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Global Entry: What Is It, My Experience Applying, & Tips

Global Entry
Frequent traveler, casual traveler, and anyone who is sick of waiting in long passport control and customs lines when you’re re-entering the U.S., Global Entry may be the program for you.  As a government run program, it allows those who are approved to speed through the passport and customs lines upon re-entry into the U.S.

I have long heard of Global Entry but I never applied because: 1) the $100 application fee always deterred me, and 2) I usually sit towards the front of the plane and make a habit of speeding out of the plane so that I’m one of the first in line for passport control anyway.  I never wait that long.

Well, I changed my tune when work announced that they were going to foot the bill for TSA Pre-Check (this allows travelers to go through security a lot faster since you get a separate line and you don’t even have to remove your shoes, coats, belts, or laptop) or Global Entry.

I did some research on Global Entry and Pre-Check and chose to apply for Global Entry since approval in that program actually qualifies me for TSA Pre-Check.  It’s a no brainer.  I’m getting two programs with one application fee.  Had I known that sooner, I might have applied for Global Entry a long time ago!

As a quick note, the application fee for Global Entry is $100 which is non-refundable and independent of whether or not you’re approved.  If approved, you can use Global Entry for 5 years.  In comparison, TSA Pre-Check costs $85 to apply and is also good for 5 years.  Essentially, by paying an extra $15 (or $3/year) you’re getting the additional benefit of expedited security screening which I’d value at way higher than $3/year!

Anyway, applying for Global Entry was quite easy and consists of 2 main things: 1) submitting an online application, and 2) interviewing with a Customs and Border Patrol Officer.

The online application asks some basic questions about you, your employment/address/criminal history, and the list of countries you’ve been to (excluding Canada and Mexico) in the last 5 years which was the hardest part of the application for me.  I can barely remember the countries I’ve been to last year, let alone name all the ones for the last 5 years… so that section took me a while to fill out.

After I submitted the application, I got a “conditional approval” notice the next day which told me to schedule an interview at an enrollment center and bring the following documents to the interview: the conditional approval letter, valid passport or permanent resident card, documents proving evidence of residency.

Now comes the hardest part – scheduling an interview.  The interviews take place at various major airports in the U.S. (for a list of enrollment centers, click here) so you have to make sure you can get to one.  You can either schedule an interview at the airport closest to you or schedule an interview for an airport you plan on flying to – it makes no difference.  The available time slots (which are shown online), however, are far and few between.  I didn’t see any openings until three months out and with the baby on its way I didn’t know when I could make it out to LAX for the interview.  It didn’t help that I got another email notifying me that I had only so many days to schedule an interview or else the application would be rejected.  So, I picked a time – any time- that I found so that my application would be in their pipeline still, and then checked every day to see if there were new (earlier) time slots available.

Since a lot of people schedule interviews at airports they are flying through, there is a good chance that people cancel at the last minute and I was right.  I found a new slot for just a few weeks out.  But I wanted something even earlier than that and preferably, for the day Mr. T and I were coming back from Punta Mita since we were already going to be at LAX.  I decided we’d “walk in” to the LAX enrollment center and ask to be interviewed.

LAX doesn’t advertise that they allow walk-ins for Global Entry interviews, but it was worth a shot and I know that other airports do offer this service (although they may not advertise it either).  It didn’t hurt to try especially since it’d save us from a dreaded trip back to LAX in the future.

Luckily for us – they put on us on the wait list with the caveat that we’re not guaranteed an interview but we were welcome to wait if we chose to.  After 45 minutes, they called my name (woohoo!) and I went in for the interview.

The term “interview” is misleading.  It’s basically just a meet and greet where the CBP officer explains the terms and conditions of Global Entry, asks a few questions, and then takes a picture of you.  My guess is that they want to make sure you are who you say you are on the application and that you don’t have any criminal offenses.

My CBP officer was amiable and made sure to tell me that once I have my baby, the baby will need its own Global Entry card to go through passport/customs (but not TSA Pre-Check since that follows me – at least until the Traveler #3 is 12 years old).  He then checked my documents and asked me a some questions like:

  • How long have you lived at your current address?
  • Who do is your employer?  Do you have any other employers?
  • Have you ever been arrested?
  • Do you have any international trips coming up?
  • Do you have citizenship with any other country?

