Global Entry for our family of five
After much debate, we proceeded with the task of getting Global Entry for our family of five.
If you don’t know, Global Entry gives a person expedited entrance into the United States. So after traveling home from some fabulous place, you don’t have to race to stand in the long line at customs. There is a separate line for Global Entry with a kiosk. You scan your passport, fingerprints and look into a camera, make your custom declaration and head on through.
The debate in our house went something like this:
Cons: Is it worth the $100? For a family of five that’s $500! Especially since we go abroad maybe once a year, if that? After conditional approval, we’d have to travel in order to do the interview since we don’t live in a major city that has a Global Entry office. And that’s more expense. Not to mention, my 10 year old needs an Global Entry interview? Not without a parent right by his side, that’s for sure. Although my early teen boys are traveling abroad this summer so it would be convenient timing for them.
Pros: It comes with TSA pre-check and is only $20 more than if we were to do TSA pre-check only. It lasts for 5 years. Hubby already gets TSA pre-check due to his status, so he wouldn’t have decide to ditch the family for an easier trip through security while we were on a family trip. We were headed to an interview airport this fall anyway, so no added expense there.
As I said, we decided to take the plunge anyway.
Step One: Filling out the online application is the first step. As a mother, I highly recommend setting aside a chunk of quiet time to sit down at the computer for this process. A file, a page in your planner, something tangible is needed to write down each family members info so that you can re-access it on the computer after each step. Each family member has to have a unique user name and password. If you have moved around or changed jobs a lot in the last few years make sure you have all of that information at your fingertips for you and your spouse. Since kids barely have a past, those applications are the easiest.
Step Two: Wait for conditional approval. This could take a few days, or a week. An email will be sent to you that says your Global Entry status has changed. So log in (to each account separately) and you should see that you are conditionally approved and are authorized to make an appointment. I guess they could also ask for clarification of a section of your application, but luckily all of ours went through without a hitch.
Step Three: Make an appointment. This was where the website got a little confusing for me. I easily made appointments for Hubby and me. I had no idea how long they would take, so I made mine at 9am and Hubby’s at 9:30pm. That way one of us could be in the waiting area with the boys. I wasn’t comfortable leaving the boys in the waiting area alone at the international arrivals terminal of DFW airport. Then as I read further on the website it recommended calling the actual office at DFW for a “family appointment”. I’m assuming that meant we could all go in together. When I phoned, the computer that answered said press 1 if urgent. Well, our appointment was 3 months away, I’d hardly call it urgent. So I left a message about my desire to set a family appointment around our already scheduled adult appointments. I never heard back. So 1 month before (when there were no interview times left for the day we were scheduled), I called back and pressed 1 for urgent. After explaining my dilemma, the Customs officer said, just bring them with you, we’ll get them in. So that was the plan. But you can be sure that I wrote that officer’s name down along with the date and time, just in case.
Step Four: The interview. We overestimated the commute and traffic and ended up at the Global Entry office an hour early. I was nervous, and Dallas traffic seems horrible all the time when you come from a smaller town. Anyway, we signed in our times and listed our boys underneath us as family. Then joined everyone else to wait in the hall. The officers taking names were serious and authoritative, as they should be, right? I was still nervous that they’d say they couldn’t interview the kids because they didn’t have a scheduled appointment. I was ready to invoke the customs officers name I had written down at any moment. But it wasn’t necessary. About 20 minutes before my scheduled appointment a really nice female customs officer escorted us to a much larger room with no one else in it, and took care of us all together. I felt much better being with the boys the entire time during their interview and fingerprints. And I like that I could keep my eyes on them while it was my turn.
At the end of the interview the customs agent told us that we would get cards in the mail, but that we would only need them when driving back into the US from Canada or Mexico. Otherwise, we just follow the Global Entry signs and scan our passport at the kiosk. I had written down our trusted traveler numbers and she confirmed all of those numbers for me. She also reminded us to enter our trusted traveler number within all of our frequent flyer accounts so that we would be sure to get TSA pre-check on our domestic flights too.
When all was said and done, the interview process took about 45 minutes. Oddly, it was an interesting teaching moment for the boys too. They ask you some standard questions about ever being arrested or convictied of a felony. While it felt good to say no in front of my children, we did have a discussion about it in the car. That many people might make what seems to be a crazy mistake in high school or college. But those things can come back to haunt you and make things a lot more difficult for you later in life.
As a side note, I have seen blogs and message boards say that there is no walk in service available for Global Entry. Conditional approval to get an interview has to happen first. However, while in the waiting area (hallway) we got to talking to an elderly couple. The husband had waited as a walk in the day before. He was intially told it could be up to a 3 or 4 hour wait. He only waited 40 minutes. So they were back again the next day to try for the wife. Although, when we left they had been sitting there for an hour and a half and still hadn’t been called. It was also a Friday. Which I would imagine would be the worst day (other than Monday) to try to be a walk in. Maybe they lived in the area and had a lot of free time. I’m just saying if you decide to try to be a walk in, tread carefully and be prepared to wait a long, long, time.
Hopefully, I’ve taken away some of the mystery or nervous feelings regarding the Global Entry process. I’m sure I’ll be letting you know about it’s usefulness in the coming year of traveling.