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Global Entry is a great program that allows US passport holders to clear customs back IN to the United States without having to wait in passport control lines. There are also benefits for crossing the US border by land or sea but I personally have not
How to get Global Entry for free
The best way to get Global Entry for free is to sign up for one of the “premium” cards like Chase Sapphire Reserve, Citi Prestige, etc. These cards all have annual fees in the $450-$550 range but do come with a credit for Global Entry. I do recognize that paying a $450 annual fee does not exactly make Global Entry “free” but I know many folks (myself included) are already getting these cards for their other benefits.
If you’re not a frequent global traveler, another benefit is that Global Entry does come with TSA Pre, which gives benefits like shorter security times even at domestic airports
How to get a Global Entry interview
One of the trickiest parts to getting Global Entry is actually getting the interview. They’re good at the making you fill out the form and charging you the $100, but not so good at actually having open interview times at the enrollment centers 🙂
A redditor shared this script which has gotten good reviews. I’ve also had decent luck just calling my local enrollment office and they got us an interview much earlier than the website had openings. The lady we spoke to claimed that the times change all the time but I’m a bit skeptical about that.
YMMV but she also recommended we just bring all our kids in at the same time and they’d do the “interview” with them all at once. Kids interviews for Global Entry are pretty much non-factors, at least the 3 that we’ve done.
But now… interviews on demand
I got an email from the US CBP saying
Starting today, you have the unique opportunity to interview for Global Entry when you return from your next international trip at Houston, Hobby, Austin, San Francisco, and Vancouver.
What is Enrollment on Arrival? With Enrollment on Arrival, Global Entry applicants who are conditionally approved can complete their interviews, the last step of the Global Entry process, while they are clearing through United States Customs and Border Protection or Preclearance. This options is now available at George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) in Houston, Vancouver International Airport (YVR), William P. Hobby Airport (HOU), or Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS). The program will expand to additional airports this summer, to include San Francisco International Airport.
What do I do when I land in the international terminal? Follow the signage directing you to CBP officers who can complete your Global Entry interview during your admissibility inspection. You won’t need any additional documents other than the requisite documents for international travel (e.g., your passport). After completing the process, you will be directed to a short feedback survey to help us improve this new opportunity for Global Entry applicants to Enroll on Arrival from an international trip. If you have a connecting flight, keep in mind that the Enroll on Arrival interview will take a few minutes longer than the typical CBP processing.
For more information, check out the CBP website at https://www.cbp.gov/travel/trusted-traveler-programs/global-entry
Good luck and happy travels!