Standing in long lines while waiting to go through passport control and customs when arriving back into the US is a pain! Airports like Los Angeles seem to have especially long wait times during busy periods! Did you know that you can avoid the long passport control line when coming back into the US after traveling internationally? Yes, it is possible and it is called Global Entry.
Global Entry is a program through the US Customs and Border Patrol agency that allows pre-approved travelers to skip lines when arriving back in the US. The program works! I’ve used it and I get to avoid the long waits. You have to be pre-approved and the approval process can be a little time consuming, but once approved clearing passport control is very easy.
The cost of the Global Entry program is $100 per person and membership is valid for a number of years. While $100 is a decent chunk of change to pay to avoid standing in lines, if you travel internationally frequently the Global Entry program can save you many hours. Luckily, some credit cards such as American Express Platinum and Centurion reimburse the cost of the Global Entry. I received my $100 reimbursement from American Express and the credit quickly posted to my account. Some frequent flyer programs also reimburse the cost of the Global Entry fee to certain tiered members such as United Airlines for Premier 1K and Premier Platinum members.
Before applying for Global Entry, you should check to see if you are eligible. The application process is made up of completing an online application and then completing an in person interview at one of the Global Entry approved airports. It took me a couple of hours to complete the online application. Trying to name every country I had been to in the last 10 years was not easy as it turns out I’ve been to a lot of countries!
The Customs and Border Patrol office does do a background check on applicants. The interview portion was pretty straightforward. During the in-person interview, the Customs and Border Patrol officer ask applicants different questions based on online application answers. I had to provide a copy of a portion of my tax return! It is a thorough process!!!
Now that I’m approved, when I re-enter the US, it is as easy as finding a Global Entry kiosk, swiping my passport, giving my fingerprint, and off I go. As with any security measures, it’s still very possible to be randomly screened, but it still saves time by skipping the long lines!
It was a little bit of a pain in completing the online application and in-person interview, but the time savings with multiple international flights makes it very worthwhile. The online application and in person interview does take a couple hours in total. If you plan on traveling internationally once every couple years, you might spend more time applying for the Global Entry program than you save in waiting in lines. The program is ideally suited for people who travel internationally frequently. I’d say if you travel internationally once a year and have an American Express Platinum card, go for it! It won’t cost anything as American Express will reimburse you and then you get to feel like a VIP when arriving back into the US.