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I recently received my Global Entry membership and considering how easy it was, I can’t believe it took me so long to get started!

Prior to obtaining this, I worked for a study abroad company and subsequently did a lot of traveling—so you’d think I’d have gotten it at least five years ago….. The truth is, what held me back from getting it earlier was a lack of information. Once I did dive into it, I realized how truly easy it was to get.

So keep reading to understand more about the Global Entry process as well as the differences between Global Entry vs TSA Pre-Check.

What is TSA PreCheck?

TSA precheck provides expedited security screening processes for flights within the United States.

If your flight is leaving from the US, and you qualify for TSA precheck, then you get the perk of expedited screening. This involves allowances that speed up the screening process such as not removing your jacket or your shoes, nor removing any laptops or liquids from your bag. You are permitted the same privilege when re-entering the country from abroad, too.

What is Global Entry?

Global Entry is expedited screening, when you enter the US from overseas. You do have to be a US citizen, a US national, a lawful permanent resident or a citizen of an approved country to qualify for Global Entry, but it expedites the customs and border screening process coming into the US from international waters. Typically, there is a separate line for anyone part of the Trusted Traveler Program.

And the other benefit of global entry is that it includes TSA pre check. So you actually get both benefits with just the one application.

Benefits of Global Entry vs TSA PreCheck

As mentioned above, TSA Precheck only applies when you are flying domestically within the United States. Most airports will have a separate line for TSA Pre customers when going through security. In most cases, this line is shorter than the regular security line.

Your boarding pass must show that you have TSA precheck in order to enter the line. When you qualify for TSA pre or Global Entry, you’ll be given a number that you must enter when booking your flight so the airline knows to add it. But I’ll talk a bit more about that later in the article.

When you qualify for TSA Precheck, the security process is expedited. You won’t need to remove your shoes, your laptop / computer or any liquids from your bag.

The benefits of Global Entry are expedited Customs and Border screening upon arrival into the US from overseas. Again, typically there is a separate line for approved Global Entry members on arrival. The line is always shorter and you use the specific customs machine to check-in. After scanning your passport, it will take a picture of you and print it off for you to hand to the agent as you head to baggage claim. Super easy!

The other benefit of having Global Entry is that it INCLUDES TSA Precheck. Boom! For this reason, I pursued the obtaining Global Entry.

How to Qualify for Global Entry

Check the most up to date eligibility requirements here.

U.S. citizens, U.S. lawful permanent residents and citizens of the following countries (Argentina, Brazil, India, Colombia, United Kingdom, Germany, Panama, Singapore, South Korea, Switzerland, Taiwan, and Mexican Nationals) are eligible for Global Entry membership.

Note: There may be additional requirements you must meet depending on your country of citizenship. To find out if additional requirements must be met, select an International Arrangement and your country of citizenship.  

Canadian citizens and residents are eligible for Global Entry benefits through membership in the NEXUS program.

If you are under the age of 18, you must have your parent or legal guardian’s consent to participate in the program.

Reasons for Ineligibility

You may not be eligible for participation in the Global Entry program if you:

  • Provide false or incomplete information on the application;
  • Have been convicted of any criminal offense or have pending criminal charges or outstanding warrants (to include driving under the influence);
  • Have been found in violation of any customs, immigration or agriculture regulations or laws in any country;
  • Are the subject of an ongoing investigation by any federal, state or local law enforcement agency;
  • Have been denied for the purchase of a firearm;
  • Are inadmissible to the United States under immigration regulation, including applicants with approved waivers of inadmissibility or parole documentation; or
  • Cannot satisfy CBP of your low-risk status.

How to apply for Global Entry and how much does Global Entry Cost?

It’s easy. Just follow these steps:

  1. Create a Trusted Traveler Programs (TTP) account. Regardless of your age, you must have your own TTP account.
  2. Log in to your TTP account and complete the application.
  3. A $100 non-refundable fee is required with each completed application.
  4. After accepting your completed application and fee, CBP will review your application. If your application is conditionally approved, then your TTP account will instruct you to schedule an interview at a Global Entry Enrollment Center. Each applicant must schedule a separate interview.
  5. You will need to bring your valid passport(s) booklet and one other form of identification, such as a driver’s license or ID card to the interview. If you are a lawful permanent resident, you must present your machine readable permanent resident card.