Then he saw the large list of countries I listed on my application and said he wasn’t going to ask me anything about them because it was too long a list.  Instead he asked how I have so many vacation days a year.  I told him I love to travel and my work gives me a lot of vacation a year.  He asked me if all the countries I listed were for leisure or business so I told him the one country that was for business (darn, I wish work sent me abroad more often!).

As a note, I’ve heard that the CPB officers basically know all the answers to the questions they ask so it is in your interest to be honest.  In all, the interview was less than 10 minutes long including the intro, questions, photo, and fingerprinting.

Mr. T was still outside waiting to be called and about 30 minutes after I was called, he was called. Since the officer knew he was my husband, he told Mr. T he was super busy that night but only called him since “your wife is pregnant” (hey, whatever works!).  He didn’t even ask Mr. T any questions and Mr. T was in and out in super quickly.  That night, actually, Mr. T even got his Global Entry Approval Notification, which is the fastest turnaround I’ve ever seen for anything government-sponsored.

I, on the other hand, did not.

It took over 2.5 weeks from my interview date for me to get the approval notice.  In fact, I actually went back to LAX on one of the days to ask if my application was lost since there was nothing to indicate that I’d even gone in for an interview already (I had tried calling the enrollment center multiple times but the number listed for the LAX Enrollment Center is not the correct number that rings at their front desk).  The officers assured me that sometimes it just takes longer for the outcomes to go through (as long as 3 months) and Mr. T’s for whatever reason just went through faster than mine.  Well, okkkkkkkkay then.  The next day, I got the approval notice and a week later, my Global Entry card came in the mail and I promptly activated it online.

So the good news is that we both have Global Entry now although we have no international trips planned.  Not only that, but I’m pretty sure our next international trip will include Traveler #3 so this means I’ll have to add “applying for Global Entry” to the list of to-do’s after I get her a passport.  I can’t wait to see how they will interview an infant, but the officer was adamant that the baby needs her own Global Entry card, too.

If you’re planning to apply for Global Entry, here are some tips:

  • Global Entry is open to the following travelers: citizens and residents of the United States, citizens of Mexico who hold a U.S. visa, citizens of Panama who hold a U.S. visa, citizens of the Netherlands who are enrolled in Privium, citizens of Korea who are enrolled in Smart Entry Service (SES) program, NEXUS members, SENTRI members
  • You can apply online at the Global Online Enrollment System (GOES): https://goes-app.cbp.dhs.gov/
  • If you can’t get an interview right away, try checking back to find cancellations and/or walking in to an enrollment center.
  • Be honest in your interviews. The officer has a say in whether you should be recommended for approval or denial and you should assume they’ve checked (or will check) your background against the many government databases they have.
  • Some of the surprising causes for denial include being arrested (even if you were not convicted) in the last 10 years, DUI’s, or even trouble with the law that your spouse may have gotten into all the way before you even met them so if you’ve got anything tainted on your record, the interview may be the best time to clear the air.  Basically, if you’ve ever run into trouble with the law, you may be denied.  It actually makes sense, though, because Global Entry is supposed to be for “Trusted Travelers” so they likely don’t want to take any risks here.
  • If you are denied, you can try to appeal (no guarantees though) to the CBP Trusted Traveler Ombudsman.
  • If you want to avoid the $100 application fee, some credit cards (the Platinum Amex comes to mind) will reimburse you for the fee.  United also reimburses their Global Services, 1K, and Platinum members.
  • Once you’re approved, you won’t need to fill out the blue U.S. customs forms anymore.
  • If you get a new passport during the 5 years your Global Entry is valid, you will need to give CBP your new passport information.  The officer told me that I’ll need to do this in person at an enrollment center, however, I’ve heard reports of people being able to do this online as well.
  • For more information, check out the Global Entry website.

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Mick - June 2, 2014 - 8:33 am

Thanks for the informative post. Can you tell when and how you got your promotional code to enable you to apply for the program?

JustWanderlust - June 2, 2014 - 6:01 pm

Hi Mick- there is no promo code. Anyone can apply for it.

Chris - February 28, 2016 - 12:58 pm

You are wrong when you say that global entry is open to NEXUS members. Canadians (with or without NEXUS) are not eligible for global entry. However, NEXUS gives them the same benefits (and more), so global entry really isn’t necessary for them.

JustWanderlust - March 9, 2016 - 7:42 pm

Chris- I meant that US citizens who get NEXUS also get the same global entry privileges. Global entry is only for US folks so I’m not surprised it doesn’t extend to Canadians with NEXUS.

