Many people love to travel, but the thought of long lines at TSA security and U.S. Immigration and Customs can give anyone heartburn – does this describe you? Well, I have a great tip to simplify your life – and it’s called Global Entry. Considered by many to be the gold standard of Trusted Traveler programs, Global Entry provides expedited security screenings for international travelers entering the United States.
I enrolled myself in 2015 and couldn’t believe how simple and efficient the whole process was. Ever since then, I’ve been able to use the TSA Pre-Check lines at security which move so much more quickly. You don’t have to strip off belts, jackets, and shoes or remove your laptop and toiletry bag from your carry-on luggage, which saves tons of time. For international travel, I am eligible to bypass the long lines at Passport control upon my return to the U.S. and scan my face at a Global Entry kiosk (not a very flattering “selfie,” but hey, it works). When I get the “all clear,” the kiosk prints me a receipt, and I can show it to an immigration official as I pass through to claim my luggage and head home.
The application process is straightforward but not as fast as it used to be, so be patient. I filled out the online application and paid the $100 fee (which recently increased to $120), and your status is good for five years. Many high-level credit cards will even reimburse you for the fee. They sent me an email that said I was approved and invited to set up an appointment at the closest participating airport within a few days. It may take longer to get the appointment these days, but it’s worth the wait! Pro tip: your local airport might not have the soonest available appointment. One of my friends from Nashville ended up driving a couple of hours south to a smaller airport in Alabama and got hers in a few days.
On the day of the appointment, take your Passport, Driver’s License, and approval email to your 10-minute interview at the Global Entry office. They’ll ask a few questions about your past travels and fingerprint you, and then if all goes well, you are approved on the spot. They no longer issue a physical card but connect your Global Entry (or Known Traveler) number to your passport. Easy-Peasy! I have been using my “status” for several years now, and the perks have been fantastic! It’s so cool to breeze through Immigration, especially when you have a short connection (which happens more often than you think).
To become a member of the Global Entry elite, the link to get started is:http://www.globalentry.gov/howtoapply.html. And when you do get your Global Entry status, I’d love to help you plan that first adventure to try out your new perks.
There are several Trusted Traveler-type programs available for domestic passengers.
A quicker Trusted Traveler program is called Clear. Biometric identifiers such as your eyes, face, and fingerprints are used to positively I.D. you, and Clear is available at 50+ airports, stadiums, and other venues nationwide.
TSA PreCheck provides expedited security screening at many domestic airports. I’ve described the time-saving benefits above, alleviating time and hassle. If you don’t have Global Entry (and hence, automatic TSA PreCheck status), travelers must undergo a background screening and pay the $85 fee for five years of membership. But for a few bucks more, you can apply for Global Entry which would give you TSA PreCheck bundled together, so why not do that?
Here is a link to the trusted traveler programs: https://ttp.dhs.gov
One Final Travel Tip:
If you squirreled your passport away to your home safe during the pandemic, you might want to check the expiration date ASAP. Many countries require passport validity to be six months BEYOND your travel dates to guarantee entry. Wait times for passport renewal are very long and only getting longer, so check now if you have any travel planned before early 2022.
If you’re envisioning yourself laying on a Caribbean beach with an umbrella drink in hand this Spring Break and your passport expires before September 2021, guess what? You ain’t goin’ (to most places, anyway). And don’t let your passport’s expiration date derail your Italy summer vacation plans, either. Add six months to your return date and make sure your passport is still valid on that date. Don’t wait – DO.IT.NOW.
Regular renewals are currently taking over three months, and even expedited is now averaging about 6 – 8 weeks. Please don’t let an expired passport be the reason you can’t go on a badly needed trip.
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