A Beginner’s Guide to Global Entry

By Amanda Wowk

January 19, 2022

When you wake up bleary-eyed from a long-haul, international flight, the last thing you want to see is an hours-long line at the customs and border protection checkpoint. Fortunately, for many U.S. travelers (and qualifying international travelers, too), Global Entry can help speed up the time it takes to re-enter the U.S. from abroad.

Planning your first international trip? Thinking about signing up, but not sure where to get started? Already a member, but need to renew? Here’s what travelers need to know about Global Entry, including how the program works, its benefits, and what you need to do to (re)apply. 

What is Global Entry? 

Global Entry is one of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Trusted Traveler Programs. It allows pre-approved travelers expedited entry into the U.S. from international destinations. 

U.S. citizens, U.S. lawful permanent residents, and select foreign nationals are eligible to apply for membership. Once accepted into the program, your membership is active for five years. 

How do I sign up for Global Entry? 

Signing up for Global Entry involves a two-step process: 

  1. Completing an online application. A step-by-step overview of the application process can be found on the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) website
  2. Upon conditional approval of your application, successfully completing a background check, plus an in-person interview at an Enrollment Center or upon arrival to the U.S. at an Enrollment on Arrival (EoA) location. Note that you need to bring a valid passport with you to complete your enrollment. 

Membership costs $100 and is due when you submit your application. Some travel rewards credit cards issue a statement credit if you charge the $100 application fee to your card.

What are the benefits of Global Entry membership? 

As a member, you can head straight to the Global Entry kiosks upon landing in the U.S. There, you scan your fingerprints and passport, and complete a digital customs declaration. 

Once your declaration form and passport are reviewed by a CBP officer or via eGates using facial comparison technologies, you can head to baggage claim or the exit—no waiting in line needed. And while customs and border protection wait times can vary greatly depending on your arrival airport, arrival time, and other factors, Global Entry membership removes the uncertainty of how long you’ll wait, and replaces it with the confidence that you’ll be through the checkpoint in just minutes. 

Global Entry kiosks are available at more than 75 airports when returning to the U.S. from abroad. This includes both U.S. and international airports. 

Global Entry membership also includes membership to TSA PreCheck®—a trusted traveler program administered by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Transportation Security Administration (TSA) that allows you to quickly move through airport security. Once you’ve been approved as a low-risk traveler, you gain access to an expedited security line where you don’t have to remove or separately scan your laptop, liquids, shoes, or jackets. 

Read more: TSA PreCheck, CLEAR, or Both? A Guide to Help You Decide

Can I renew my Global Entry membership? 

In short, yes. Like your initial application, an application for renewal can be completed online. Interviews may or may not be required for renewal, so keep an eye out for any next steps after you’ve submitted your renewal paperwork. All pertinent information regarding your membership is accessible via your online Trusted Traveler Program account.

You become eligible to renew your membership one year prior to program expiration. If you submit a renewal application before your membership expires, you will be able to continue to use your Global Entry benefits up to 24 months after your membership expiration date, if your renewal does not get processed in time.

Cost of renewal is also $100.