Tired of stripping down in public, taking liquids and electronics out of your bag, waiting in long security lines, and not to mention getting frisked by complete strangers when the machine goes off for no apparent reason? Have you waited for hours in a custom line while trying to re-enter the US? As a digital nomad I certainly have, and if you’re like me and this gives you a serious case of the grumps, then it’s time you apply for a TSA Pre✓® or Global Entry membership. Keep reading to find out how each program works, how to apply, which program is right for you, and how to get your application fee reimbursed.
TSA Pre✓® is a trusted traveler program that allows pre-approved low-risk travelers to move through airport security lines quicker and easier by not having to remove shoes, laptops, liquids, belts or light jackets. Furthermore, you won’t have to go through the body scan but just walk through an old school metal detector! While these features are great, TSA Pre✓® is best for people like business travelers who fly frequently only within the U.S. If you plan to travel internationally, then spend the extra $15 to upgrade to Global Entry which comes with TSA Pre✓® and will also get you through customs easier. All things considered, TSA Pre✓® is a great program for domestic travelers and as of October 25, 2017, two hundred airports and 42 airlines are now participating in the program.
Note – Think twice before spending $85 for the 5 year membership. If you don’t travel much and the airport security lines are not long at your airport you may want to forgo paying for TSA Pre✓®. I’ve been in airports where the TSA Pre✓® line is actually longer than the normal line!
How to Get TSA Pre✓®
1) Apply Online – You are eligible to apply if you are a U.S. Citizen or a U.S. Lawful Permanent Resident. Submit an online application in 5 minutes & schedule an appointment at any of the 380+ enrollment centers. The application fee is $85 and covers you for 5 years.
2) Background Check – A 10 minute, in person appointment that includes a background check and fingerprinting.
3) Enjoy TSA Pre✓® – Add your Known Traveler Number to your ticket or airline account when booking travel. TSA Pre✓® will then automatically print on your boarding passes.
Think of Global Entry as an upgrade to TSA Pre✓®. It is a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) program that allows expedited clearance for eligible, pre-approved, low-risk travelers upon arrival in the United States. In other words, instead of waiting in long customs lines, members enter the United States through automatic kiosks at select airports. They present their machine-readable passport or U.S. permanent resident card, place their fingerprints on the scanner for fingerprint verification, and complete a customs declaration. Additionally, the kiosk issues the traveler a transaction receipt and directs the traveler to baggage claim and the exit.
The best thing about Global Entry is that it includes TSA Pre✓®. This means that for $100, just $15 more than TSA Pre✓®, you get all the benefits of TSA Pre✓® PLUS you won’t have to wait in long customs and border protection lines when re-entering the country. This will cut down on hours of wait times! Before I got Global Entry I traveled over 20 hours and then sat in a customs line for over three hours when re-entering the US. If you plan to travel internationally even once during the year, then apply for Global Entry instead of TSA Pre✓®.
How to Get Global Entry
2) Apply Online – Log in to your GOES account and complete the application. A $100 non-refundable fee is required with each completed application (this fee gives you a five year membership.) The application process should not take more than 15 minutes.
3) Schedule Appointment – After accepting your completed application and fee, CBP will review your application. If your application is conditionally approved (takes about two weeks), then your GOES account will instruct you to schedule an interview at a Global Entry Enrollment Center. Presently, each applicant must schedule a separate interview. That being said, if you already are conditionally approved and planning to travel internationally before your scheduled interview, check out the section below on Global Entry Enrollment on Arrival.
Note – When we went to schedule our appointments (Summer 2017) the wait time was up to a year in some locations. However, Chicago had openings within weeks of our conditional approval. If you decide to fly into Chicago for your interview you can find free parking below the post office across the street from the US Custom House building where interviews are conducted. US Custom House Address: 610 S. Canal Street, Chicago, IL 60607. US Postal Service Address: 433 W Harrison St., Fl Lbby, Chicago, IL 60699.
4) Interview & Background Check – The ten minute in person interview includes a background check and fingerprinting. You will need to bring your valid passport(s) and one other form of identification, such as a driver’s license or ID card to the interview. If you are a lawful permanent resident, you must present your machine readable permanent resident card.
5) Enjoy the Benefits – You’ll receive your Global Entry Card in the mail within 7-10 business days after your Global Entry approval. Don’t forget to add your Known Traveler Number to your ticket or airline account to start enjoying much easier travel!
Global Entry Enrollment on Arrival
The Global Entry Enrollment on Arrival program eliminates the need to schedule an interview at an enrollment center to complete the application process. If you’re already conditionally approved and planning to travel internationally, just stop by—without an appointment—and complete your interview upon arrival into the U.S. at any of the following 16 airports. Don’t worry if you already have an interview scheduled at another location. You can still use Enrollment on Arrival. After completing your interview at the airport, they’ll just cancel your future appointment.
- Austin (AUS)
- Dallas – Fort Worth (DFW)
- Denver (DEN)
- Detroit (DTW)
- Houston (IAH and HOU)
- Minneapolis – St. Paul (MSP)
- San Jose (SJC)
- Philadelphia (PHL)
- Phoenix (PHX)
- Salt Lake City (SLC)
- San Diego (SAN)
- San Francisco (SFO)
- Seattle (SEA)
- Toronto (YYZ)
- Vancouver (YVR)
Note: You are able to do Enrollment on Arrival at Toronto and Vancouver because you pre-clear US Customs and Immigration before departing to the US.
When you arrive at the airport to clear customs, look for the signs directing you to Global Entry Enrollment on Arrival. You won’t need any additional documents other than your passport. A Customs and Border Protection officer will complete the usual primary processing for arriving into the US and will also do the Global Entry interview, photographs, and fingerprints.
Applying for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®? Use the Right Credit Card!
After you apply, the following credit cards will reimburse the application fees for Global Entry ($100) and TSA Pre✓® ($85). Depending on the card, you can get a fee credit every 4 or 5 years. And if you’ve already got Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®, you can use the credit for a friend or family member’s application instead!
- The Platinum Card® from American Express
- The Business Platinum® Card from American Express OPEN
- The Platinum Card® from American Express Exclusively for Mercedes-Benz
- Chase Sapphire Reserve
- Ritz-Carlton Rewards® Credit Card
- Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®
- Citi Prestige® Card
- US Bank Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite® Card
Enjoy Global Entry and TSA Pre✓®
Once you get your TSA Pre✓® or Global Entry membership you’ll wonder why you ever waited so long to get it! Traveling is stressful enough without the inconvenience of security checkpoints and long wait times. Apply today and start breezing past lines of shoeless travelers!
Have more questions about TSA Pre✓®? Visit US Department of Homeland Security. Questions on Global Entry? Visit US Customs and Border Protection. Compare the different trusted traveler programs here: US Department of Homeland Security.