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10 Things You Need to Know About Global Entry

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Global Entry, along with TSA PreCheck, is one of the primary ways American travelers can streamline their airport experience. Both programs are designed with frequent travelers in mind—let’s say those who fly at least two to three times per year—and each is tailored for a different kind of travel. PreCheck is for domestic travel, while Global Entry for international flights.

Here are some key elements of the service to help determine if it’s right for you.

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What does Global Entry get you?

A lot! The central benefit is expedited re-entry to the United States via kiosks at passport control—no paperwork or processing lines.

In addition, you get all the benefits of TSA PreCheck: expedited passage through airport security at hundreds of U.S. airports and through dozens of airlines. Having TSA PreCheck means you can pass through an airport security lane without taking off your shoes, removing any electronics or liquids from your bag, or taking off your belt or jacket.

How do you enroll?

Global entry is available to U.S. citizens and U.S. lawful permanent residents, as well as citizens of several other countries.

To enroll, you must first register with the Trusted Traveler Program (TTP). Once enrolled, you must complete an application and pay a $100 fee. If U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP), which administers the program, approves your application, your TTP account will instruct you to set up an interview at a Global Entry Enrollment Center. You must bring your passport and one other form of ID to this interview, and long wait times mean you could have months to prepare for it.

Can family members use it if they are not enrolled themselves?

No, every member of your family or traveling party must be enrolled to use the service. This includes children.

Do you always have to use Global Entry if enrolled?

No. In the event you are traveling with non-members, for example, you can use the regular passport control process rather than the designated Global Entry kiosks.

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Does it guarantee expedited passage through security?

Mostly. Occasionally there may be reasons that the designated kiosks aren’t working or are available, but in those cases members are typically granted “head of the line” privileges.

Do I still need to declare food items or agricultural products?

Yes. Global Entry does not exclude you from standard declaration requirements. If you declare something, your kiosk receipt will have an “O” on it and you will still need to meet with an officer to discuss the declaration.

How often must you renew?

Membership is valid for five years, after which you’ll need to reapply. You can begin the renewal process one year prior to the expiration of your membership.

Do all airports participate?

No. As of October 2018, Global Entry is available at most major U.S. and Canadian airports, and at several airports overseas.

Does my loyalty program or credit card cover the program cost?

It may! Several travel credit cards (usually those with a fee) will reimburse or otherwise cover the $100 application fee.

Is Global Entry for me?

If you fly regularly and your travel plans typically include at least one international flight per year, yes. Remember, Global Entry includes all the benefits of TSA PreCheck, which alone costs $85. For an extra $15 you’ll get expedited security screening and streamlined re-entry following your journeys abroad. It’ll save you a lot of time.

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By Carl Unger

Contributing Editor Carl Unger believes that every trip is worth taking. He loves an extended trip to Europe as much as he enjoys exploring the towns and landscape near home. Basically, you'll find him wherever there is good food, fresh air, and plenty of stories to bring home.

Carl has been writing for SmarterTravel since 2005. His travel writing has also appeared on USA Today and the About.com Boston travel guide.

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