Ran - April 9, 2016 - 9:47 am

I tried the walk in method (April 2016), and they said not ever, no way, no how. The man said they have 20-30 people try it a day, and they are all turned away. I guess things have changed since 2014. I suggest you add an update to this post to avoid the unnecessary hassle.

Pam martin - June 1, 2016 - 5:49 pm

hello i just filled out my “Global Entry” application.I was arrested for a d u i back in 1988.can I be denied approval? thank you advance,

Pam Martin

pamela garrison - June 1, 2016 - 5:54 pm

I just applied for a “Global Entry” i had a D U I in 1988 and listed that as a “criminal offense” will this cause me to be denied?

JustWanderlust - June 1, 2016 - 6:45 pm

Hi Pam – I am not sure, but it might. That said, it is good you were honest on the form since the agents would probably be able to find the DUI offense in your records anyway. 🙂 Let me know what happens!

pamela sue garrison - July 19, 2016 - 1:00 pm

Hi There Justwanderlust,
Letting you know that I had my Global Entry’ interview today and I was approved! My past DUI from 1988 never came up and the interview was surprisingly an easy and pleasant experience. I do think just telling the truth on the application is the correct thing to do, even if the DUI is almost 30yrs in the past.
Thank you again for your help, Pam

JustWanderlust - August 7, 2016 - 8:23 pm

Hi Pam! Thanks for the update! You’re going to love having Global Entry!

Prince Ali - August 17, 2016 - 12:43 pm

Hi JUST-WANDER-LUST:
Here is my story with GE from A to Z (which i think you might need to write it down in a separate article lol).
I live in L.A. and almost every-time i travel by car to mexico, or internationally I ALWAYS GET SECONDARY INSPECTION whether at the port of entry in San Diego, or Arizona, or even @ LAX probably because my background, name, religion or whatever i totally get it but i wanted to NOT have to deal with this every single time i travel especially with a wife and 2 kids because the last time i went for 2nd inspection it took almost 2 hours. So anyway, I applied online back in September 2015 and paid the $100 (Non refundable fee) and was denied in January 2016 and their denial letter stated their reasons for denial was based on OTHER: “You Do Not Meet the Program Eligibility Requirements” which didn’t make sense Because i was PERMANENT U.S. Green Card resident married and having 2 U.S. born kids and living Legally in the states since 2007 🙂
Whatever the eligibility requirements means i didn’t buy it. so I emailed GE enrollment center @LAX and the CBP Officer replied that my application was denied by the CBP vetting center NOT locally by their office and he have no way to even interview or overturn the decision. So, I appealed their decision in January 2016 and wrote a nice professional letter on my own stating all the information and my residency status in the U.S (which i am confident they have all my records) and that i work for the local government myself and some other bla bla. and requesting to reconsider their decision since i have a clean records and mailed the letter to the address provided. I was told by LAX GE Enrollment center that the appeal will take several months (up to 9 months) but it didn’t matter. Right after mailing my appeal letter, i contacted both U.S. senators in California and requested their assistance in expediting my appealing process through the CBP OMBUDSMAN and i literally wrote down the following to the U.S. Senators after explaining the situation “I am kindly requesting your help in contacting CBP’s Office of Congressional Affairs on my behalf. Your formal request to review my case through the CBP’s Office of Congressional Affairs will definitely get more speedy resolution to my inquiry due to the fact that this particular channel is very structured, highly-monitored and also routes appeals like mine to the trusted traveler programs’ management office, and this particular office has performance metrics that they strive to adhere to around the time it takes for these formal congressional inquiries to be resolved”. anyway i don’t really know if it worked or not because one of the Senators Staff called me explaining that there is nothing they can do and its just a waiting game till Ombudsman answers or reconsider. I finally was like you know what i am not giving up so i emailed CBP.cbpvc@dhs.gov (CBP Ombudsman) the same request to reconsider my application explaining everything and that was in July 2016. Finally i received an email from GE, GOES website in August 2016 notifying me of their approval and overturning their decision and that i need to setup an interview which LAX and Long Beach is fully booked for several weeks/months so i went ahead and scheduled it in Arizona in the very near future. OH I FORGOT TO MENTION that i was paranoid because their denial that i requested all my records using the FOIA/PA law from the federal gov agencies whatever it was (DOJ, FBI, USCIS, CBP, ICE, etc…..) AND they all came up with no records at all which means i was squeaky clean 🙂
My advise to you people is to never give up because it took me 11 months from the time i applied to the approval (September 2015-August 2016)

Good Luck everyone.

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