Global Entry: Yet Another Advantage to Having Never Been Arrested
Leah Walker October 17, 2012

My blood boiled as I waited in line for what seemed like an hour to reenter the United States from Spain. I chastised myself and muttered cuss words under my breath for forgetting to register for Global Entry. It was on my to-do list since August, but was ignored for more important things. As I stood behind the yellow line watching the agent fiddle with her broken computer, I vowed to get my Global Entry taken care of before my next international trip. I would wait in line no more.

IAH Airport

What is Global Entry?

According to the Global Entry Website, “Global Entry is a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) program that allows expedited clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travelers upon arrival in the United States. Though intended for frequent international travelers, there is no minimum number of trips necessary to qualify for the program. Participants may enter the United States by using automated kiosks located at select airports.”

A few weeks after being home from Spain, I scheduled about 15 minutes to fill out the Global Entry application. Much like a college application, it took longer than expected. I didn’t have to give a urine specimen, but I feel that the process stopped just short of that. Filling out the questionnaire is certainly faster if you’ve been in the same job and the same home for the last five years.

Whatever.

The time spent on the form was less than I will spend standing in line to get through customs. Once my information was completed to the satisfaction of the computer system, I entered my credit card information. The $100 non-refundable fee would be well worth it in my mind.

Train

Who Qualifies?

Before applying and handing over your $100, you might want to make sure you even qualify for the program. Being a model citizen, I had no doubt that I would. But for some of you delinquents and renegades, here’s what will get you rejected:

  • You must have never been convicted of a criminal offense in any country. So that time you tried {and failed} to smuggle Valium across the Mexican border in college? Yeah…don’t bother applying.
  • You must have never violated customs, immigration, or agriculture laws. Remember when you tried to bring back that leg of Iberian ham from Spain? Ha!…don’t even think about it.
  • You mustn’t give false information on your application. This isn’t like lying on a job application, people. This is the government. It’s not a matter of if they’ll find out. It’s a matter of when they’ll find out.
  • You mustn’t be under investigation by and federal, state or local law enforcement agency. Do you have a white kidnapper’s van that never seems to move parked across the street from your house?  Skip the application. You’ll want to keep that $100 to put towards lawyer fees.

Office

Now I Wait

After pressing “submit” on my application, I was instructed to check back periodically for a response to my application. There would be no confirmation email saying, “Thanks for applying for Global Entry. You’re currently under review.” I also wasn’t going to get an approval email saying, “Congratulations! You’ve been approved and will proceed to the next step of Global Entry freedom.” Nope. It was entirely my responsibility to follow up on the process.

I gave it a little over a week before I attempted to log into my account. I say “attempted” because I had to use some sort of crazy password and couldn’t remember the damn thing. After successfully resetting it, I discovered that my application, indeed, was approved. Yeah, like there was ever any doubt.

Fortunately, there is a Global Entry office in Houston’s Bush Airport and it is open seven days a week. I selected a Saturday afternoon time and printed out my invitation letter. I could already feel the burning looks of envy as I cool-breeze past all the suckers in line at customs.

Machine

The Interview

After a thirty-minute drive and a trek across the colossal airport, I found myself at the arrivals gate of Terminal E. Tucked back into the corner was the Global Entry office. With passport, driver’s license, and my invitation letter in hand, I opened the heavy, glass door and marched myself down the sterile hallway until I found the office marked Global Entry. There were two officers interviewing other hopeful candidates and the Texas Tech/West Virgina football game was on TV. Score!

Shortly, Officer Romo approached me. He was all business.

“Do you have an appointment?” he asked.

“Yes”

“What time?”

“4:30,” I answered.

“You’re early. It’s 4:26.”

He cracked a smile and asked for my passport and driver’s license. I was then escorted to a small room to watch a six-minute film on my responsibility in the Trusted Traveler Network. Of course I paid attention; I had no idea if there would be a quiz to follow {there wasn’t}. Once the video was over, I took my place at Officer Romo’s desk. I made myself comfortable in the standard office chair. My legs were crossed and my arms folded neatly in my lap.

“I like the way you sit,” Officer Romo quipped.

I laughed. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“You sit confidently. Most people are stiff and nervous looking.”

Again I chuckled. “Well, I don’t have anything to be nervous about, do I?”

Officer Romo got a kick out of that and grinned from ear to ear, which quickly turned into a sneer. Starting the line of questioning, he wanted to know why I traveled internationally. I was then quizzed about what I did for my company. He remarked on the visas and stamps in my passport as he flipped through the pages. Satisfied with my answers, Officer Romo then sternly looked at me and asked,

“Have you, at any time, ever been arrested?”

“No”

“Even as a minor? No Drunk and Disorderly? No Minor in Possession? No shoplifting? Are you sure you’ve never had anything expunged from your record?”

