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Everything You Need to Know About Global Entry

If you travel at all, you are probably familiar with the TSA’s Pre-Check and Global Entry programs. Zac and I signed up this summer for both TSA Pre-Check and Global Entry- before we signed up, we didn’t know many details about either option, and discovered that there was so much information out there! 

If you’re considering signing up for either program (or both!), I’m breaking down what you need to apply, what the process is like, and all the perks that come with being approved!

  • What is Pre-Check? If you travel at all, you’ve probably seen two different lines at security- one for the regular travelers, and one for Pre-Check. Basically, being a part of the Pre-Check program means that you are already pre-cleared (we’ll get to that!) and can go through a separate security line. You don’t have to take off your shoes or anything, and it saves so much time! There are two different programs that you can apply for- TSA Pre-Check or Global Entry, which allows you to go through a separate customs line and speeds up the process significantly. 
  • The cost. TSA Pre-Check costs $85 to apply, and once you are approved you are good for 5 years. If you want to do both Pre-Check and Global Entry, it costs $100. If you plan on doing any international travel at all in the next 5 years, it is worth the extra $15! The following process is the same for both systems, with a little extra information needed for Global Entry. 
  • How to apply. Go online to the TSA’s website, and hit the big red ‘Apply’ button! Give yourself about 30 minutes, as you have to enter a LOT of information. Have your driver’s license and passport ready, as well as your employment history and where you have lived in the past 10 years. All of this will be used for your background check that the TSA will conduct. Once you submit your application….wait. There is NO telling how long you will have to wait (trust me, I did a lot of research and it’s totally arbitrary). Zac had an interview scheduled in a few days, while it took two weeks for me. Just be patient. They will not email or call you, so you have to login and check the website (I checked multiple times a day!). 
  • Initial acceptance. After the TSA conducts your background check, they will give you ‘conditional approval.’ This means that you passed the first checkpoint, but you still need to go in for an interview.
  • The interview. Your interview will be held at your nearest airport. If you don’t live near a large, international airport, you can also try to schedule your interview at another airport during a layover/when you travel. Your interview will most likely be very, very, very short. Zac and I were both in and out within 2 minutes. You meet with an agent, quickly go over your application and why you want to use the program, have your fingerprints taken, and then they will show you how to use the system. And that’s it! Once the interview is done, you can start using the program immediately.
  • Using the program. We used the program for the first time on our Miami trip. Add your ‘Known Traveler Number’ to any airline reservations (this is not the same thing as a frequent flyer number!). Your boarding pass will say Pre-Check on it- if it doesn’t ask someone at the check-in desks and they will print a new one. Go to security, and get in the separate Pre-Check line. You get to keep your shoes/belt/light jackets on, you don’t have to take anything out of your bags- just walk through. It took us less than 5 minutes between walking into the airport and getting to our gate. Our friend, who arrived a few minutes earlier, spent over 20 minutes waiting in the regular line! 
  • Global entry. Since we signed up for both, we were excited to try out our Global Entry status on our Amsterdam trip. When you arrive back in the US, whether it’s a layover or your final destination, you have to go through customs. Instead of waiting in the looooooonng customs line, you go to a separate Global Entry kiosk. Scan your passport, answer a few quick questions, print your ticket, and then proceed to the Global Entry desk. A customs agent will take your ticket, and you’re good to go! That’s it! 

Overall, I 110% recommend applying for both Pre-Check and Global Entry. Even if you aren’t planning any international trips right now, it’s only an extra $15 and can save you hours! Since you are already going through the process, go ahead and knock out both, it is so worth it!

Have any other questions about Pre-Check or Global Entry? Let me know! 

Everything you need to know about global entry and pre-check

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