International travel. It’s such a blessing to be able to experience new places and cultures. Having the ability to step away from our normal routine for a few days is magical and exciting. Even as you fly back home you’re still in a europhic state of mind. Then, after landing, you reach the long line for Customs & Border Protection. Reality sets in and you realize your vacation is officially over.

After I returned from my Cozumel trip (see recap here) I stood in the Customs & Border Protection line for nearly 45 minutes. During this time I kept seeing all of the golden ticket holders (i.e. Global Entry participants) zoom by, knowing they’d be long gone by the time I got to the front of the line. I decided then to apply so I would never have to stand in that long line again (and get to hold on to my trip memories just a little longer).

Benefits of Global Entry
People in these cities understand my pain. These are the top 10 airports in 2015 with the largest Customs waits (source: Global Gateway Alliance)

So What is Global Entry?

Global Entry is one of the “Trusted Traveler Programs” offered by the U.S. Customs & Border Protection agency. With the program you are pre-approved for expedited clearance back in the U.S. when you’ve traveled internally. Instead of waiting in the line for a Customs officer, you head to a separate kiosk, enter in your information, and are allowed to exit. This program is available at most major airports. You can find the complete list of participating airports here.

What Are the Benefits of Global Entry?

As the Global Entry site mentions, your time is valuable. Global Entry allows you to quickly clear Customs so you’re able to get on with the rest of your day. Plus, you get TSA Precheck (with participating airlines) so you don’t have to remove your shoes or laptops when going through security. For me, this was a huge benefit! I hate taking off my shoes, especially when I don’t have socks on. There’s no telling what’s on those floors…

How Do I Apply for Global Entry?

Now that you know what the Global Entry program is and what the benefits are, I’m sure you want to know how to apply. Below I’ve outlined all of the steps you need to know for the process.

Step 1: Have all of the information you’ll need for the application nearby for easy access. This includes:

  • Passport or birth certificate
  • Drivers License
  • Employment History (5 years)
  • Address/Residence History (5 years)
  • Travel history for past 5 years (outside of US, Canada and Mexico)

Step 2: Create your Global Online Enrollment System (GOES) account. When you arrive to the home page you’ll select “Register” under the New GOES Account section.

Global Entry Application

First screen will ask you to confirm you do not have an existing ID. If this is correct, select Next. Then you’ll be asked to confirm that you’ve never applied by selecting “No”. Once you’ve made the selection click Next.

You’ll now be asked to enter in your registration information. When you have all of your information filled out they’ll ask you to select a user ID and password for your account. Afterwards you’ll receive a screen confirming your registration.

Global Entry Application

Step 3: Go back to the main log-in screen. Enter your new user ID and password in the Existing GOES User section and sign-in.

Global Entry Application

This will take you directly to the application. There are several screens you’ll have to populate with your personal information. I don’t have screenshots of the actual application, but I’ve summarized the sections below:

  • Personal Information – here you’ll enter your basic data (name, gender, height, etc)
  • Other Names Used – if you’ve gone by different first and/or last names you will need to fill out this section
  • Date and Place of Birth – enter in the City, State and Country of your birth
  • Contact Information – enter in at least one number you can be reached at (work, home or cell)
  • Citizenship Information – enter the country of your citizenship and select at least one supporting document (passport, birth certificate, etc). Once you select the document you’ll be asked to input your information from the document (I used my passport so I had to enter in #, issue and expiration date)
  • Primary Residence – enter country you are primary resident of
  • Driver’s License – enter in your current driver’s license information (number, expiration date, etc)
  • Current Address – enter in your current address. If you’ve been there less than 5 years you’ll be prompted to enter your last address(es) for this time period.
  • Current Employment Status – you’ll need to enter your job history/status for the past 5 years. Options include employed, self-employed, unemployed, etc. No gaps allowed.
  • Travel History – add all the countries you’ve visited in the past 5 years (outside of US, Canada and Mexico)
  • Additional Information – select Y/N for questions on any past criminal convictions and violations of customs and immigration laws.

Once you’ve entered in all of your information (which took about 20 minutes for me to complete) you’ll have a chance to review your completed application. If there are any errors they will indicate it on the review screen and you cannot proceed until they are fixed. When everything is in order the option “Certify Global Entry” will be active for you to select.

Step 4: You now will be prompted to enter your payment information for the $100 application fee. Once you payment is processed you’ll see a confirmation screen and status that your application is “Pending Review.” They recommend checking the system for updates on the status every few days.

Note: I know some people are put off by the application fee, but it is well worth the investment! 

Step 5: After your GOES application has been reviewed you will receive an email notifying you of a status change for your application (I received this 2 weeks after applying, but the time varies for each applicant). Log in to GOES using your user ID and password from step 2. Now your application status will say “Conditionally Approved” and provide you the option to schedule your interview.

Global Entry Application

After selection “Schedule Interview” you’ll be taken to a screen with a drop down menu listing all of the enrollment centers. You will select the enrollment center in your area (or in a location you’ll be traveling to soon) where you’d like to complete your interview. Next you’ll be taken to a calendar which list all of the available time slots for interviews. Select the one you prefer then confirm your appointment.

calendar

When you head back to your home page, your status should now say “Interview Scheduled” instead of “Conditionally Approved.”

Global Entry Application

Step 6: On the day of your interview you’ll arrive at the enrollment center with your supporting citizenship document (passport or birth certificate), your driver’s license, and a copy of your conditional approval letter (this is found in your GOES account).

Global Entry
This way to Global Entry interview!

I opted to complete my enrollment at the Houston Public Library downtown during my lunch break. When I arrived I notified the agent and was asked to sit in the waiting area, which already had two people waiting. Apparently the agent was having system issues so it took about 25 minutes before she called the first person in. Each interview took about 10 minutes so when the system is working things move smoothly. While they were being interviewed I was asked to watch a quick video explaining the Global Entry program and how to use it.

By the time the video ended the person ahead of me left, so I was called in. The questions asked were fairly straightforward so there’s no need to be nervous or concerned about failing. After the questions, took my fingerprints and a picture for my Global Entry ID. Before being dismissed, she informed me that the 9 digit number noted on my conditional approval letter was now my Known Traveler number. This number has to be noted when making flight reservations or listed in your frequent flier profile to obtain the TSA Precheck benefits.

Step 7: After your interview, you will receive a notification of status change. Log into your GOES account, and you should now see your status is “Approved”.

 

Step 8: Within a week (or less in my case) you’ll receive your Global Entry ID card. Before using you must activate the card, which can be done from your GOES account.

With that, you are now ready to use your golden ticket!! I just recently used it for the first time when I returned from Cuba (I cannot wait to tell you all about that trip) and it worked perfectly. I definitely feel it was well worth the time and effort.

 

 

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