Traveling can be one of life's most exciting and enriching experiences, providing you with unique opportunities to try delectable cuisines, immerse yourself in new cultures, and make unforgettable memories. But navigating through long immigration lines and tedious security processes at airports can often dampen the experience.
Fortunately, programs like Global Entry aim to help travelers get through airport security faster, making your travel experience less stressful and time-consuming. But is Global Entry worth it? We dove into the pros and cons, including what frequent travelers think, to help you make an informed decision.
What Is Global Entry?
Global Entry is a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) program designed to expedite the entry process for "low-risk" international travelers. Approved participants are granted access to automated kiosks at select airports, allowing them to bypass regular immigration lines and go through a quicker and more convenient entry process. The program is open to U.S. citizens, permanent residents, and citizens from a handful of other countries.
Pros of Signing Up for Global Entry:
- It Saves Time: The most significant benefit of Global Entry is the convenience of being able to efficiently go through immigration and customs at airports. With dedicated kiosks, participants can quickly and efficiently complete their entry forms, avoiding long lines and reduce overall wait times.
- TSA PreCheck Eligibility: When you sign up for Global Entry, you'll also be automatically enrolled in the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) PreCheck program. This means that once approved, participants can enjoy expedited security screenings at participating U.S. airports. TSA PreCheck also eliminates the need to remove shoes, belts, and laptops, and reduces the likelihood of being subjected to additional security checks.
- Access to Reciprocal Programs: Global Entry participants are also eligible for reciprocal programs in other countries. For example, the program allows expedited entry into Canada through the NEXUS program, as well as expedited entry into Mexico through the Viajero Confiable ("Trusted Traveler") program.
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Cons of Signing Up for Global Entry:
While Global Entry offers several advantages, it has potential drawbacks as well, including:
- It Can Be Pricey: Global Entry comes with a price tag. The program requires a non-refundable application fee of $100 for a five-year membership. After that, users have to pay another $100 if they want to renew their membership.
- Tediuos Application and Approval Process: The application process for Global Entry requires applicants to complete an online form, attend an in-person interview, and undergo a background check. The entire process can take several months, and not everyone is guaranteed approval. Therefore, if you have limited international travel plans or do not meet the program's eligibility requirements, it may not be worth the time, money, and effort to apply.
- Limited Availability: Although Global Entry is available at many major U.S. airports, not all airports have dedicated kiosks that offer the service. This means that if you primarily travel through airports without Global Entry kiosks, the benefits of the program may not be as substantial for you.
What Do Travelers Think?
Despite the cost, the majority of users who travel abroad said Global Entry was well worth the investment. "I probably fly 2-3 times a year internationally," writes one user in the subreddit r/travel, describing how despite not traveling out of the country that often, they still found the program to be a wise investment.
For starters, having Global Entry saved them hours of having to wait in line. "Last time I flew into [Fort Lauderdale] FLL, the line for immigration and customs was 2 hours long, [but with] global entry, it took 2 minutes."
"It's 10000% worth it," adds the user.
Most Redditors seem to agree with this experience. "[Global Entry] is extra nice because it means you can be a lot more confident about making connections arriving internationally," writes another user. This is a good point to consider, as navigating through customs and immigration can potentially lead to delays or even cause you to miss a connecting flight, especially if you have a tight layover.
"Highly highly recommend it, even as a non-frequent flyer. In the off-chance you do go international, it will save you so much time and grief. Absolutely worth the fee, and [I] recommend it heavily," says another user.
"$100 is chump change for the benefits you get," writes one user, adding, "If you ever arrive from an international flight to a major airport in the USA, and you have the misfortune to arrive at the same time as other [passengers], you'd gladly pay the $100 to skip the long line."
"On a recent arrival to New York's JFK [airport], I skipped about 400 people in line!" adds the user, describing how they were able to get through a long line in only minutes. "There was [only one] pilot in front of me. It took me 7 minutes from plane to sidewalk."
The Bottom Line
While spending $100 can seem like a lot, most Redditors say investing in the program is well worth it to avoid long lines and inconveniences. Ultimately though, the decision to invest in Global Entry should be based on your travel patterns, preferences, and budget.
For frequent international travelers who value time-saving convenience and access to reciprocal programs, Global Entry can be a worthwhile investment. The program's benefits, such as expedited entry and TSA PreCheck eligibility, can significantly enhance the travel experience and justify the cost.
On the flip side, if you don't travel that often, primarily use airports without Global Entry kiosks, or find the application process and cost burdensome, alternative programs like TSA PreCheck (the program costs $78 for five-years) or Mobile Passport Control might be better options for your travel needs.
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