Your Global Entry Interview Is Nothing to Fear
You've booked your flight, you've packed your bags, and you're ready for the trip of a lifetime. But standing between you and paradise are dreaded airport security lines that make you feel like herded cattle. If you have a hundred bucks to spare, the solution is simple: Get Global Entry.
This program, mostly geared toward U.S. citizens, allows you to skip the long lines and get to your gate faster. Think of it as the Disney Fastpass of airports. But before you can breeze through the fast lane, you'll have to go through a lengthy process that concludes in an in-person interview.
Luckily for our readers, I just went through my Global Entry interview. Here's what you need to know about the program and why you shouldn't sweat the dreaded final step.
What Is Global Entry?
Before getting to the interview, let's cover a few of the basics about Global Entry. This U.S. Customs and Border Protection program allows "known travelers" to go through fewer hurdles when boarding a flight or coming back into the U.S.
The idea is that each applicant undergoes a lengthy background check to ensure they are law-abiding citizens. Since you've been pre-checked, you get a more relaxed screening process.
In reality, however, the security process is pretty much the same. The only difference is that, like at Disney, some people have dolled out enough cash to use the Fastlane while people who can't afford it are left to suffer long lines.
RELATED: 20 Biggest Airports in the U.S., Ranked by Size
What's the Difference Between Global Entry and TSA PreCheck?
TSA PreCheck and Global Entry are part of the Trusted Traveler Program, but there are a few key differences between them.
TSA PreCheck is cheaper, costing $78 versus the $100 fee for Global Entry. However, it only works for domestic flights, whereas Global Entry covers international flights as well. And it isn't just for going out of the country. You'll also get to use the express line when coming back in through customs.
Plus, GE works for air, land and sea travel, whereas PreCheck is only for air. Both programs give you membership for five years before you have to renew.
For $22 more, Global Entry is a much better deal, but TSA PreCheck's one true advantage is that the application process is much faster.
How Long Does the Global Entry Process Take?
Global Entry's main prolem is how long it takes to get approved.
The application itself is easy. You'll have to create a Trusted Traveler Program account. Then, fill out an online form providing your personal details and answering questions about all the places you've traveled to in the past five years. This part of the process shouldn't take more than 15 to 20 minutes.
You'll have to pay the $100 fee at the end of the application. From here, it's just a matter of waiting. And waiting. And waiting. Apparently, conducting thorough background checks is a time-consuming affair. I waited around seven months to get pre-approved and couldn't schedule my interview until about three months later. (Though that's partly my fault).
The interview is the last step for getting into the program. Available time slots will depend on where you're located, but the process usually takes place in airports (fittingly). The online scheduling system is easy to navigate and provides options for booking, rescheduling or canceling the interview appointment online.
What to Expect from Your Global Entry Interview
Once the time of your interview comes, there's no reason to sweat it. You'll probably have to wait a bit, even if you have an appointment. But once you go in, it usually takes less than ten minutes.
They'll ask standard questions, inquiring whether you're pre-approved (if you have the interview, you are), whether you've ever been convicted of a crime and whether you've traveled to Mexico or Canada in the past five years. You'll also be asked whether you plan on traveling by land to either country. Of course, questions may vary depending on the person, but these are the standard ones.
The rest of the time is spent explaining how the program works and getting you to sign some documents. That's it! Easy as pie.
What to Bring to Your Global Entry Interview
All you need to bring to the interview are two forms of identification. A passport is a must, and most people bring their driver's license as their second ID. State identity cards can also work.
Permanent residents who are not citizens should also bring their proof of residency.
RELATED: 50 Hilarious and Embarrassing Airport Greeting Signs
Yes, You Can Walk In
One thing most people don't know about the Global Entry interview is that you can simply walk in at any time after you've received pre-approval.
My original interview was canceled due to staffing shortages, and I was asked to walk in. While dropping a friend off at the airport, I parked and walked to the office. Of course, they then asked me why I didn't have an appointment and seemed annoyed that I was walking in ... even though they had instructed me to do so.
But in the end, it wasn't a big deal. I waited longer than people who did have appointments, but it was still only about 40 minutes. If you're pressed for time, having an appointment is better, but if you find yourself at the airport before then and have time to kill, getting the interview done is worth it.
It's also possible to ask a customs officer to do the interview when you're returning from an international trip.
Unfortunately, You CAN Be Rejected
It's highly unlikely but not impossible that your application for Global Entry will be denied. Usually, this happens when people don't fit all of the criteria outlined by the program. In the case of criminal records, even minor infractions that show up in your background check can cause an issue.
Only around 1 percent of applications are denied, so you shouldn't worry too much. And you can always appeal the decision.
How Long Does It Take to Get Your Card?
The good news is that you'll receive your Global Entry card by mail seven to 10 business days after your interview.
The great news is that you don't even need your card. You'll receive your Trusted Traveler number during your interview. When buying a ticket, simply fill out the corresponding box with that number — and voila! — your boarding pass will then say that you're part of the program and can walk into the Global Entry/TSA PreCheck line without showing your physical card.
Note that you do need the card if you're planning to travel to Canada or Mexico by land.
How to Get Global Entry for Free
A hundred dollars for a five-year membership is a great deal. But if you can save that money, even better.
The best way to get Global Entry for free is to check your current travel credit card's benefits. Numerous cards offer to reimburse either the TSA PreCheck or the Global Entry fee. Most of them have a fee.
I have the Capital One Venture Rewards Card, which I think is the best overall for cards that offer this perk.
Is Global Entry Worth It?
I took an international trip about three weeks after my Global Entry interview. I was actually excited to get to the security line so I could pat myself on the back for a smart decision. Of course, it was the only time in my entire life that there was no line in security.
Still, the universe isn't always in a mocking mood, and I've spent too many times longingly looking at the fast lane from the pits of the normal security line.
I was also extremely happy to have paid those $100 when I came back from a trip that lasted over 24 hours, and instead of doing the snakey line toward customs, I got through the Global Entry lane, where there were only around ten people aheas me.
Thanks to this investment, it took me all of 15 minutes to get from landing to baggage check — and that's in the horrible chaos that is Miami International Airport.
So, the verdict is a complete and unfaltering "yes!" Global Entry is definitely worth it.