This past Sunday, Chrissy and I drove to Newark to have our interviews and complete the application process for Global Entry. I thought it would be helpful if I shared our experience with the program for anyone who is thinking of applying. For those of you who don’t know, Global Entry is a US Customs and Border Protection program that allows you to fast track your re-entry into the United States when you travel internationally. Instead of waiting in the sometimes very long lines, you simply use a kiosk to process your re-entry. For people who travel out of the country more than once or twice a year, the time you save can really add up fast. In addition, being approved for Global Entry also gives you access to the TSA Pre-Check program which can ease your trip through security when checking in for a flight. I am not going to go into all of the details of the two programs here, but instead I will focus on what it takes to be approved. If you want more information on the programs, read through the Global Entry website.
The first step you need to take to be approved for Global Entry is filling out an online application. This is required for every member of your family, no matter what their age is. When I first started looking in to the program in January, I called and was told that kids under 12 can just walk through with their parents who have Global Entry. Since that time, the rules have changed and even kids need to have a separate approval. You can get started with the online application by going to THIS PAGE. About half way down, you will see an option to register for a new GOES (Global Online Enrollment System) account. Once you have done that, you can log in and begin your Trusted Traveler application. You should note that you are filling out an application for the Trusted Traveler program as a whole and not specifically for Global Entry. You will choose the option for Global Entry towards the end of the application.
The application is fairly straightforward, but does take a bit of time to complete. You will need to have your identification (Passport) information, birth information, and a complete 5 year work and residence history. In addition, they will be asking you to list all of the countries that you have been to in the past 5 years. It would be in your best interest to compile all of this information before starting the application so you can finish it in one sitting. For those people who have lived in the same place and had the same job for more than 5 years, the application will go pretty quickly, but if you have moved around or switched jobs a lot, you will have a lot more information to enter. I found the website to be somewhat slow and it often got hung up when switching between screens after I clicked on the “Next” button. Most of the time, it would move on more quickly if I clicked on the button a second time. B In addition to the above information, you will be asked a series of questions about past customs, immigration, and law infractions. When filling out the application for kids, you will need to put in guardian information and that person needs to be at the interview with the child.
Once you have completed the application, you can review all of your information. I recommend doing this in great detail since you can not change anything after submitting the application. It took us an extra 5 weeks to get Chrissy a credit card from Citi when I mistyped a single digit of her social security number. I can only imagine how much of a delay there would be if you enter something incorrectly on this application.
When you are ready to submit the application, you need to pay the $100 application fee. This fee is pretty steep, but the Global Entry approval is good for 5 years and if you travel a lot, it can really make your experience with the TSA and Customs and Immigration a lot easier. American Express Platinum card holders will have the fee reimbursed as one of their card benefits as long as it is paid with your card. This is one of the great benefits that can help to offset the high annual fee on that card. I charged my application fee to my Platinum card and my wife’s to hers, and both fees were credited by American Express two days later. I also believe that United 1K members can have this fee reimbursed, but I do not know the details of that program or if they have even started that benefit yet. If you are a United 1K member and know more about this, please leave it in the comments.
After making your payment, your application status will show as “Pending Review”. I think it took about 3 days for our applications to be verified and we got emails telling us that our status had changed. At this point, you can go back in to your GOES account and schedule your interview. The interview is only available at certain locations, most of them major airports, and they all have different hours and days that they are open. The closest to us was Newark, and they are actually open for interviews on weekends, so our choice was pretty easy. Rather than make the drive to an airport just for your interview, you can schedule it right before your next flight and just get to the airport a little early. We didn’t do this because we didn’t want to make the kids wait with us and we wanted to be approved for our trip to Paris next week. This plan kind of backfired on us when we found out kids need to have their own approval now, but at least we will only have to go through the process for them at JFK and not for all four of us.
We arrived about a half hour early at the airport and headed in to find the interview location. Once we got to the right area, it was well marked with signs pointing to Global Entry Enrollment. I can’t speak for other airports, but at least at EWR this was the case. The odd part is that the last of the signs pointed us directly through a set of doors that said DO NOT ENTER all over it. This concerned us a little bit, but when we asked at the information desk, they told us to go right through. We did and soon arrived at the US Customs and Border Protection Global Entry Office.
From everything I have read, I expected the interview to be about half an hour long and be very detailed. I also expected to be in a private room. I am not sure if Newark just does things differently or it I had made those ideas up in my head, but that was definitely not our experience. Instead, we walked in and found three Customs Officers at terminals behind a counter. Across from them, there were 6 seats. We checked in with one of the Officers and she told us to have a seat a watch the video. There was one other man there already and the three of us watched the 5 minute (if it was even that long) video about how the Global Entry Program works.
Before the video was even completely over, they started calling us up to the counter individually. The Officer that I had was a little difficult to understand due to a heavy accent, but he was very friendly and didn’t mind repeating himself when I needed him to. I was asked a few questions about my work history, my education, and what my travel plans are. Basically, it seems like he was trying to confirm some of the information on my application and make sure that I wasn’t lying about anything. None of the questions were difficult and Chrissy’s interview was similar. I know this partially because of what she told me afterwards, and partially because she was only two feet away from me and I could hear almost everything they said.
Once we passed the interview, they took a full set of each of our fingerprints and then explained a few things about Global Entry and TSA Pre-Check. I already knew most of the information they gave us because of my research, but it was a good quick summary. Then we got a little CBP sticker for our passports and we were all done.
Before we left, we wanted to double check about the kids, and that’s when we found out the bad news. Had we known ahead of time that the rules had been changed, we would have done their applications and brought the kids with us to Newark. The officers apologized even though they had nothing to do with the rule changes. They also told us that the interview process is much simpler for kids, so we shouldn’t even need an appointment. We can just stop in with the kids after getting the temporary approval on their applications, and they will process them right away. We told them that our next travel was leaving from JFK and they said that we should be fine doing that there too. Of course, I plan to call to confirm, but hopefully we can get the boys approved for Global Entry at JFK before we leave for Paris. It sure will be a shame if we have to leave our 8 and 5 year olds in the Customs line by themselves while we go relax in the lounge. (of course I am just kidding about that…unless the line is really long)
So that was our experience with the Global Entry application process and interviews at Newark International Airport. We made it into the airport, had our interviews, and were back at the car in less than half an hour. The experience may be different at different interview locations, but at least you now have a basic idea of what to expect. Due to the rule changes, I should also be able to tell you about the interviews for kids at JFK by this time next week. I did the online applications for the boys last night and if all goes well, we should have temporary approval for them sometime in the next few days. After the trip, I should hopefully be able to report on how the Global Entry Kiosk Check-In goes, so you can look forward to that in my trip reports.
Hopefully this helps a bit for those of you who are considering Global Entry. I know the $100 application fee sounds like a lot, but think about it next time you are standing in line at Customs. How much is your time worth, and how much would you like to be already on your way home from the airport.B If you have been approved recently for Global Entry, let me know what the interview process was like for you. I am curious to see if it is uniform across all of the interview locations or if not, how much it varies.