The Global Entry program was created by the United States Customs and Border Protection that allows you to skip the regular customs and immigration line when returning from an international destination.
Instead, you can use a special ‘Global Entry’ automated kiosk to quickly re-enter the country. Although there are more people who have joined the program since it was introduced in 2008, the Global Entry lines in our experience always appear dramatically shorter and are without a doubt faster than the regular line.
How do you get Global Entry?
The process to get Global Entry is straightforward. Follow our tips for applying you'll have your membership in no time.
The process begins by creating an account on the official Trusted Traveler Program (TTP) website from the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency. You'll need to need pay a $100 application fee (at the time of writing this article) to submit your application.
You may be able to avoid this fee if your credit card covers it. Check out this list of credit cards that cover the fee.
Once you have made your payment, you will need to answer a series of personal questions which are used to conduct a background check on you.
Once you receive conditional approval (which can take anywhere from 24 hours to several months – 2 days in our experience), you will be on the final step of the application which is the in-person interview.
Getting the interview is usually a challenge because many Global Entry enrollment centers have limited interview appointments.
For example, the enrollment center in San Francisco is usually booked out a year in advance. To get around this, you can use an alerting service like AppointmentScanner.com to get alerts about cancellations so you can get an interview more quickly.
Once you have scheduled your interview, it’s time to go to the enrollment center and finish the process. Doing an interview with a CBP officer might seem like an intimidating prospect, but don’t worry, it’s not as scary as it seems. Here we will go over what to expect and how you can best prepare yourself.
What do you need to bring to your interview?
You will need to bring a valid passport to your interview. If you have more than one passport, we recommend you bring all of them to your interview so they can be added to your file. For Global Entry, this will enable you to use either passport at the automated Global Entry kiosks once you have been approved for the membership.
If you are not a US citizen, you should also bring your permanent residency card.
You must also provide proof of residency such as a valid driver’s license with your current address, mortgage statement, rental payment statement, utility bill, or any other similar document.
Double check the TTP website that you have everything you need by going to your Dashboard and selecting the Interview Confirmation Link.
What questions do they ask for the Global Entry interview?
If you have made it to this point, the interview is mostly a formality. It means a CBP officer conducted a thorough background check based on your online application and they've already ensured you aren’t on any ‘terror-threat’ list or other watch lists.
Examples of questions you'll be asked at the Global Entry interview are:
- Why do you want Global Entry?
- Have you traveled internationally in the past five years?
- Which countries have you visited during that time?
- How frequently do you travel internationally?
- Have you ever been arrested, charged, or convicted of any crimes?
- Do you have any pending legal issues or outstanding warrants?
- What is your current occupation?
- Where do you work and what is your job title?
- What is the highest level of education you have completed?
- Are you currently under investigation for any immigration-related violations?
- Have you ever been arrested?
- Have you had any issues with customs?
- Do you have any medical conditions that may require special attention?
- Are you a member of any trusted traveler programs in other countries?
If you have ever traveled to a restricted country (like North Korea) or have been arrested and had the charges dropped, expect more questions about those events and be prepared to have paperwork proving your eligibility and legality (you had a legal reason to be in North Korea).
How long does the Global Entry interview process take?
The interview itself is very short. However, accounting for travel and wait times, the whole process of completing the interview will take at least 1-2 hours. It'll take more time if you don't live near an enrollment center or if your interview time is during business hours.
Most interview enrollment centers are at an airport so the time to travel there and back home already takes some time.
Once you arrive for your interview, you'll probably find out you arent' the only one there for an interview. The wait may be up to an hour or more so we recommend taking time off during the week to attend the interview and avoid wait times.
Why do they need my photo?
As part of your interview, the CBP officer will take a photo of you which will be printed on our Global Entry membership card.
In my experience, you won't need this card to use the Global Entry kiosks but I've been asked for it at some customs locations so I carry it with me whenever I travel.
Read this if you have a criminal history
Having a criminal history doesn’t immediately disqualify you from Global Entry. But, the background check in the Global Entry online application may also not alert you about your ineligibility. So you might make it all the way to the interview only to be told you are ineligible at that point. So if you are worried about this, check out the official reasons for ineligibility here before you apply, pay, and schedule your interview.
On the official TTP website, they also state that if you have ever been fingerprinted during an arrest, you will need to bring any court documents you have to your interview.