Are you tired of long TSA security lines, and sick of being told to remove, well, basically everything before going through security at the airport? I'm not! I haven't had to deal with that in well over a year. Global Entry has truly made flying much more (dare I say it?) enjoyable.
Traveling can be stressful. Long gone are the days when passengers would dress to fly, and treated it as a privilege. Airlines no longer compete over amenities and service. For the majority of travelers, flying means being crammed in like a sardine next to a complete (and hopefully not too large, stinky, chatty or weird) stranger. All of these inconveniences really add up, so why not alleviate some of that stress? Global Entry has the power to do just that.
What Global Entry can do for you:
With Global Entry you will enjoy the benefits of TSA Pre-Check lanes, where available. You will also enjoy a smoother trip through customs. You can become a member (once you qualify) for only $100 for 5 years. That is the equivalent of only $20/year to no longer be subjected to the tortures of TSA lines and you will skip lines at customs when re-entering the United States. Per year, thats less expensive than a single martini in NYC. Global Entry may be the best $100 that I have ever spent.
What is TSA Pre-Check?
TSA Pre-Check (which comes as apart of Global Entry) is an expedited screening process. First, you can say 'bye bye bye' to those newfangled body scanning machines that allegedly have enough radiation cause cancer (or not). Going through security with TSA Pre-check is much like flying before September 11th. The only difference is this time you will have a little bit of Rockstar/VIP status as you wiz past the rest of the airport population who are queued up waiting for their turn to be subjected to the grouchy TSA agents (Hey, I'd be grumpy too if I had to deal with some of the people they deal with on a daily basis, so I do get it). You will not have to endure regular security, instead you will enter the specified TSA Pre-Check lane. This is usually a much shorter & faster lane. As you walk by you will think to yourself "Who are those people who actually stand in line for security?". Try to not let it go to your head, rockstar. When you get up to security, you can simply put your bags down on conveyer belt and walk through a metal detector. You will not have to remove your laptop or separate liquids (although they still must be 4oz or less), you can keep your shoes and belt on as well as your jacket.
The added benefits of Global Entry over TSA Pre-Check:
Some frequent fliers with an elite status on certain airlines are fortunate enough that their airline already has enrolled them into TSA Pre-Check. If you are one of the lucky few, thats great- but you still may want to consider the Global Entry program. Global Entry extends beyond the benefits of using TSA Pre-Check. Global Entry will allow you to actually skip all customs lines when arriving back into the United States. You simply input your information onto a Global Entry computer kiosk, and then skip the line. It's so simple, and will save you a ton of time and hassle. This is especially great when you need to catch a connecting flight shortly after landing in the states. You will have a special sticker in your passport and your fingerprints in the Global Entry system. This means you don't need to carry that extra Global Entry card with you. It serves as an additional government issued ID and can be kept at home, or in a different bag as a secondary form of identification.
Other times that I have found Global Entry very useful to have is while crossing at land borders. I live in Southern California, and I often go with a group of volunteers to help out at an orphanage near Tijuana. By having a Global Entry card, I have access to the Sentri lane and pass by everyone. Sometimes the wait to get back into the states is several hours for people without this card. Being that I'm with a group I still need to wait for everyone else, but that means I have extra time to explore. I have time that others don't to venture to the churro and taco stands on the Mexican side of the boarder. When I'm done stuffing my face with very delicious (and well deserved) churros, I just cross the border early. It is so much less stressful.
How to get Global Entry:
First you need to apply. The process is quite simple so long as you don't have any misdemeanors or felonies (If you do, I have heard you will be rejected right away). Just fill out an electronic application and then wait to receive your response regarding if you will move on to the next step. The next step is a meeting with United States Customs and Border Protection. The meeting is quite simple. You will be asked a series of questions (small interrogation) and be fingerprinted. Your enrollment into the Global Entry program will be official soon after, and then your Global Entry card will arrive. On this card will be a 'Known Traveler Number' that you give to the airline upon purchase of your ticket. Entering this number will ensure the pre-screen that will give you "TSA Pre-Check" on your boarding pass. $100 for 5 years, I'd say it's the best bargain around.
Trusted Travel Girl Bonus Tip: The wait for your face-to-face interview with Customs & Border Protection can take months when you schedule online. You must schedule within 30 days of receiving your letter. After you make your appointment online, be sure to call up the office you want to visit for your interview on a Monday and schedule for the following week. They usually have the ability to make room for you. Another option is to go without an appointment if you live nearby, and just wait until they have time to fit you in. I found success with both of these options (at Charlotte-Douglas Int'l) and the officers that scheduled me were extremely accommodating.