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What is Global Entry and How Does it Work?

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Global Entry is a program from the US Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) that allows US citizens to go through US customs much quicker.  Instead of standing in long lines when you fly back to the United States, you can go directly to a Global Entry kiosk and go through customs very quickly.  Global Entry is valid for 5 years and then will have to be renewed (probably to get an updated picture).  Along with Global Entry, you get complimentary TSA Pre Check which allows you to go through TSA security very quickly without taking your shoes off, belt off, liquids out, laptop out, etc.  Sounds cool right?

Global Entry only costs $100, but if you have an American Express Platinum Credit Card (personal, business, or Mercedes Benz versions), you will get a $100 statement credit from American Express after you pay for Global Entry that offsets the purchase.

I am not going to go through all the steps involved in getting your Global Entry ID card, but the process is pretty straight-forward, just go to the Global Entry home page (link) and create an account.  From there, register for Global Entry and pay the $100 with your American Express Platinum Credit Card (if you want the $100 statement credit) or use any credit card you want (no statement credit for you).

After completing that step, you will receive an email that your application has been received and that you can now schedule an interview at a CBP office.  Most CBP offices are located in international airports and their offices are open Monday-Friday from 7AM to 5PM, and not open weekends or holidays.

After scheduling an interview, bring your US passport, a second form of identification (like a drivers license), and a copy of the form below.

Global Entry Approval Document

During the Global Entry interview, he scanned my passport into the system, checked my drivers license and address, scanned my fingerprints and took my picture.  This is the easiest process in the world, unless you have oily fingers like I do.  Took almost 10 minutes of different tricks for the fingerprints to show up properly on the screen.  Hopefully you will have better luck than me.  He didn’t ask me any questions about why I wanted Global Entry or where I would be travelling to.  After he finished entering my info into the computer, he said I was approved.

Shortly after leaving the CBP office, I received an email that said my application had been approved.  On the form below, it says “Re: Your Global Entry program Membership #XXXX” – that number is your TSA Pre Check number (known as a Trusted Traveler number).  You can use that number whenever you book plane tickets and it will show TSA Pre Check on your boarding pass.  For those who have never used TSA Pre Check, it is awesome.  So fast and effortless to get through security.

Global Entry Approved Document

6 days after my Global Entry interview, I received the following letter in the mail with my Global Entry ID Card.  The card doesn’t look that pretty, but if it gets me through customs in a few minutes, I won’t complain.  It also says that you have to activate your Global Entry ID Card online by going to Global Entry home page (link).

Global Entry Approved Document Front

Here is a copy of the back of the page (not in English).

Global Entry Approved Document Back

They also include a small pamphlet about the Global Entry ID Card and how the Trusted Traveler program works.

Global Entry Sleeve Front

Here is the back side of the pamphlet.  The pamphlet encourages you to keep the Global Entry ID Card in the protective sleeve so the RFID chip cannot be read by other RFID scanners.  So just for safe keeping, keep your Global Entry ID Card in the sleeve until you are at the Global Entry kiosks.

Global Entry Sleeve Back

Here is my beautiful Global Entry ID Card and protective sleeve.

Global Entry Card Front

Here is the back side of both items.  On the back of the Global Entry ID Card, it has your Trusted Travel number along with your passport details.

Global Entry Card Back

Now, time to activate your Global Entry ID Card.  Go to the Global Entry home page (link) and click the button that says Activate Membership Card.

Activate Global Entry Card Home Page

Enter the numbers from the back of your Global Entry ID Card into the boxes and click Next.

Global Entry Card Info

All done, that was quick and easy huh?  Your Global Entry ID Card is now activated and can be used at Global Entry kiosks.  Happy travels!

Global Entry Card Activated

If you have any questions, please leave a comment below.

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10 thoughts on “What is Global Entry and How Does it Work?

  1. Pingback: Sunday Funday: My New Global Entry ID Card, New AMEX Serve Pages, and a New Travel eBook from PointsAway.com | Travel with Grant

  2. Gaston

    Excellent description Grant — best I’ve seen yet! I applied yesterday and I’m awaiting conditional approval later in the week.

  3. Shawn

    Unless something changed, you can do your “interview” on weekends. I did mine on a Saturday in February at JFK. Finding available appointments then is another story though.

    1. Grant

      Hmm, when I looked for appointment days/times for LAX, I never saw anything for the weekends. It could have changed recently. Anyone book a weekend appointment in the last month or so?

  4. donna

    I accidently threw out the “protective sleeve” for my card…any idea of how to get a new one?…Thanks


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