The Global Entry program: 5 things to know before you sign up

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Have an international trip planned? If you don’t already know about the Global Entry program, you should get acquainted.

Global Entry is part of four Trusted Traveler Programs that allow for expedited entry back into the United States after you’ve been traveling. The others are NEXUS (for Canadian travel), SENTRI (Mexico) and FAST (focused on commercial truck drivers traveling in North America).

Unlike Mobile Passport, Global Entry includes TSA pre-check, which allows you to pass through security without removing your shoes, belt and other items. It sounds like a small thing, but it can be a godsend when navigating through large international airports.

RELATED: Traveling abroad? Here’s what you need to know about Mobile Passport

Here are 5 things to know about Global Entry

To be any of these programs, you must be pre-approved and considered low-risk. Here’s what you need to know about Global Entry.

1. Global Entry: How to sign up

First things first, create a Trusted Traveler Programs (TTP) account. Once you log in, complete the application. A $100 non-refundable fee is required with each completed application.

American Express members can get a fee credit if they use their card when filling out the application.

Customs will then review your application. This will include a thorough background check involving law enforcement, customs, immigration, agriculture, and terrorist databases as well as biometric fingerprint checks.

Once you’re conditionally approved, your TTP account will instruct you to schedule an interview with a Customs agent at a Global Entry Enrollment Center.

Two things you’ll need to bring to the interview are a valid passport and one other form of identification, such as a driver’s license or ID card. If you are a lawful permanent resident, you must present your machine-readable permanent resident card (green card).


2. Who is eligible for Global Entry?

Americans as well as citizens from the following 11 nations and territories are eligible for Global Entry: Argentina, Colombia, India, Germans, Mexican nationals, Panamanians, Singapore, South Koreans, Switzerland, Taiwan, and citizens of the United Kingdom.

Canadian citizens and residents are eligible for Global Entry benefits through membership in their country’s NEXUS program.

If you have been convicted of a crime, or have criminal charges pending or are under investigation, you may not be eligible for Global Entry. If you are denied for the program and you feel the decision was in error, you can provide additional documentation to the CBP Trusted Traveler Ombudsman to request reconsideration. Just send an email to the CBP Trusted Traveler Ombudsman at: [email protected] — “Attention: CBP Ombudsman”.

3. What to know about Global Entry cards

For handy access, you will be issued a radio frequency identification (RFID) Global Entry card. To activate your card, log into your TTP account and click on the “Activate Membership Card” button.

One thing of note is that while the cards are accepted at U.S. land and sea ports of entry, Customs can process you without one, as long as you have your ID and other travel information. The cards are only required for expedited entry at the SENTRI and NEXUS lanes coming into the United States.

The cards are not accepted at Global Entry kiosks. Those require passports or green cards.

4. Can family members travel via Global Entry?

Yes, if those family members have their own Global Entry memberships. Minor children 18 years or younger are required to have parental or legal guardianship permission to sign up for the program.

Each family member that you wish to add to the program must create a TTP Account and fill out a separate application.

5. What is the head-of-the-line privilege?

The head of the line privilege is a perk available only at U.S. airports with Global Entry kiosks. The head-of-the-line privilege is reserved for program members if the kiosks are not working for some reason. The privilege can also be instituted if a member gets referred to a CBP officer, and at the exit points.

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