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by Kimberly Milnes

Since I do fly several times throughout the year both domestically and internationally I really should have signed up by now for Global Entry and TSA PreCheck.  Every time I am waiting in a long line at security I end up regretting it, and make a pledge that I am signing up when I get home.  So after my last trip and almost missing my flight because of the long security line,  I finally decided to get signed up and end the madness and frustration.  I want to be that person whisked to the “short line” where I do not have to take off my shoes, belt and can keep my liquids.  I will quickly get through security as I glance over at all the miserable “other” travelers in that LONG and never ending line as I smile to myself and make my way to Starbucks to wait in their line.

So Why Do you NEED Global Entry and TSA PreCheck?

If you fly more than 1 time per year, as well travel internationally you will save yourself  the time and stress of having to wait in long and ever growing security lines if you have Global Entry and TSA PreCheck.  As well with TSA PreCheck you do NOT have to remove the following:

  • Shoes
  • Liquids and gels from your carry-on
  • Laptop from your bag
  • Light outerwear/jacket
  • Belts

All of that alone is worth the $100 you pay for Global Entry which also gets you TSA PreCheck.  If you want only TSA PreCheck then it is $85.  But if you plan on flying Internationally,  I would advise to just get Global Entry. Global Entry kiosks are located in the customs area of  most airports.  So when you arrive you can again avoid the long Customs lines. You just go to the kiosk enter your information, print your ticket and head to the exit.  You also no longer have to fill out those blue Customs forms.  Yeah!

How Do I Apply?

The Global Entry application itself is an easy on-line process. Most importantly, you DO need to already have a U.S. passport or a permanent resident card, and second, you cannot have previously violated any customs or immigration laws. I highly recommend that everyone get a passport, if you do not already have one.  The application will have you answer a series of straightforward questions, including employment history, as well it does ask for a list of every country you’ve visited in the last five years. There’s a $100 non refundable application fee (which you have to pay every five years when you renew) to complete your application.   It is important to note also that EVERYONE in your party has to be registered to be able to use the TSA PreCheck line or Global Entry.

What Happens Next?

Once you complete your on-line application will be notified via email if approved, and you will receive your Conditional Approval.  I heard back in about 2 days after I completed my application.  The email give you directions for your next step which is to schedule an in person interview at the location of your choice. Most international airports have a Global Entry office, and there are a few non-airport locations as well. If you are located near a “big” city it is much easier, if not you might have to drive a bit to an interview location.  Lucky for me I had my choice of Newark or Philadelphia.  The interviews are 15-minutes and  appointment availabilities are shown on-line when you are setting up your interview.  I actually could not get an appointment for over 1 month, so if you want to have it completed for an upcoming trip make sure you give yourself plenty of time to complete the process.

What Happens in the Interview?

Once you set up your appointment you will print out your appointment information. You will be asked to bring your passport or resident card, a copy of your Conditional Approval Notification and your drivers license, bill or other document to prove your actual home address.  You will be asked to confirm the information from your on-line form. Also they will check your driving record to make sure there are no outstanding violations. They’ll take your fingerprints (this allows you to use the kiosks in the future), and a photo. It takes about 2 weeks after your interview to get your official Global Entry card.

What Do I Do With the Card?

Nothing, actually, unless you’re entering the country by land (via car or train) or sea. It’s not required while you’re flying, and won’t work at the Global Entry kiosks. Instead, it’s the Known Traveler number, on the upper-left hand corner of the back of the card, that’s important. To take advantage of TSA PreCheck, you’ll want to input this into your traveler profile whenever you fly on participating airlines: Air Canada, Alaska Airlines, American, Delta, Hawaiian, Jet Blue, Southwest, Sun Country, United US Airways, and Virgin America. Without this number on your boarding pass, you’ll have to line up as usual.  Also the card works as another form of government-issued ID.

How Do I Use Global Entry?

When you land at a major airport after an international flight, head directly toward signs for Global Entry kiosks. At the kiosk, scan your passport, which typically brings up your flight details to confirm. You’ll answer the customs form electronically.  The kiosk will then take your photo and scan your fingerprints, and print out a receipt which you will give to the Customs agent at the exit.

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