Global Entry is a must-have for international travel. While I only have the opportunity to leave the country once or twice per year because of work, I decided to apply for Global Entry since my credit card reimburses the fee. Here’s how the Global Entry process works from start to finish.

Step 1: Apply for Global Entry Online

The first step is to create an account on the Global Online Enrollment System.

After setting up your account you will fill out the application and pay your application fee. Paying the fee does not guarantee approval in the program. If you have a credit card that offers Global Entry fee reimbursement, you pay for the fee with that card and wait to receive a statement credit. I applied on September 7th and paid the fee with my Chase Sapphire Reserve. The fee was reimbursed the same day the transaction posted!

After submitting your application, you will receive notice of conditional approval in about a week. I applied on September 7th and received my Global Entry conditional approval on September 15th.

Step 2: Make an Interview

After receiving Global Entry conditional approval, you’ll be able to schedule an appointment. My conditional approval letter stated that I had to make an appointment for my interview within 30 days. The interview, however, did not have to be completed within this timeframe.

Global Entry can get pretty backed up. The first available interview was in May 2017! My advice is to make the first available appointment you find, but check back regularly to see if anything opens up. I was able to reschedule mine for February. I then received notice of another interview location opening at an office building in Boston so I jumped on this and got an appointment for December 28th. This was still over 3 months since I applied for Global Entry, but sure beats waiting 8 months!

My interviewer also said that the location I went to accepts walk-ins. If you are able to walk-in, the turnaround time for your Global Entry application could be about a week or two total.

Step 3: The Interview

I had my interview bright and early in the morning. I arrived five minutes before my 7:45 appointment time and they were able to take me right away. Two officers were working and there was nobody in the waiting room.

Global Entry Card
Here’s what you’ll get at the end of the process!

Make sure to bring your passport, your conditional approval letter (they need the number on it), and proof of address. They typically use your license for this but a utility bill works as well. The interview itself was quick. She just verified the information on my application including all international travel in the past five years. After taking my picture and fingerprints, I was good to go! Less than an hour later I received notice of Global Entry approval. You can use Global Entry immediately even while waiting for your card in the mail. My card arrived about a week later. The entire Global Entry application process from the initial application to receiving my card took just under 4 months.

Step 4: Update Upcoming Flight Itineraries

If you have any upcoming flights planned, add your Known Traveler number (you can find it on your GOES account) to your itineraries. This number will allow you to get TSA PreCheck for expedited security at the airport. Global Entry is really two benefits in one so it’s worth applying even if you don’t travel internationally often.

Final Thoughts

Global Entry expires five years from your next birthday. I applied for Global Entry in September 2016 but mine won’t expire until May 2022. If your passport expires before this date, you can update it without reapplying for Global Entry. Credit cards with Global Entry reimbursement will pay for the fee every 4 or 5 years depending on the card so you can enjoy the service uninterrupted. If you have more than one credit card with this benefit, use it to pay for a travel companion’s Global Entry application fee so they don’t slow you down at Customs!

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