of Homeland Security. It requires a one-time application fee, a background check and an in-person interview. Once approved, your membership lasts for five years.

As a member, you'll receive expedited security screening through the TSA PreCheck lanes at participating domestic airports, as well as accelerated entry at eligible U.S. Customs locations.

Who is eligible for Global Entry?

Global Entry is open to U.S. citizens and U.S. lawful permanent residents. Additionally, membership is available for citizens of selected other countries:

  • Netherlands citizens who are enrolled in FLUX.

  • South Korea's Smart Entry Service members.

  • Citizens of Argentina, Colombia, Germany, India, Mexico, Panama, Singapore, South Korea, Switzerland, Taiwan and the United Kingdom may apply.

  • Canada's NEXUS members may not apply but can use Global Entry benefits.

Differences between TSA PreCheck and Global Entry

With Global Entry, you receive all of the benefits of TSA PreCheck plus extra perks. While the interview is more in-depth and there are fewer locations that offer them, the slightly higher cost is worth it if you travel at least once in the next five years.

Unlike TSA PreCheck, every person in your traveling group needs to have a Global Entry membership in order to go through the dedicated Global Entry lanes. This is true even if your child is a baby (I found this out the hard way coming back from Cancun when my daughter was just six months old).

This chart highlights the similarities and differences of TSA PreCheck and Global Entry.

TSA PreCheck

Global Entry

Length of membership

5 years.

5 years.

Application fee

$85.

$100.

Enrollment centers

380+.

100+.

Access to TSA PreCheck security lane

Yes.

Yes.

Can bring minor children with you (12 & under)

Yes.

No, child must have their own membership.

Access to expedited U.S. Customs lanes

No.

Yes.

Best for

Domestic travelers.

International travelers.

What is the fee for Global Entry?

Applying for Global Entry is $100 every five years. The fee is nonrefundable, and it won't be refunded if you apply but aren't approved.

The $100 application fee breaks down to $20 per year or less than $1.70 a month. Even if you only go on a handful of trips over the next five years, signing up for Global Entry is likely worth it.

Nerdy tip: There is talk of Global Entry application fees increasing in the near future. Although the increases will be relatively minimal, you’re better off applying now to lock in the lowest price rather than be subjected to a higher rate.

How to get Global Entry through travel cards

While many people pay cash for their Global Entry application fees, others can use their travel card benefits to get a statement credit for the fee. Many travel cards reimburse Global Entry application fees every four to five years.

The list of cards that pay for Global Entry include:

Terms apply.

How to sign up for Global Entry

You can sign up for Global Entry in five steps.

  1. Create a Trusted Traveler Programs account.

  2. Log into your TTP account and complete the online application.

  3. Pay the $100 membership fee, which is good for five years.

  4. Upon conditional approval, schedule an appointment at a Global Entry Enrollment Center.

  5. Attend your interview, bring your passport and one other form of identification and have your fingerprints taken.

What is the Global Entry interview like?

During your interview, the agent will verify the answers that you provided on your online application and review your identification documents. They'll take your picture and your fingerprints as well. The process usually takes 10-15 minutes.

If you don’t have a Global Entry enrollment center nearby, you can perform an "enrollment on arrival" at over 65 participating domestic and international airports. This allows you to do your Global Entry interview and finalize your enrollment at designated U.S. Customs stations.

After you're approved for Global Entry

Once you are approved for Global Entry, you’ll receive your Known Traveler Number immediately. Your Global Entry ID card will arrive a couple of weeks later and you should log into your account to activate it within 30 days. However, you can start adding your KTN right away to existing flight reservations and airline loyalty program profiles.

By adding your KTN to reservations, you’re able to use the dedicated TSA PreCheck lanes at more than 200 airports across the U.S. Plus, you can use the Global Entry lanes at U.S. Customs when returning from international travel.

Additionally, several countries offer reciprocal benefits for Global Entry members, such as Mexico’s Viajero Confiable and Australia's SmartGate. Some programs are free, while others require a fee.

What happens if you are declined?

If your Global Entry application was denied, you may be provided a written explanation for the decision. You may request reconsideration through the Trusted Traveler Program website by including the following:

  • Date of denial and reason.

  • Information to clarify a record or explain an incident or arrest.

  • A PDF of court disposition documentation for all arrests or convictions (even if expunged).

  • Other supporting documentation related to your request.

Is Global Entry worth it?

Yes, Global Entry is worth it if you plan to travel at least once in the next five years. While the fee is $15 higher every five years than TSA PreCheck, that’s only $3 per year. Plus, there are several credit cards that will pay for Global Entry application fees. The next time you’re skipping the long line at U.S. Customs when returning from an international flight, you’ll be glad you signed up.


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