Global Entry Trusted Traveler Program

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 This travel program will help get you through U.S. Boarder Patrol in under 5 minutes.

My Experience with Global Entry: Since becoming a Global Entry Trusted Traveler this fall, I've only had the opportunity to use the program once. The day I arrived home from Beijing, the lines at customs were minimal and so a wait would have been relatively painless - yet, I wanted to give the GE kiosk a go.

Using my fingerprints and passport, the Global Entry kiosk identified that I am who I said (or scan) I am. I was prompted to take a photo after answering a few questions lifted from the traditional blue and white customs arrival card. The kiosk then printed out my photo (freakish after any long haul flight) along with my responses. The final step, was a quick stop to a customs officer to verify my documents. In under 5 minutes, I was able to move on to the luggage carousel.

Why should you apply? For some, becoming a Trusted Traveler may not be worth the time and effort, especially if you don't travel abroad often. If that were the only benefit, I might agree. Another potential turn-off  could be the $100 application fee to join. But here are a few pros that should outweigh your indecision:

  • 5 Years Membership: So what if you're not traveling abroad right now, five years is a long time with many chances to start collecting passport stamps. Even better, should you join right after a birthday, it will end up expiring after 6 years.
  • Domestic Benefits. Becoming a Trusted Traveler automatically qualifies you for TSA Pre-Check. While the TSA Pre-Check is randomized - meaning there's no guarantee you'll get selected every time that you travel - you can enter your Trusted Traveler number (aka Known Traveler number) into your domestic airline frequent flier profile just once (or at the time of online check-in) to get tapped for Pre-check, even when flying domestically.

Still not feeling it? You can potentially have the application fee refunded if you are an American Express Platinum member. Do you research on the card, however, to make sure that it's fits your travel and lifestyle needs all around. There's no benefit in signing up for a card with a $450 annual fee for a $100 reimbursement. However, it's an added incentive to join Global Entry.

How Do I Apply? Applying for Global Entry is started online, at http://www.globalentry.gov and culminates with an in-person interview at a GE designated airport of your choosing. I started my application back in February 2012 but didn't commit to paying the fee until October. Once I submitted payment, I scheduled my interview at LAX.

A note about scheduling the interview:  Initially I had a four month waiting period for my interview, but I checked in periodically for cancellations. I was able to move it up to early December from the beginning of March. The key is to get an appointment time set. You can even try to drop-in at the office if you're at the interviewing airport. I even considered doing my interview at another airport in the country if it synced up with my flying schedule. Ultimately, LAX was the better option for me.

For your interview bring the Conditional Acceptance letter with the required documents (passport and proof of address/residence). You'll be asked questions to suss out if you should be trusted or not before having your fingerprints and ID photo taken.The entire process takes 10-15 minutes.

By the time I arrived home that day, I'd received an email that my membership in Global Entry was active. Less than a week later, I had my Trusted Traveler card. It took me some time to decide to complete the application but I'm pretty glad that I did.  I think I think I'll miss about waiting in the regular customs' line is the officer telling me, "Welcome Home."

Already a member? Decided to apply? Write me at lauren@lauren-ball.preview78.rmkr.netto share your experience.