The pros and cons of the Global Entry program

Article Breakdown

You may be hesitant to pay for a government program such as Global Entry. After all, you have to pay first and see how it works in practice later.

The global entry program has been praised by many as being a great way to speed up your travels, but there are also some drawbacks that you should be aware of before applying. In this blog post, I will discuss everything you need to know about the Global Entry program.

TLDR on the Global Entry Program

In a nutshell, the Global Entry program can be summarized as follows:

  • By expediting passport control, the Global Entry program enables faster entry at US airports.
  • This service is available at over 200 international airports in the United States.
  • A multi-step, extensive pre-approval process, including an online application, background check, fingerprinting, and in-person interview, is required to get membership.
  • The application fee is $100 for a five-year period.
  • Nationals of the United States, lawful permanent residents, and citizens of certain other countries are eligible.
  • To get the benefits of the program, you must include your Known Traveler Number on all foreign bookings.
  • Approval for Global Entry also entitles you to the TSA PreCheck benefit, which allows for faster security screenings on domestic flights.
  • Membership can be cancelled if the program rules are broken.

Global Entry Program background

The global entry program is a joint venture between the United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA). It was created in 2007 with the intention of expediting the customs process for low-risk travelers.

The global entry program is available to citizens of the United States, Canada, and a few other select countries. If you are a citizen of one of these countries, you may be eligible to apply for the global entry program.

The application process for the global entry program is relatively simple and can be done online or in person at a CBP office. However, there is an interview process that all applicants must go through before being accepted into the global entry program.

Global Entry Appointment

The global entry interview usually takes place at an airport or a pre-clearance facility. They will email you a list, or you can find a list of approved Global Entry on arrival airports here.

During your global entry interview, a CBP officer will ask you questions about your travel history and reason for applying for the global entry program.

You must schedule a global entry interview appointment with CBP in order to apply for the global entry program. You can schedule your global entry interview online or by calling the CBP info center.

When scheduling your global entry interview appointment, you will need to provide the following personal information:

  • Name
  • Date of birth
  • Country of citizenship
  • Passport number
  • Email address

During the global entry interview the CBP will ask questions about your travel history and reason for applying to the global entry program.

There are some pros and cons to the global entry program that you should be aware of before applying.

Global Entry Pros:

  • Speed — Use the TSA Pre-Check lane at airport security, which can save a lot of time at customs.
  • Less bureaucracy — You’re no longer required to complete the paper I-94 form when entering the United States.

Global Entry Cons:

  • Privacy — In order to sign up for Global Entry (or any trusted traveler program), you must provide the government with your biometric data (fingerprints and iris scan) is stored in a central database and if this database were to ever be hacked, your biometric data could potentially be compromised.
  • Yup, more privacy — You are required to go through a secondary inspection when entering the United States, which some people view as an invasion of privacy.
  • Traveling with others — Do you prefer to travel alone or in groups? If you’re traveling with individuals who don’t have Global Entry, you’ll have to wait for them on the other side because they can’t join you through the expedited section.
  • Fees are non-refundable — When you enlist in Global Entry (or any other trusted traveler program), you pay for it. So, if you are not authorized, you will not receive your money back.
  • Children under the age of 12 — Young children may accompany you through the accelerated security line. They may not, however, go through expedited customs screening unless they are individually enrolled in the Global Entry program.

The difference between TSA PreCheck, Global Entry and CLEAR

Program Benefits Cost
TSA Precheck™ Security clearance at American airports is expedited. It is not necessary to remove shoes, computers, beverages, belts, or light coats during the security screening. $85/5 years
Global Entry Security clearance at American airports is expedited.

Citizens of foreign nations with trusted travel arrangements may participate in the program.

TSA PrecheckTM membership and privileges are included.

A Global Entry identity card will be issued to you.

You can clear customs at your departing airport in participating countries.
$100/5 years
CLEAR Security clearance is expedited at American airports and venues.

Biometrics allow for touchless entry.

Usually less crowded than TSA Precheck or Global Entry.

TSA PreCheck is a program that allows low-risk travelers to go through a special security line at the airport. Participants in the program are screened in advance, so they don’t have to go through the full body scanner or remove their shoes and belts at the security checkpoint.

Global Entry is similar to TSA PreCheck, but it also includes expedited entry into the United States for international travelers. Participants in Global Entry are pre-screened and receive a special ID card that allows them to use the automated kiosks at Customs and Border Control.

If you’re a domestic traveler, TSA PreCheck is probably your best bet. If you frequently travel internationally, or if you want the convenience of being able to use the automated kiosks at Customs, then Global Entry is probably a better choice for you. 

CLEAR is another program that offers expedited security clearance at American airports and venues, and tends to be less crowded than Global Entry and TSA PreCheck. CLEAR uses touchless entry using biometrics.

So, is Global Entry worth it?

There is no easy answer to this question. It depends on your individual travel needs and preferences.

If you frequently travel internationally and want to save time at the airport, then global entry may be a good option for you.

However, if you are concerned about your biometric data being stored in a centralized database that can be hacked (and as we’ve seen numerous times in the past, databases ALWAYS get hacked eventually), then it might be better to steer clear of Global Entry and just wait in line like the rest of the mere mortals.

Personally, I prefer listening to another podcast episode while observing the human fauna around me at customs, and I prefer not having my biometric data stored in places unless they are absolutely necessary.

Unfortunately most countries already have a national database with biometric data, which can and do get hacked.

In September 2021, attackers successfully hacked Argentina’s entire official ID database. The leaked material, according to reports, is being sold in private circles. These ID’s do not have biometric data apart from fingerprints, but access to this data allows anyone to forge an Argentine ID and technically it made all existing IDs unusable (not that the government tried to replace them, ha).

Storing your personal data at yet another corporate entity is therefore not high on my priority list, even if it saves me 1 hour while entering a country.

Qualifying countries

The following countries qualify for the Global Entry program:
  • Argentina
  • Bahrain
  • Brazil
  • Colombia
  • Germany
  • India
  • Mexico
  • Netherlands
  • Panama
  • Singapore
  • South Korea
  • Switzerland
  • Taiwan
  • United Kingdom
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