5.29.2015

Tips for Global Entry

The Iceland trip is just around the corner and today the Little Sister and I finished up the Global Entry application and interview process.

What is Global Entry?

"Global Entry is a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) program that allows expedited clearance for per-approved, low-risk travelers upon arrival in the United States." -Global Entry Website. So you get fast tracked at customs coming back into the United States and you also get TSA per-approved for all domestic travel for five years.

After our adventure today I thought I would provide some tips for Global Entry. So here it goes:

General Global Entry Information:
  1. Global Entry requires an online application, $100 fee, and an in person interview with a Customs and Border Control officer at a Global Entry Enrollment Center.
  2. Are you eligible for Global Entry? Check here: http://www.cbp.gov/global-entry/faqs This program is for "low-risk travelers" and I heard a story of a DUI from twenty years ago stopping someone from being eligible. I have never had a background check like this before....
  3. Soon after you have completed the application you will have an opportunity to schedule a face-to-face appointment at a Global Entry Enrollment Center. Schedule your appointment and be sure to make note of the documents you need to bring with you (Passport, proof of residency, acceptance letter.....).
Now some Tips for Global Entry!
I followed all the directions above and thought I was doing a pretty good job of being ahead of the game for my Iceland trip. When I went to schedule my interview, the local office was booked until I was already in Iceland so I scheduled an interview at the Otay Mesa Enrollment Center, right on the border of Mexico.

Photo by Little Sister

The Little Sister had also submitted an application but was not able to schedule an appointment online at the Otay Mesa Enrollment Center for the same day as my interview. The day before I was scheduled to go, I called them to see if they had any availability for her around the same time and they did! We booked her an appointment and worked out a carpool plan.

On this same day I called the Middle Sister who had an appointment closer to our Iceland departure date at the LAX Enrollment Center and said she might be able to call the Long Beach Enrollment Center (the place we all wanted to have our face-to-face interviews) to see if they had any availability earlier than her scheduled date and she was able to book an appointment that day!

I didn't really think about any of this until today but the Little Sister and I could of totally called Long Beach to for an interview. Of course I think of this as we are driving to almost Mexico for our interview. No worries, we had breakfast with a friend, but next time, I will call Long Beach for an appointment.

Tip #1 - Call the enrollment office you would like to have your interview in to see if they have availability. Save yourself a drive to Mexico......
My next tip seemed obvious to me when I was dealing with it, but not obvious at the time I was booking appointments.

Tip #2 - Book appointments early in the day. Bring a book or something to do while you wait.
My appointment was at 11am and the Little Sister had her appointment at 11:45am. We were able to check in 30 minutes before our appointments. They were running about 30 minutes behind schedule when we checked in and then lunch happened. The Little Sister finished her appointment at 1pm. If possible, book appointments early in the day. We did both bring a book, so it could of been worse, but it also could have been avoided.

Overall the interview was painless and the Customs and Border Control Officer is just making sure you are "low-risk" to be able to recommend you for Global Entry. Even after the interview you still have to be offically approved by someone else before you have Global Entry. Once you do, they send you a card (with your photo that you took during the interview) and you are good to go. I was concerned I might not get the card in time for my Iceland trip and the Officer told me I don't need it. My passport is what I scan at the Custom's kiosk coming back into the county and my Global Entry Membership number is the number I enter when purchasing airfare to receive TSA Priority.

All in all not a bad experience. I am thinking it will be worth the money spent and look forward to TSA Priority and not waitng in Custom's Lines! Leave me a comment if you have used Global Entry or have tips for expediting International travel. I am always looking for tips!

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