“Nope. Sure haven’t.”

I was waiting for a spotlight to shine into my eyes or the waterboarding to commence. I wondered if he did this with everyone or if he simply thought I was some sort of super-secret spy trying to get over on the US Government. I imagine it was the former, but it was exciting to think the latter.

Convinced that I was Global Entry-worthy, Officer Romo scanned my fingerprints. I was approved! My five-year membership was valid, and I could start using it as early as the next day. He told me that they’d mail me a Global Entry card for use at land crossings from Canada and Mexico. I should receive it in a couple of weeks.

Beyond pleased at the speedy and painless process, I gathered my documents and waltzed out of the drab office. For 100 bucks and about two hours of my time, I was never going to have to wait in the customs line at IAH again. Instead, I’ll saunter up to the Global Entry kiosk and scan my passport. Boom!

Oh, and Houston isn’t the only place with Global Entry. Although Bush is my home airport, I don’t always enter the country directly into Houston. Often I’ll come into Newark or Washington DC. Guess what? I’m not standing in line in those places either because they have Global Entry, too. Apparently new airports are being added, but here is the current list:

Global Entry Airports

  • Atlanta {ATL}
  • Boston {BOS}
  • Chicago {ORD}
  • Dallas/Ft. Worth {DFW}
  • Detroit {DTW}
  • Ft. Lauderdale/Hollywood {FLL}
  • Houston {IAH}
  • Honolulu {HNL}
  • Las Vegas {LAS}
  • Los Angeles {LAX}
  • Miami {MIA}
  • Newark {EWR}
  • New York {JFK}
  • Orlando {MCO and SFB}
  • Philadelphia {PHL}
  • San Francisco {SFO}
  • San Juan {SJU}
  • Seattle {SEA}
  • Washington {IAD}

Passport

I’ll get a chance in December to take this Global Entry for a spin when I return from my Go with Oh European tour in December. I’ll be flying in from Paris and landing at Washington Dulles. With a relatively short connection time to Houston, this Global Entry should speed things along. I can only hope that I’ll never stand in line while muttering cuss words under my breath again…at least in a customs line.

Update: Global Entry is a gift from the travel gods. If you’re an American and travel internationally even a few times a year, it’s totally worth the hassle and money. I’ve bypassed lines to recheck my bags upon entry into the USA and exiting the airport after collecting my luggage. Plus, in Toronto, I bypassed Canadian customs by using the Global Entry kiosk. 

Leah Walker

Leah has a marketing management company specializing in strategy, content creation and implementation for luxury brands and destinations. She's also a luxury travel and food writer who has as many stories as she does shoes. Leah documents her experiences whether that's in the lap of luxury or riding through a swamp in an airboat. She sometimes freelances and has contributor/editor roles with The Daily Meal, USA Today 10 Best, Bonjour Paris, France Today, Luxe Beat Magazine, Four Seasons Magazine, Forbes Travel Guide, and is a travel and wine ambassador for Atout France USA. Leah's lived in Paris for four years, and was awarded additional time with a Passeport Talent visa renewal. Though, her talent for speaking French is abysmal.

43 Comments

  1. I told you you needed to get it!!! My interview experience was nothing like your Sharon Stone scene w Officer Romo – lol. Seriously, I didnt get asked THAT many probing questions. He must have sensed you’ve hanged out with Lola or something. Enjoy hassle-less returns home!!!!

    1. I know, Raul. I give you credit for that. Sharon Stone scene is right, except I was wearing pants…and underwear. I’m sure he thought I ran around with some questionable characters…you included. 😉

  2. I didn’t even know this existed! Awesome. When I was coming home a few weeks ago my first flight was delayed so the airline staff gave us these orange pieces of paper that we could show to skip ahead in customs and security so that we wouldn’t miss our connecting flights. Is it wrong that I got so much satisfaction out of everyone glaring at me as I ran past?

    1. It’s pretty new, Jackie. And, yes, it is TOTALLY awesome. I can’t wait to try it out for myself. I think it’s perfectly fine to gain satisfaction from the jealousy felt by jumping the line. Of course, I think the same way. 🙂

  3. I have seen the entrance thingies (kiosks??) and they brought tears to my eyes. I love going to the US (and I am fortunate enough to go more than a couple of times per year) but I hate landing, which is pretty silly as I should be excited. Sadly, queues are always there and there needs to be an alternative. I think this programme is worth it – is it for US citizens only?

    1. What do you mean you’re not going abroad in the next year? How do you know, DJ. What if I invite you on an all-expenses paid trip to Romania?

  4. NEVER knew about this. its entirely possible that we won’t qualify (model citizens we are not), but definitely worth looking in to.

