A couple years ago my parents and I were returning to our respective homes after my grandmother’s funeral in Texas, and our flights went out around the same time so we went to the airport together. My parents both have TSA Pre-Check, so they zipped through security while I stood in line holding my shoes and bag of liquids. They made fun of me via text and then went to get a snack. Eventually I caught up to them, and I vowed to also get approved for TSA Pre-Check.
(Me, Dad, and Mom at the Charlotte Airport in 2016)
Anyway, I didn’t follow through on that until just a few weeks ago because I am a procrastinator when it comes to these things. The issue was that I didn’t just want the pre-check, I also wanted Global Entry, and even though it’s basically the same process and only $15 more, somehow it made the whole thing seem too overwhelming. But the time has finally come.
Summary of TSA Pre-Check, According to Me (A Regular Person, Not An Expert):
- Application, $85 application fee, and interview at a participating airport
- Background check and finger prints
- Issued by the US Customs & Border Protection
- No ID card, but you get a Known Traveler Number to enter on your flight reservations, which prints out on your boarding pass
- Skip the long security lines at participating airports & head through the Pre-Check lane
- Keep your shoes on
- Keep your laptop and liquids in your bag
Summary of Global Entry, According to Me (A Regular Person, Not An Expert):
- Application, $100 application fee (but this includes TSA pre-check!), and interview at a participating airport
- Background check and finger prints
- Issued by US Customs & Border Protection
- Receive a Global Entry Card to be used when crossing land borders or returning on cruise ships (only at some locations, apparently – I need to look into this more)
- Use your passport at designated kiosks to quickly re-enter the US after international travel, skipping the lines. You scan your fingerprints and passport at the kiosk, and complete the customs form electronically
- Head straight to baggage claim
I, being my typical anxious self, read other people’s blogs about their experiences applying for this, including processing times and interview details. I have found that a lot of those posts had not been updated recently, and so I would like to tell you about my experience.
(Better to bring too much documentation than not enough, right?)
Here’s how the process went for me:
- Went to the Global Entry Page on the Customs & Border Security website and followed the instructions to make a Trusted Traveler Program account
- Filled out a long application. It needed information about every address I’ve lived at for the past 10 years (which was several, but thankfully not as many as if it included my whole life), name changes, my employer, passport info, and travel history
- Paid the $100 fee
- A few days later, I received an online notification through my TTP account announcing that my background check was complete and I had been conditionally approved
- Went onto the TTP website and scheduled an interview. My closest participating airports included Newark and Philadelphia, but Philly had a more convenient time available so I chose that. Other blogs I’ve read indicated that times are only available during business hours, but I was able to get an early-morning appointment on a Sunday. I’ve also read that you can quick do an interview before an international flight if you’re already at the airport, but I didn’t really research that option
- Collected WAY too much documentation (I will address this again in a moment) and drove to Philly
- Followed very specific instructions to arrive at the Global Entry interview office. A security guard buzzed me in and escorted me through the office. I provided her with my identity documentation (just my passport and driver’s license) and got fingerprinted. She also took a photo, so take the time to brush your hair before your interview (if you’re into that sort of thing).
- After the interview, she gave me a basic overview of how to use the Global Entry kiosk. And then it was done.
- Four minutes after entering the interview office, I returned to my car.
- By the time I returned home, I had a notification in my TTP account that I had been approved. I received my Known Traveler Number, and eventually I will receive my Global Entry Card in the mail
The internet told me to bring a TON of documentation. I brought social security cards (from birth, marriage, and divorce), passport in my former married name, current passport, my birth certificate, two pieces of mail sent to my current address, and a printout of my application. The only items I had to present were my driver’s license and passport. As far as I am aware, based on the instructions from the website and my own experience, these are the only items they actually require, unless otherwise indicated.
I am going to post a disclaimer here that this was my personal experience and I’m 100% positive it is not how everyone’s process goes. First of all, not everyone is eligible for these programs. (Check your eligibility here.) Second, you are not guaranteed approval if you do apply. The fees are non-refundable if you are declined. Your interview may be longer and more complicated than mine was. It may take longer for you to receive approval or notification. Or it may take less time. I don’t know. Have you applied? If your experience was different from mine, please share in the comments!