Have you ever been stuck in a full maze at security and wished you could skip the line? Or maybe you’ve missed a connection because it took too long to get through customs. Global Entry is the solution to these travel woes, but the process can be intimidating for some and perceived as futile by others. Here’s what you need to know before you start the process:

The Global Entry program allows pre-approved, low-risk travelers expedited entry into the U.S. through automatic kiosks. No need to fill out blue customs forms on the plane or wait in line after a long international flight. Additionally, Global Entry members are eligible for TSA PreCheck, which expedites traveler screening through security checkpoints on domestic flights. No need to remove shoes, laptops, liquids, belts or jackets. Ultimately, Global Entry will minimize the amount of time you spend standing in line or stressing about time on both domestic and international vacations.
Pro Tip: You can apply for TSA PreCheck on its own, but at the cost of $85 per traveler, you might as well spend $100 for Global Entry.

In order to apply for Global Entry, you must be a U.S. citizens or lawful permanent resident. You also cannot have been convicted of any criminal offense or been found in violation of any customs or immigration laws. (See full eligibility requirements here.) Once you’ve deemed yourself as eligible, the application process is easy:
1. Create a Global Online Enrollment System (GOES) account.
2. Log in to your GOES account and complete the application. The application includes a series of straightforward questions, including your employment history and a list of every country you’ve visited in the last five years.
3. Pay the $100 non-refundable fee.
4. Schedule an interview at a Global Entry Enrollment Center. Be sure to bring a valid passport or permanent resident card, and one other form on identification (such as a drivers license).
5. Complete your 15-minute interview. Most international airports have a Global Entry office, so for convenience you could schedule the interview during a long layover or get to the airport early before your next vacation. Be sure to leave yourself enough time, however, as the appointments often run behind schedule.

If you are approved for Global Entry, you will receive a physical card in the mail roughly two weeks later. This card is not actually required while flying, but you will need your Known Traveler Number (found on the back of the card in the upper left-hand corner). To take advantage of TSA PreCheck, you will need to enter your Known Traveler Number when making airline reservations so that your boarding pass is marked appropriately. To take advantage of Global Entry, head directly toward signs for Global Entry kiosks upon landing in the U.S. after an international flight. At the kiosk, you will scan your passport, answer the customs questions, take your photo, and scan your fingerprints. You will receive a receipt that you hand to the customs agent on your way out. It is important to know that travel companions (even children or your spouse) cannot come through the Global Entry kiosk with you.
Pro Tip: Add your Known Traveler Number to your frequent flyer profile to make it easier for future reservations.
Sample boarding pass for Global Entry Members