  5. Thanks for making this seem doable and giving me the scoop on which airports are covered. (I live in Boston.) I was also at TBEX in Spain and because of a delay in Customs I missed my connecting flight from Philadelphia to Boston. At that time I vowed to become part of this program! I hope they don’t discriminate against the unemployed! Have fun with Lola on your trip – I’m so jealous!

    1. You’re welcome, Kay. Too bad you had to get burned before you could get it done. I’m really concerned about a connection in DC coming back from both Paris and Geneva, so I’m hoping it will speed things along. I doubt they will discriminate. There are lots of people who are unemployed, both voluntary and non-voluntary. 🙂

      1. I applied yesterday. I only listed one times as “unemployed” because I do some marketing consulting so now I’m officially “self-employed” but I’ve had such a non-transient, crime free life that I don’t anticipate any problems. I’m glad they didn’t ask about parking tickets or number of sexual partners! I’ll start thinking about what to wear to my interview now. I hope you and Lola/Lauren have a wonderful time on your upcoming trip – can’t wait to read about it!

        1. I was looking for that number of sexual partners question as well, Kay. I’m glad you got it started, and I seriously doubt you’ll have a problem. I’m sure Lola and I will have plenty of tomfoolery for you to laugh about. Hopefully we’ll get some valuable information out there as well. 🙂

  6. I should probably do this when I start going international. Except that I’ve lived in probably 7 apartments over the last 5 years. My nomadic lifestyle might make this process a bit more challenging.

    1. Yeah, Scott, that will be a slight pain in the ass to do, but I in the long run, I think worth it. When you start using that passport more I’d say get it!

  7. Thanks so much for an inside look into this process. Been interested in registering for Global Entry for a while now, but was too lazy to look into it myself. I also looked longingly at the Global Entry area while waiting in line after my flight from Egypt where a million, not exaggerating, babies were crying for the last hour of the plane ride, and on line for customs. Torture. I don’t know when my next international trip is, but I do think I may have to seriously consider looking into this.

    1. One crying baby would prompt me to immediately sign up for Global Entry. Come on, girl, get on the stick or you get what you deserve!

  8. i abhor these kinds of applications, so often put off things that will in the end be far more helpful to me. like the stupid toll tag thingy for going through the gabillion tolls in MA, CT, NY etc.

    what’s even worse about my reluctance is that with my platinum AMEX card they actually reimburse you 100% for applying for global entry. i know, i know. WTF is wrong with me?!

    1. Lola DiMarco…you should be ashamed of yourself. I forked over the dough and did it. Take the time and get it done. You can even schedule the meeting before a flight so you don’t have to make a separate trip to Logan.

    1. Unfortunately it’s only good for US citizens, but I can see the EU doing something like this soon. It just makes sense.

      1. It is not only for US citizens. Mexican, Canadian and I think nederlanders can apply for it. I’m a mexican national and got it last december. I traveled to Japan a couple of weeks ago via the US and had no problem getting out but when I came back in the officer at customs stopped me and why I had GE with a mexican passport, I explained that I was a program participant and he didnt believe me so he sent me to a secondary screening (this was after passing through immigration and got my receipt stamped and everything.

        1. Excellent! I think they’re about to open it up to UK citizens, too. It sounds like I’m not the only one who didn’t know Mexicans could apply for Global Entry. Perhaps TSA should resend that email to its officers. 😉

  9. Probably would get that if I visited US more often, last time I visited I had a half an hour interview before they allowed me into the country… 🙂

    1. Oh, Jarmo, it’s only for US citizens coming back into the USA. I’m really surprised that Europe doesn’t already have something similar in place.

  10. Congrats on being a low-risk traveler! Good thing they didn’t summon Raul to the interview to talk about your Charlie’s Angels/Chicago Mob Tour antics. 😉

  11. Leah,

    This is a terrific article. Even though Phoenix is not on the list yet, I think I’ll go for it anyway, as entering the U.S. always screws with connections. It would be well worth $100 to avoid that and go through the grilling and long application.

  12. Canadians get to use an automated kiosk in Vancouver upon re-entry just for being a citizen … so awesome not having to wait in line anymore!

  13. Hi,
    I’m an American citizen, living in Paris, France for the past twelve years. I have only recently been conditionally approved
    for the Global Entry Program. They reminded me that I must schedule an interview withgin 30 days, or my application will be terminated. My questuiion is the following: As far as I know, there are no Interview Centers outside the continental United States. I don’t want to lose this excellent opportunity to avoid all those long immiugration lines.
    So, what do I do?

    1. Yikes! Well, is there a contact email or phone number? Maybe they can suspend your application. I’m not sure!

  14. Question?
    Once in the USA and you connect with a home bound flight, can you use the GE pass to bypass the long security check lines, too?

    1. The answer to that is that it depends on the airport. For instance, once you go through customs, collect your bags, and recheck your bags, some airports will have a special Global Entry line. Washington Dulles has one, but you’d need to check with the individual airports to be certain.

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