What Credit Cards cover Global Entry?

When I started researching I was surprised to see that there was actually a long list of credit cards that cover the cost of the Global Entry and TSA Precheck.

For me, it was my Capital One Venture card, and it was really easy. I just made sure I paid for my application with that card. And within a few days I got an email from Capital One saying “Congratulations, we’re covering the fee, you’ll see the credit back on your account.” Easy as that.

Double check with all of your credit cards, look in the fine print, see what it covers. And if you can’t figure it out, contact them and ask. Usually if you have a travel credit card of any kind, it’s going to cover the fee.

Here are a few other cards that also cover the Global Entry fee (but there are many more!!):

  • Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card
  • Chase Sapphire Reserve®
  • Citi Prestige® Card
  • The Platinum Card® from American Express
Woman sits on her pink suitcase in the airport

What is the Global Entry Process Like?

Global Entry Application

The actual application process was so simple. You just jump online to the Trusted Traveler Program website and fill in all your details, which for me took about 20- 25 minutes. Mainly because you have to have your addresses and your employment for the last five years and since I had bounced around a lot it took me some time to look everything up.

Along with your addresses and employment, you’ll need your passport details.

After you submit the application

After you complete the online application and pay the fee, then you are in a holding period until they review it and they tell you what is next. For me that only took about a week. Note that this was pre-Covid so plan on longer wait times for your application to be reviewed.

I then received an email saying that it was time to schedule my in person interview. From this moment, you have something like 8 months to actually schedule and attend your interview.

Global Entry Interview Appointment

For your appointment, you have a couple of different options.

  1. Schedule an appointment at the nearest enrollment center to your home.
  2. Schedule an appointment at the airport when you have a inbound flight from overseas referred to as “Enrollment on Arrival“.

For me, as I was in NYC at the time I chose to do my interview at the US Customs House in Lower Manhattan. Most people will complete their appointment at an international airport.

At your appointment, you must bring your passport. The agent will ask you some questions, take your picture and fingerprints and if all goes well, process your application right there.

They explained to me there how to use my Known Traveler Number, Global Entry and other membership details. I also received a follow up email with the same information and confirmed in my online portal my application had been approved.

How to Use Your Global Entry Card and Known Traveler Number

Once you are approved and have received your Known Traveler Number, you are ready to start using your membership benefits.

The main thing to know is moving forward every time you book a flight you will need to enter your Known Traveler Number (KTN) into the appropriate field (usually towards the beginning when you are entering you name and other identifying details). This tells the airline you are approved for TSA Precheck so they can add it to your boarding pass. If you don’t enter your KTN they won’t know your TSA status.

When you get your boarding pass, always double check that you get the little “TSA Precheck” icon, usually in a top corner, to allows you to get in that line. If not, check with the airline agent to see if they can retroactively add it to your account and print you a new boarding pass.

You also must book your ticket with the exact same name that is on your Global Entry membership. For me, this means including my middle name on my airplane tickets, which I wasn’t previously doing.

As a reminder, TSA Precheck only applies to domestic flights within the USA. It’s irrelevant to traveling in international countries.

For Global Entry, there is nothing special you need on your boarding pass to enter the line. You just enter and follow the instructions of the machine and hand the printed handout to the Customs and Border Agent.

Just make sure you add the Known Traveler Number to any tickets booked so that you can get TSA precheck on any domestic connecting flights.

Which is better? Global Entry or TSA Precheck?

Both programs give you benefits when flying, but for completely different areas. It really depends on your travel schedule which works better for your lifestyle. In a nutshell….

TSA Precheck:

  • Expedited security screening for US domestic flights only
  • The cost is $85 for an application (can be covered by a credit card)
  • Membership is good for 5 years

Global Entry:

  • Expedited re-entry into the USA from overseas
  • The cost is $100 for an application (can be covered by a credit card)
  • Membership is good for 5 years
  • Approved Global Entry also includes TSA Precheck

Unless you don’t plan to do ANY international travel for the 5 years that you are covered, you might as well apply for Global Entry. The process is very simple and it includes TSA Precheck membership. And don’t forget to check your credit cards to see if any of them cover the cost of the fee!

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