On my way back from Germany to study abroad in 2018, I entered the United States through Boston, MA. I had been living out a suitcase for the past six months and I couldn't wait to get home, relax, and be with my loved ones. When I arrived, I could already tell getting back into the country was going to take hours.
There were multiple flights coming in at the same time and people flooded the halls trying to walk faster than the next so they didn't have to wait as long. If you fly during busy hours (6AM-9AM; 4PM-7PM) it's expected, but that doesn't change the fact that no one wants to deal with it.
I wish I had Global Entry back then, because with it, I would've been able to breeze through those Border Control lines within 10 minutes versus the 2 hours it took going through regular lines. If you want to avoid this type of situation happening to you, keep reading!
What is Global Entry?
Global Entry is a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) program that allows expedited clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travelers upon arrival in the United States (U.S. Customs and Border Protection Website) For $100, you get membership for 5 years. You must apply through the Trusted Travelers Program website. When you're approved for Global Entry, you receive:
No paperwork required upon entry into the U.S.
Reduced wait times with self-service kiosks using facial recognition technology
Global Entry Customs Kiosks are located at more than 75 U.S. airports for use when returning to the U.S. from international travel.
What does the process look like?
This is based on my experience receiving Global Entry in 2023 without having active TSA Pre-Check or Clear membership.
Submitting the application is fairly easy if you have all the necessary information at hand. This includes your valid U.S. passport number, address, drivers license number, international travel history, occupation, and more
You can start and save your application at various points incase you're not able to complete it in one session. If you have all the information required at hand, you can complete the application within 30 minutes. I completed mine over the course of 2 days. You must pay the $100 fee at this stage of the application process. If you are denied for whatever reason, you will not receive a refund.
Make sure your information is accurate to your knowledge, since inaccurate information or typos can cause your application to be denied.
#2 Conditional Approval
Once your application is submitted, you'll likely receive conditional approval within a few days. This means that the information you submitted in the application checked out and is good so far. It matches their database and doesn't raise any red flags. (YAY!) Until you're able to complete a face-2-face interview, your application status will remain conditionally approved. Conditional approval does NOT mean you'll be approved for membership, it's only the first step to being part of the TTP program.
You'll need to complete a face-2-face interview for your membership to be officially approved and get access to Global Entry benefits. Current wait times for interviews are as far out as 6 months, so I encourage you to schedule your interview as soon as you can! I traveled across 4 states for my interview since the earliest available slot wasn't until December 2023 in my state. This may happen to you if your nearest enrollment center has increased volume of interviews.
If you are on a time crunch and need your membership approved ASAP, you can request for an interview upon entry. This means if you have an international trip planned, you can have your interview when you re-enter the United States. This is only available for people who are already conditionally approved.
The interview itself is super quick, concise, and straight to the point! The enrollment officers simply want to make sure you are who you say you are. One they do that, you'll take a photo for the system and receive your membership information, including your Known Traveler Number (KTN) and an FAQ sheet. It may take 24-48 hours for your TSA PreCheck to kick in (at least that's what happened to me).
You should receive your TTP membership card in the mail within a few weeks. Keep this card on you when you're traveling internationally just incase there's an issue with the self-serve kiosks. It will have your photo, KTN, and other non-confidential information.
Hopefully this helps you navigate your own Global Entry application and approval process & share this with your friends who are ready to catch a flight and explore the world!