Breeze through U.S. airport lines with TSA pre-check and global entry

Last weekend, I landed at Miami International Airport after spending a week in Cuba. My tour-mates, tired and bedraggled from a week crammed with activities, dutifully queued up behind a long line at Immigration. I breezed through Immigration, collected my luggage, took the Green lane at Customs, and was checked into my airport hotel room in 20 minutes, flat. I didn’t even need to fill out the written customs declaration usually required upon entry into U.S.

Global Entry kiosk

Global Entry kiosk

How did I manage this? I’m not a celebrity, nor did I jump the line. I simply signed up for Global Entry, one of several Trusted Traveler programs offered by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). I began by registering as a new user on the Global Online Enrollment System website, filling out an application, and paying the $100 non-refundable application fee, which is good for five years once approved. The CBP reviewed my application, notified me that I was conditionally approved, and instructed me to schedule a personal interview via their website. Although the review process can apparently take up to six weeks, I heard back from them in less than 10 days, and was able to schedule an interview for the following week. The interview took about 15 minutes and consisted of a few cursory questions, followed by verbal approval and fingerprinting. A few days later my Global Entry wallet card arrived in the mail. I dutifully added the 9-digit unique PASSID shown on the face of my card to each of my profile pages on the U.S. airlines I normally fly.

Choose the program that is best for you: Global Entry or TSA PreCheck

Approved Global Entry members are also automatically eligible for TSA PreCheck benefits. Passengers who have provided their 9-digit unique PASSID to their air carrier are issued a boarding pass stamped with the words: “TSA PreCheck,” which allows use of a special security line where passengers are not required to take off shoes and jackets or remove approved 3-1-1 liquids or laptops from carry-on luggage. Passengers who travel mostly to domestic destinations can choose to sign up for TSA PreCheck rather than Global Entry, for a cost of $85 for five years.

Currently, Global Entry kiosks are located at 47 airports in the U.S. and around the globe. TSA PreCheck lanes are available at more than 120 U.S. airports, for passengers flying with Air Canada, Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Southwest Airlines, Sun Country Airlines, United Airlines, US Airways, and Virgin America. Global Entry is open to U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents, citizens of Germany, the Netherlands, Panama, South Korea, and Mexican nationals. Canadian citizens and residents are eligible for Global Entry benefits through membership in the NEXUS program. Applicants under the age of 18 must have the consent of a parent or legal guardian.

Using the Global Entry kiosks. Photos courtesy of GOES.

Using the Global Entry kiosks. Photos courtesy of GOES.

The following day, as I was checking in for my onward flight, I ran into several of the members of our Cuban tour group. All of them had waited at least an hour and a half in just the Immigration line the previous day; no wonder they looked weary. If I only use my Global Entry once a year, that $20 is worth every penny for the time it saves and my personal sanity.

When Barbara Weibel realized she felt like the proverbial “hole in the donut” – solid on the outside but empty on the inside – she walked away from corporate life and set out to see the world. Read first-hand accounts of the places she visits and the people she meets on her blog, Hole in the Donut Cultural Travel. Follow her on Facebook or Twitter.

Posted by | Comments (2)  | April 30, 2015
Category: Female Travelers, Senior Travel

2 Responses to “Breeze through U.S. airport lines with TSA pre-check and global entry”

  1. Roger Says:

    First of all, I want to commend you for going to Cuba. I wouldn’t mind going there if I got the chance. I’ve heard of the Global Entry or TSA PreCheck, from my brother-in-law. He flies a lot domestically on business, and it seemed like a great idea for him. It sounds almost too good to be true, to me, and I wonder how long it will last. Surely, something this good, can’t last, but who knows? In addition to this, I would say, I wish American airports could be speedier at handling incoming customs lines. Airports in Europe do a better job of this, in my opinion. Does anyone else care to comment on this?

  2. Frank Says:

    Does the global entry screen ask what country you are returning from and did you select Cuba? I have never used it before so I am wondering