G is for Global Entry
If you travel even a few times a year by air, you may want to consider simplifying your life by becoming a Trusted Traveler in the Global Entry program offered by U.S. Customs and Border Control.
Applying costs $100 and if you're accepted into the program, your membership lasts for five years. I applied a few years ago and I love the benefits.
First, for domestic flights, I am almost always selected for TSA Pre-Check.
In the past three years, I've taken nine different round-trips. I've had one flight where I was not selected for TSA Pre-Check for one leg of the trip. At this point, I gauge that my per trip convenience fee is $12.50 and I still have two years left on my membership.
And the convenience of TSA Pre-Check is well worth $12.50. Since I check-in electronically before I leave for the airport, I know I have Pre-Check, so I don't re-think what I'm wearing.
I don't have to take off my shoes, light sweater, or belt. I don't have to fumble through my bags for any liquids or gels. If I take a laptop, I don't have to remove it either.
And best of all...I don't have to stand in that horrible whole body imaging X-ray machine. I go through a metal detector.
TSA Pre-Check lines are generally shorter and definitely faster. The people who seem bewildered by the process of putting all of their "stuff" into those TSA bins are almost never in the TSA Pre-Check line.
A second benefit involves coming home after international travel.
My sister and her family live in Canada. I've visited her three times in the last three years. Now Global Entry doesn't help me with Canadian Customs. But the Canadians are so friendly and efficient, I rarely wait for more than a few minutes to speak to one of their officers.
When I return to the U.S., though, the Global Entry process is a beautiful thing.
Upon entering the customs area, I look for the Global Entry sign or I let the person checking my passport and boarding pass know that I'm a member of Global Entry. My point is just make sure you're shuttled in the right direction immediately.
I walk up to a kiosk where I scan my passport and hand print. All of my declarations are handled electronically here. Once I had to speak to a customs officer, which was easy since there was a dedicated officer for Global Entry.
Next, I have to go through Canadian security. I do have to remove my shoes here and dump everything into bins, but I don't have to wait in line. Once I'm done with the kiosk, I'm directed to the shortcut where I enter the security line just before the bin station.
Now for all of my trips to Canada, my flight home always leaves super early. However, my last trip took place over the winter holiday when more people were traveling. The security line was full of families traveling with children, and lots of couples of all ages. The line was monstrous!
When I popped into the security line right before the bins, I saw the look on the face of the couple who were now behind me. They did not look happy, so I prepared myself for a verbal onslaught. Thankfully, they must have realized that I wasn't apparating. I was directed to that spot for a reason. Whether they knew the reason or not, I have no idea. Within ten minutes, I proceeded to the next open bin station and continued on my journey.
How difficult was it for me to apply to Global Entry?
Not at all difficult.
- I assessed my eligibility for Global Entry. I determined that I would be able to satisfy Customs and Border Patrol that I'm a low-risk traveler. I also have a current U.S. Passport.
- I created a Global Online Enrollment System account, filled out the online application, and paid the $100. This process took a bit more time for me because of my address and work history. I had to look up some information and double-check dates for residency in different states and employment date ranges. All in all, though, I spent about an hour filling in the application boxes.
- Next, I scheduled my interview. Since I was living in San Francisco at the time, there were a number of options for dates and times. The biggest hassle was finding the Global Entry Enrollment office, so I made sure to leave extra time for any missteps.
- The interview was quick and efficient. The officer asked me several questions that were easy to answer. He took my picture and captured my fingerprints. They had the fancy fingerprint scanners at SFO, so I wasn't even cleaning ink off my fingers.
- Once I was approved, I received my Global Entry card in the mail. I made sure that my membership was tied to my passport. Since my international travel to this point has involved only Canada, I don't have to carry my Global Entry card with me; just my passport tied to my Global Entry membership.
I am not a fan of airports or lines. Who really is? Global Entry has made traveling significantly less stressful. If you can afford the $100 application fee, I highly recommend reading through the Global Entry Program details to determine if you're eligible and whether or not you want to go through the screening process.