Recently I applied for Global Entry and TSA Pre-check. These two designations can speed up the process of going through the airport – Pre-check on my way out and Global Entry on my way back into the country.
The application process is simple but it took more time than I expected. Here is how it all worked:
Global Entry and TSA Pre-Check
When applying for Global Entry, TSA Pre-check comes as an added benefit. If you would like to apply for Pre-check alone, the cost is $85. Global Entry costs $100 but includes Pre-check at no extra charge. For either option, the fee covers five years of benefits. If you apply and are approved, you will be assigned a Known Traveler number and be issued a Global Entry identification card.
TSA Pre-check allows you to go through security in a special line. Pre-check lines do not require you to take your liquids or computers out of your bags. You can leave your jacket, shoes and belt on. It makes going through security a breeze.
Global Entry allows you to go through a separate shorter line upon returning to the states from abroad. You enter your information into a kiosk and just have to hand your receipt to the customs officer. Again, it’s a much simpler process.
If you travel frequently, applying for Global Entry makes a lot of sense. If you travel less frequently, it can still make sense, especially if you are able to get the cost rebated (see below).
How Can I Get Global Entry?
For Global Entry, you need to pay the $100 fee when you apply and it is not refunded if you are not approved. If you use credit cards to collect points for airline travel, you may be able to get a rebate for the fee. Several high end travel credit cards offer this rebate, but they usually charge a high yearly fee. You need to weigh the expense against the benefits – I found that for my travel habits, it made sense to apply for a new credit card. This may not be the case for everyone.
I applied for the new credit card on the evening of July 19 and got the card on Saturday, the 23rd via FedEx. This card has a high fee, but has several rebates plus airline points, so I felt confident that I would be able to get more value than what I had to pay for the fee. (As of October 12, that was the case – the rebates I received exceeded the cost).
As soon as I got the credit card, I went online to apply for Global Entry. I had no reason to wait, since the fee would be rebated. Also, my trip to Paris was coming up and I hoped to get approved before the trip.
The application was simple; the questions were what I would expect. In addition to identification questions, there were questions about how often I travel and where I had traveled over the last five years. I was also asked if I had ever been arrested or if I had been detained by authorities while crossing a border.
I submitted my application and waited only eight days for my conditional approval, which I received on July 31.
Scheduling My Appointment
The next step was to make an appointment for my interview. When my daughter applied, she was granted an appointment about a month out, so I thought I would get the same. More people are applying for Global Entry now, though, so it takes longer to get an appointment. The earliest appointment available at my home airport, Chicago’s O’Hare airport, was November 3 – a wait of over three months.
You are not required to get the appointment at a certain airport, so I checked others that might work for me. I had planned a trip to Minnesota, so I looked at Milwaukee, Wisconsin, which is sort of on the way, and Minneapolis. Neither one of those airports had an earlier appointment available. I checked Indianapolis, but the airport there does not have a Global Entry office. The only relatively close airport that had an appointment before my September trip was Detroit, Michigan. Since Detroit is around six hours from my home, I decided that was not an option.
Another possibility that some airports offer is to try for a walk-in appointment. I planned to be near O’Hare in August, so I thought I’d try to do a walk-in. I brought my knitting and waited about four hours. Although I was the next walk-in on the list, time ran out and I was asked to leave. Walk-ins are only taken until an hour before closing time. I tried again later in August, but didn’t get to close to the top of the list. I decided to just wait until my scheduled time in November.
I arrived early for my appointment on November 3, but the office was running a little late so I waited close to an hour before I was called in.
The officer asked me a few questions – some of the same questions that were asked on the application. “Have you been in Canada or Mexico in the last five years?” “Who do you usually travel with?” Then he collected my fingerprints.
Apparently, I answered the questions to his satisfaction, because I was immediately approved and was given my Known Traveler number (which I already had on the paperwork). The officer promised I would get my Global Entry card within two weeks.
My First Use
I’m still waiting for my card, but was able to use my Known Traveler number to get Pre-check for my recent trip to Washington, D.C. I think I’m going to like this!
Update: I received my Global Entry card in the mail on Monday, November 7, while I was in D.C. It only took four days and that included a weekend!