What is Global Entry?
Global Entry is one of four Trusted Traveler programs offered by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection office. Others you may have heard of are SENTRI, NEXUS, and FAST.
They are called “Trusted Traveler Programs” for a very literal reason: after undergoing the application process and ultimately being approved, you are considered slightly more “trustworthy” when entering the United States, and receive some pretty awesome benefits by being so. If any of the following perks catch your eye, keep reading and learn how to get approved for Global Entry:
Use faster, expedited lanes at:
- Airport Security (TSA PreCheck)
- Customs and Immigration Screening (Global Entry)
- Travel between Mexico and the US (SENTRI)
- Border crossings between Mexico and the US (SENTRI)
- Travel between Canada and the US (NEXUS)
- Border crossings between Canada and the US (NEXUS)
Something you’ll notice in that list of perks is the reference it makes to other Trusted Traveler Programs (SENTRI, NEXUS, etc). This is what sets Global Entry apart from the others — you get all four TTPs for the price of one (literally!).
Global Entry gives you TSA PreCheck, SENTRI, Nexus, and expedited customs & immigration screenings. Being approved for Global Entry means you are automatically approved for all other Trusted Traveller Programs (TTPs).
How to Apply
Before applying for Global Entry, first find out if you’re eligible. Global Entry is available to:
- U.S. citizens
- Lawful permanent residents
- Dutch citizens
- South Korean citizens
- German citizens
- Panamanian citizens
- Mexican citizens
- Columbian citizens
- Singapore citizens
- U.K. citizens
- Canadian citizens (residents may enjoy Global Entry benefits through membership in the NEXUS program)
If you’re eligible, the next step is to register with the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) online portal for the Trusted Traveler Program to complete your application and submit payment.
Applying for Global Entry consists of two parts:
- Online application
- In-person interview.
The total cost for the application is $100 dollars and is good for 5 years. The fee is non-refundable if your application is denied.
1. Online Application
The online portion of the application takes ~40 minutes. It’s straightforward and done completely online – there are no physical PDFs or printouts available. You’ll be asked questions about your employment, address & travel history, and passport information.
Once the online portion of your application is submitted, the CBP will notify you via email if your application is approved. This process typically takes anywhere from 1 to 3 weeks. If approved, the CBP will pre-schedule an in-person interview at the closest enrollment center to your zip code. This, of course, can be rescheduled to a time and location that works best for you. You can find more information on Enrollment Centers by a bit further down on this page.
2. In-person Interview
At this point, your online application has been approved and your interview is scheduled. Depending on where you’re located, the gap between application approval and the in-person interview can be anywhere from 1 to 3 months. It’s a long wait, but when you’re breezing through airport security (with shoes on!) or cruising back into the states from Mexico, you’ll realize it was all worth it ????
What you have to bring:
- Drivers license
What might help to have on-hand (just in case – you didn’t wait 3 months for nothing!)
- Valid drivers license (or state ID card) issued in the State where you live
- Any evidence of your employment or residence (tax returns, pay stubs, mortgage/rent payment receipts)
The actual interview with the CBP agent is a breeze. During the interview they’ll take your photograph for the Global Entry card and your fingerprints will be scanned. The types of questions they’ll ask are around the travel portion of your application (nothing personal), essentially details of your travel habits and history, for example:
- “How often do you visit said country?”
- “Do you or your family/friends travel to Mexico?”
- “How long were you in said country”
The entire interview takes about 5 minutes and you’ll be notified of your approval status via email in about a week.
Your Global Entry Card
Once your interview is complete and you’re approved as a Trusted Traveler, you will receive your Global Entry card in the mail in about 1 week.
Before you can use your card you must activate it! You do this on the CBP website.
There are a total of 95 locations for you to attend your Global Entry (or SENTRI) interview and new locations are added every month. The majority of enrollment centers are located at major airports and border crossing stations.
If the idea of waiting 1-3 months for an interview doesn’t appeal to you, you can always walk-in to an enrollment center and see if there is an opening available that day. Just make sure you print out your “Conditional Approval” letter.
A list of the California locations are listed below.
Global Entry Enrollment Centers
Can I register my car for Global Entry? Do I have to?
You can’t register a car with Global Entry. The only TTP that allows for a car to be registered is SENTRI, although it’s not required.
If you want to drive into the U.S. from Mexico in your vehicle (since you only really need your Trusted Traveler Program card when entering the US, not leaving), your vehicle must be registered under the SENTRI program.
It’s also important to note that everyone in the vehicle traveling across the border into the U.S. must be registered under the SENTRI or Global Entry program in order to leverage the expedited SENTRI lanes. If one person in the car does not have a TTP card, it could compromise the drivers’ eligibility to remain in the program. So needless to say, this should not be taken lightly.