Everything You Need to Know About Global Entry and TSA PreCheck


Source: Travel and Leisure

If you fly more than once a year, you need this.

I initially resisted the idea of Global Entry—I wasn’t entirely sure what I’d be paying $100 for, and I’d already resigned myself to long lines at my home airport, JFK, for the rest of my life.

But as a travel editor, I was spurred to dig deeper. What exactly did the process entail? What were some not-so-evident benefits? Fast forward: I was approved for Global Entry last October, and I’ve never been happier with a purchase. Here’s what I learned.

First things first: Why Do I Need It?

Imagine a dream world in which you can skip the majority of the airport security line, keep your shoes and belt on, your liquids and laptop in your bag, and breeze right through. This is called TSA PreCheck, and you are automatically eligible when you pay $100 for Global Entry (if for some reason you only want TSA PreCheck, it’s available for $85). While I don’t recommend this for all travelers, I’ve consistently started arriving to the airport 20 minutes later when I’m flying an airline that participates in this program (more on this later), with absolutely no stress. Aside from this already great perk, you can expedite customs on your way back into the U.S. when flying internationally. Most major airports are equipped with Global Entry kiosks (and even during the holidays, at JFK, I’ve never had to wait more than five minutes for a kiosk). And you no longer have to fill out those blue customs forms. (Am I the only one that dreads contorting myself in my airplane seat to pull out my passport every time I have to fill one out on the plane?)

How Do I Apply?

The main criteria: first, you’ll need a U.S. passport or a permanent resident card, and second, you cannot have previously violated any customs or immigration laws. (Here’s a full list of eligibility requirements.) The applicationprocess itself is easy—you answer a series of straightforward questions online, including employment history—but have your passport ready, because it does ask for a list of every country you’ve visited in the last five years. There’s a $100 application fee (which you have to pay every five years when you renew)—you won’t get the money back if you’re denied Global Entry.

I’ve Submitted. Now What?

The response time is pretty quick—I heard back within a few days, via email, that I was eligible to schedule an interview at the location of my choice. Most international airports have a Global Entry office, and there are a few non-airport locations as well. And there are usually 15-minute appointment availabilities within the next week or so, if stopping by the airport isn’t a major hassle. I try to avoid JFK traffic whenever humanly possible, so I scheduled my appointment a few months ahead of time, when I knew I had a long layover at SFO. (Even though the appointment only takes 15 minutes, leave yourself a wide berth—it’s not atypical for them to be running 20 minutes late, plus you’ll have to go through security after the interview.) Another option is to go to the airport early before you have a flight, but note that most offices keep regular hours, so this might not work for a morning flight.

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