Travel Thoughts & The Big Wide World: Global Entry
If you’ve been through an airport anytime in the last several years, you may have noticed that some people zip through security a lot faster than others. These seemingly normal people walk leisurely into a (usually) shorter line and get to bypass some of the more unsavory TSA rituals like removing one’s shoes. Why are they so special? TSA Pre-check. They paid for the privilege of a background check and fingerprinting to make their security line transit a little bit speedier. It took Justin missing a flight for the first time in his 29 years to decide this was a privilege he was going to pay for!
Upon recounting the tale at work, his boss mentioned Global Entry as the way to go since, if approved, you get a Known Traveler Number for TSA Pre-check and if you travel internationally, you get to fast-track through customs upon re-entering the U.S. Only slightly more expensive, Global Entry requires a more rigorous background check, fingerprinting, and an in-person interview with a U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer, not TSA. So…I went ahead and let Justin go through the experience first before following suit!
The first step towards approval is to apply and pay the processing fee, which at the time we did it was $100. This is for a background check for international travel, so lots of information and numbers were needed! Some of the big ones were: every address, job, and country visited in the last 5 years and, of course, your passport details. Then, a few days of waiting to find out if we were conditionally approved and could schedule our interviews.
Scheduling the interview alone added another month to our timeframe, although this may have been due to our choosing the closer, but smaller international airport. The interview itself was simple enough. I arrived a little too early and ended up waiting longer than I spent being interviewed. According to Justin’s recap to me, we both had a similar experience. Mine went like this:
I was escorted to an office.
While the officer pulled up my information on his computer, he had me read a typed sheet with basics about the program, if approved. He then asked if I had any questions after reading this. Smart - especially when you have umpteen interviews a day! I asked if Global Entry can be used in cruise terminals. He said not currently, but it is in discussions and I may know before he would if it becomes available. (Note: I googled this after my interview and found an article indicating the kiosks and program have been implemented in one Florida cruise terminal, with possibility of roll-out being in serious talks in others).
Then, he took my photograph, which ends up on your Global Entry card, as wells as fingerprints of all fingers on both hands. Thankfully, this did not involve ink, but a nifty little light scanner!
Now, the next part I imagine might go a little bit differently depending on the results of your background check.
He stepped through my application, asking me to confirm various questions on it. He also confirmed my current address to which my card would be mailed, as there would be no re-shipping if it was wrong. I got slipped up when he asked if I had ever gone by any other name, to which I asked "like a nickname?" Before I continued with my various childhood nicknames, he had already deadpanned "this is not a trick question" and I very seriously and very truthfully answered no!
At long last – really only 15 minutes later - we had walked through my entire background check. The officer faced me and relayed that he didn't see anything to give him pause, that I appeared to have "lived my life right" and am therefore approved for Global Entry for the next five years!
As long as I stay on the straight and narrow, of course!
Do you have Global Entry? If so, what has been your experience getting and using it? If not, thinking about getting it now? Tell us in the comments!
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