I Wish I’d Applied For Global Entry Years Ago

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United waives the global entry application fees for their 1Ks, so it shouldn’t have taken me as long as it has to apply. (By the way, Global Entry is a program by which you go through a background check, do an interview, submit your image and fingerprints in order to bypass the usual immigration lines when entering the US.)

But I finally got my act together, overcame my anxiety about giving the government my fingerprints, requested my payment code from United and two days later started the application. The application is simple, except for one question — what countries have you visited in the last 5 years? I renewed my passport 4 years ago, which meant I had a heck of a time remembering which destinations fell in that 5th year. I put if off for weeks, but finally found an hour or two to search my saved itineraries to track down all the countries.

After about 7 business days my application was tentatively approved and I could set up an in-person interview. DC was booked until late May at the time, but I chose a slot and planned to check back for openings. Then a friend suggested I try JFK since I was going to be going through NYC in early May on my way down to Easter Island.

Only two weeks out JFK had almost every time slot open, so I picked something a couple of hours before my flight that Friday. I had the driver drop me off at the nearest end of Terminal 4 (he was confused at first that I didn’t have an airline) went down the escalator immediately to my right and came out almost in front of the global entry office entrance.

I was early, but they were moving through people at a good clip and took me 20 minutes early. The process was quick. He verified my information was correct, took my picture and my fingerprints, and advised me not to try a life of crime since I apparently had very well-defined swirls.

15 minutes later I was on the train headed for the AA terminal, ready to see if I could apply my trusted traveler # to get through TSA pre-check. I tried inputting it online and the agent at check in also tried from her in, but although the system took it, no pre-check appeared on the boarding pass.

It turns out although approval is instant, it takes awhile to get through the system 🙁

BUT when I flew back to Miami this morning from Chile, the experience was incredible. I was through immigration and customs within 15 minutes at the most. This was despite the visitors line being completely full and the US citizens line about 70 people deep. There was zero wait for the Global Entry kiosk! I just need to learn how to look at the camera without looking like a deer in the headlights…

So should you consider Global Entry even if you don’t travel frequently and rarely out of the country? If you live in a city with an interview office and you have a passport, I would say yes. More and more airlines are partnering with the program which makes you eligible for TSA pre-check across multiple airlines. The fee is only $100 and membership lasts for 5 years.

That’s $20 a year to keep your shoes on, your liquids in your carry-on, and your dignity intact. Seems like a bargain to me! (But only if you don’t intend a life of crime.)


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Heels First is the travels and tribulations of two twenty-something frequent fliers jumping into the world of travel. Join Keri and Jeanne as they tackle mileage runs, elite status, and of course–the perfect travel accessories.

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