Essential Knowledge: Global Entry and TSA PreCheck
Posted October 15, 2021
We’ve written before about Global Entry and Mobile Passport, but felt it was important to gather all the information in one place. Below you’ll find everything you need to know about Global Entry, TSA PreCheck, and Mobile Passport. Say goodbye to long airport lines.
Before diving into the minutiae, here is a brief overview of Global Entry and TSA PreCheck.
What is Global Entry?
Your ticket to a short wait at Customs. Global Entry is a program from U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) that allows “trusted travelers” to skip those long Customs lines upon return to the United States. These travelers can use specially designed automated kiosks instead of talking to a Customs agent. Crucially, Global Entry users also receive TSA PreCheck. Global Entry status costs $100 and is good for five years before needing renewal.
What is TSA PreCheck?
A program that will make you the envy of your fellow travelers. The Transportation Security Administration’s PreCheck program allows travelers to move through airport security faster. PreCheck members get access to a special express security line and do not need to remove their shoes, jackets, laptops, liquids, belts, or electronics for screening. This program costs $85 (or $70 to renew) and is also good for five years. Note that TSA occasionally randomly selects travelers to undergo the regular screening, despite PreCheck status.
How do these programs differ?
Global Entry deals with international arrivals to the United States—it’s a way to navigate Customs more easily. Users of Global Entry also are afforded TSA PreCheck status. TSA PreCheck allows travelers to get into the Departures area of the airport easier—cutting down wait times and the irritations often associated with going through Security. For frequent international travelers, Global Entry is the way to go. For mainly domestic travelers, TSA PreCheck may be all you need.
Sorting out who qualifies to use these two programs.
Who is eligible to participate in Global Entry?
All United States citizens and lawful permanent residents of the United States are eligible. In addition, citizens of the following countries are eligible: Canada, (through NEXUS membership), Colombia, Germany, Mexico, Panama, Singapore, South Korea, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.
Who is eligible to participate in TSA PreCheck?
Only U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents may apply for TSA PreCheck.
Using the Programs
Let’s take a look at how these programs actually work.
How do I apply for Global Entry?
You can apply by visiting the Global Entry application page on the CBP’s website. First, create an online account in the Global Online Enrollment System (GOES). Then, complete the online application and submit it, along with your $100 fee. Each traveler must have their own account and submit a separate application and payment. Once your application is conditionally approved, you will be notified that you have 30 days to schedule an in-person interview, where you must bring your passport and a separate form of government-issued ID.
Also, if your application has been conditionally approved, you can use the CBP’s Enrollment on Arrival feature, where you can complete your Global Entry interview upon return from an international trip.
How long is the wait time?
Wait time depends on demand, but generally speaking, you should receive an email on your status within a week of submitting your application. Later, after your interview, your Global Entry card should be mailed to you within a few weeks.
Due to the pandemic, wait times for new applications are longer than normal. New applicants for Global Entry have two years to complete their interview from the date that their application was conditionally approved. While estimating an exact wait time between your conditional approval and your interview, we recommend checking several nearby Global Entry Open Enrollment Centers often, as last-minute interview spots can open up when people cancel their appointments.
How do I use Global Entry once I have it?
After landing back in the United States from an international destination, follow signs for the Global Entry kiosks. Here you will scan your passport, fill out an electronic version of the typical “blue sheet” Customs form, and have your photograph and fingerprints taken to ensure they match those taken at your interview. The kiosk then prints a receipt that you hand to the Customs agent as you leave.
How do I apply for TSA PreCheck?
Similarly to Global Entry, you can apply for TSA PreCheck online here. After submitting your application and $85 fee, you can schedule an in-person interview at an enrollment center, where you will be subject to a background check and fingerprinting process similar to that of Global Entry.
How long is the wait time?
Wait time depends on demand, but TSA PreCheck does not take as long as Global Entry, because you don’t have to wait to be approved before scheduling an in-person interview. As with Global Entry, interview slots can be hard to come by, so you may be looking at a wait of four weeks or more between your application’s approval and your interview. After your in-person interview, you will receive a Known Traveler Number within a few weeks.
How do I use TSA PreCheck once I have it?
Using TSA PreCheck actually begins when booking your flight. Enter your Known Traveler Number when prompted during the booking process, and you will be cleared for TSA PreCheck. Your boarding pass will display a code (“TSAPRE” or similar), and you can feel free to follow the marked lanes through airport security. Note that each separate traveler needs to go through this process and create a Known Traveler Number to take advantage of the program.
Global Entry and TSA PreCheck Renewal
How do I Renew Global Entry?
To renew Global Entry, follow the steps at the CBP’s FAQ page (“How do I renew my Global Entry membership?”) or view the instructions below.
The wait time to renew Global Entry could be anywhere from a few weeks to several months, so it is imperative to renew early.
The Global Entry grace period has been extended to two years – meaning that if you applied for renewal before your Global Entry membership was up, your membership will be valid for two years after its expiration date, or until your renewal processes.
Renewing members may also be able to schedule virtual renewal interviews, rather than in-person meetings.
How do I Renew TSA PreCheck?
Renewing TSA PreCheck is easier – simply visit the TSA PreCheck Renewal site, provide your Known Traveler Number, date of birth, and last name, and follow the on-screen prompts.
You cannot renew your TSA PreCheck membership any earlier than six months before its expiration date.
Also, PreCheck renewal is taking longer these days as well, so we recommend applying for renewal as soon as possible to ensure you are covered.
We’ve been hearing a lot of buzz over the Mobile Passport application. Here’s the scoop.
What is Mobile Passport?
Mobile Passport is a free software application developed by the CBP that allows you to fill out and submit the blue Customs form on your smartphone or tablet. You can download the app through the Apple App Store or Google Play Store, and complete the form while still abroad (or in flight – it works in airplane mode). Once you land, click the “Submit Now” button in the app, and you’ll receive a QR code within the app. Find the Mobile Passport line before going through Customs (Hint: it may be hard to find because of how few people are in it), scan your code, and hand your passport to the Mobile Passport agent. After the usual few questions (trip purpose, etc.), you’ll be given an exit card to hand to the agent at the Customs exit. Repeat this process at Customs, and you’re all set.
A few notes. First, Mobile Passport is not a substitute for Customs like Global Entry, it simply grants you access to a dedicated line at Customs. If you have Global Entry, Mobile Passport may be unnecessary, but if the line for Global Entry kiosks is long, the Mobile Passport line may be a quicker alternative. Secondly, the app allows each traveler to make their own profile and complete their own form, so you only need one phone or tablet to complete the app if you’re traveling as a couple.
Differences between Mobile Passport and Global Entry?
First of all, Mobile Passport is only offered at 24 airports, although more are coming online all the time. Click here to see which airports participate in Mobile Passport. Secondly, Mobile Passport is free, compared to Global Entry’s $100 fee (though Global Entry also comes with TSA PreCheck included, an $85 value). Also, Global Entry participants can skip the pre-screening phase of Customs and go through without talking to an agent, while Mobile Passport users still need to go through Customs as usual, just using a mobile app rather than a paper form. Finally, Mobile Passport is only available to U.S. and Canadian citizens.