As much as I love to travel, I hate that process that comes along with getting to a destination, whether it be somewhere abroad, or simply getting back home from a trip. Let’s face it, we all know that drudging through the airport security lines and endless rows of people at Customs is the worst part of any trip. I dare you try and find someone who would disagree.
Imagine my surprise (and embarrassment) when a good friend and fellow traveler made fun of me for not having Global Entry. I had gotten so used to being jealous of those who slid through Customs without a care in the world, that I had forgotten that I too, could be one of the privileged ones. After that conversation, I pulled my tail from between my legs and started the journey to airport freedom: Global Entry.
The application was fairly straightforward and not what I expected at all. I anticipated sitting at the computer for a solid 30 minutes, if not longer, while I told the U.S. government my life story. I was glad to learn that it was the complete opposite. As expected, the application requires you to enter your passport information, an additional form or identification (such as a driver’s license), and some basic information regarding your recent travels. You also agree to a background check during the application process.
Time required: 10 minutes
Two Mondays later, I received a notification that I was “conditionally approved” and cleared to schedule an interview at one of the 38 Global Entry centers. I was able to set up an interview the following Thursday (you have 30 days from the date of their online approval notice to schedule an appointment) at one of the two Atlanta offices.
The interview process was pretty painless. I was asked some general questions, similar to those you would normally be asked by Customs when attempting to re-enter the country, and a few questions to determine whether or not you would be considered a “low-risk,” i.e., if you’ve had any issues or run-ins with Customs before when attempting to re-enter the country, or if you’ve had any items confiscated from you before. Just a word to the wise, that background is extensive, and they have record of things you didn’t know records were created for. Be as honest as possible. In the rare instance of rejection (according to Customs & Border Protection, it happens to about 3-5% of applicants), you can appeal the decision.
Thankfully, no appeal was needed, as I was approved right away. I walked out of the Customs office with my Global Entry number activated and ready for immediate use, with my actual Global Entry card set to arrive in a week.
Time required: 10 minutes (Well, 25 if you want to include the travel to the interview site.)
Now, my favorite part of Global Entry is the added perk, that’s honestly just as great (if not greater) than the easy Customs process: free enrollment in TSA PreCheck! The PreCheck program lets you breeze past the long security lines with shoes and belts on, laptops nice and comfy inside your carry-on baggage, and liquids left unbothered in your luggage as they are sent through the X-ray machine. This too, lasts for five years. You can pay for PreCheck as a standalone membership, but the application fee is $85. The $15 extra for both was a no-brainer. Especially since the process for approval is the same.
So is Global Entry worth it? In my opinion, yes, Global Entry is completely worth it. If not for the PreCheck alone, the comfort of knowing that long waits at Customs are a thing of the past for the next 5 years, and $100 to cover that seems pretty minimal when compared to how often I travel. The whole process took exactly two weeks to complete, the access was immediate once approved, and the application was far less of a task than I anticipated. Now I have some extra time to play around with before getting to the airport. I call this a win. I’m sure you will too.
Also, you may already have the Global Entry fee covered and don’t even know it. Quite a few credit card companies offer application fee reimbursement (both the AMEX Platinum and Business Platinum cards, as well as the Citi Thank You Prestige card, to name a few) for its customers. It would be wise to check your card’s benefits to see if Global Entry application is even less of a hassle than you may think.