Last week, I successfully completed my application process for Global Entry, a program that provides a wealth of benefits to frequent travelers. In this feature, we’ll show you how to apply for Global Entry, too!
The key feature of the Global Entry program is Expedited Customs Clearance when returning to the United States from overseas. Rather than standing in a line to speak to a US Customs agent for 30 minutes or longer, travelers cleared by Global Entry can simply make any declarations at an automated kiosk and then continue on their way to baggage claim in minutes.
Whether traveling internationally or domestically, Global Entry flyers also receive access to TSA Pre-Check expedited security. Generally speaking, TSA Pre-Check lines allow flyers to keep their shoes, belt and even jacket with them, proceed through a regular metal detector instead of a body imaging machine and skip ahead of the lines of less lucky passengers clogging the standard security checkpoint line.
The fee to apply for Global Entry is $99. TSA Pre-Check alone requires a fee of $85 making this a good value for frequent travelers given the fact that your Global Entry status will be valid for five years following approval. However, there are a number of ways to reduce this cost to $0!
First of all, American Express offers a Global Entry Fee Waiver as a feature of its Platinum Card, which is one of the key reasons I recently upgraded my Business Gold Card. By paying the $99 application fee with my American Express, it was offset by a statement credit just a few days later.
Secondly, many airlines offer Global Entry sponsorship as a benefit to elite flyers. For example, American offers a Global Entry waiver as a benefit to its elite flyers. United Platinum and 1K elites also can skip the charge when applying.
Applying for Global Entry
Applying for Global Entry is a fairly straightforward, process, despite the stuffy, governmental nature of the website and application form. Simply go here to begin your application.
You’ll have to register with GOES before beginning your application, which will provide you with the username and password you’ll need to check in on your application status later on.
The application itself is mostly straight-forward, with two tips to keep in mind. First, you’ll need your US Passport handy when completing the application. Second, the application will ask you to provide a history of where you have worked and lived for the past five years.
What’s important here is to not leave any gaps in your history, or the application will return an error and you’ll have to go back and revise it. For example, If you left one job in February of 2013 and began another one in May of 2013, you need to make an additional listing as having been unemployed from February 2013 to May 2013. Simply leaving it blank would not suffice.
Once your application has been submitted, you can expect a response within – in my experience – one to two weeks. This response will appear on your GOES account. Assuming all is in order with your application, you will see a Conditional Approval Letter posted to your GOES account.
This Conditional Approval Letter will include all the information you need to know to book your Global Entry Interview, the final step in the application process.
Global Entry Interview
To finalize your application, you must stop by a nearby airport with a Global Entry office. In my case, Orlando International Airport made the most sense. The Global Entry office was tucked away in a side corridor near the Terminal B Food Court. Though I had to schedule my interview a few weeks in advance, I was able to immediately speak to a program representative once I arrived.
The interview process could hardly be more painless. The agent inputted some information from my passport and then took a digital scan of my fingerprints, which are used to verify identity at automated Global Entry kiosks.
By the time he finished explaining I should receive an email with my final approval soon, confirmation of my approval appeared on his computer screen. The whole process took six minutes – I clocked it!
Harnessing Your New Known Traveler ID
The next step is to ensure you’re able to take advantage of the full benefits of TSA Pre-Check. To do so, you must let each airline you fly know about a special number called a Known Traveler ID. By doing so, you ensure that a small TSA Pre-Check logo will be added to your boarding pass upon check-in, giving you access to the fast track airport security line.
You can always add a Known Traveler ID to a one-off flight if you find yourself booking a ticket through a travel website or airline you haven’t used in the past, but simply updating your passenger profile on each airline’s website is the best way to ensure your Known Traveler ID will automatically be added to all of your future flights. Here’s a look at how to do so with several major US carriers:
To add your Known Traveler ID to your American account, go to Personal Information and Password under your account details. You’ll find the right place two rows below your name:
Delta Air Lines
Your Basic Info page under your SkyMiles profile on Delta.com is where you’ll want to add your Known Traveler ID with Delta. You’ll find it under your name and gender information:
For reservations with JetBlue, go to Itinerary Options and then choose Add/Edit TSA PreCheck:
To add your Known Traveler ID to your Southwest profile, go to your Rapid Rewards Account Details and then select Contact Information. The bottom box is the one you’re looking for:
United prominently places their area for Known Traveler ID under the Saved Travelers area of your MileagePlus account:
To add your Known Traveler ID to your Virgin America Elevate account, simply go to the My Contact Info tab, where it can be easily added:
I’m excited to have this new FastPass of sorts when making my way through airport security and am very pleased about the prospect of expedited customs entry, as well. While I can’t particularly complain about my last experience with Customs due to generally good service, I still had to wait in line for about 45 minutes as agents tried to work through the line as quickly as possible. Global Entry would have saved nearly all of this time.
Given that my application fee was offset by an American Express Platinum statement credit, I was more than happy to swing by the airport in Orlando to gain approval for this promising program.
Expedited security line access is often granted to elite members of airline frequent flyer programs, so from that perspective, I look at Global Entry as a benefit program I was able to gain status with free of charge and with minimal time investment. If you travel regularly and would prefer a better, faster experience with security and the customs reentry process following international trips, I highly recommend checking out the program!