My travel schedule has increased substantially over the last year. I also noticed a decrease in how often I randomly received TSA PreCheck on my boarding passes. That convinced me that it was time to officially apply for TSA PreCheck. During my research, I discovered that applying for Global Entry was only $15 more than applying for TSA PreCheck, but included TSA PreCheck benefits. Since I was hoping for international travel opportunities in the coming years, I decided Global Entry was a better option.
There are a few things to keep in mind if you’re deciding between applying for Global Entry and TSA PreCheck.
- The process for TSA PreCheck is similar to the process for Global Entry, but it typically takes less time to schedule your TSA PreCheck interview.
- It’s been suggested that the screening for Global Entry is more stringent than TSA PreCheck. If you have any past international travel they consider questionable or a criminal record-including juvenile or expunged offenses-there could be a greater chance they will deny you for Global Entry.
- Every member of your family traveling internationally will require Global Entry. TSA PreCheck lanes can be used by children under 13 when flying with their parents.
- There are significantly fewer Global Entry interview locations. It’s possible you will have to travel hours away for your interview.
The first step in my process when I applied for Global Entry was getting my passport renewed. I’d allowed it to expire a few years ago, and although my renewal was always on my to-do list, this was the push I needed to get it done.
I was able to apply by mail for my renewal since my passport was less than 15 years old. I sent my renewal application, expired passport and a photo along with a check to the passport office. I used the It’s Easy app to take my passport photo. I also used their delivery by mail option to receive my photos, but I didn’t utilize any of their other services.
August 11: I took my passport photo via the “It’s Easy” app.
August 15: My photos arrived in the mail.
August 17: I submitted my passport renewal application.
September 1: My new passport arrived. I signed up for a Global Online Enrollment System (GOES) account and completed my Global Entry application. The application included general information including passport and drivers license numbers, as well as ten years of work history and previous addresses. It also requires a $100 payment that you can make via credit card online.
September 7: My conditional approval for Global Entry was received. The conditional approval letter contained what would be my Known Traveler Number if I was approved. I was unable to obtain a workable interview date at that time. When I attempted to change my GOES password on my phone, I was locked out of my account.
September 8: It took just shy of five hours to contact GOES customer support via phone to get a new password. After logging back into my account, I scheduled an appointment for February at an undesired location to be in compliance with the 30 day requirement for setting your appointment. (You’re required to schedule an appointment for your interview within 30 days of approval, but your appointment can be months later.) I also printed out my letter of conditional approval.
September 12: With passport, conditional letter of approval and driver’s license in hand, I attempted to drop in the Global Entry office at the Atlanta airport for an interview. (I was traveling for work and purposefully booked a flight with extra time in the morning just in case this took a while.) I was told that they do take walk-ins, but they couldn’t guarantee how long it might be. They took my passport and I signed in on a clip board. I waited approximately five minutes in empty lobby (one person walked in for their scheduled interview while I waited) and was called into the back for my interview. I answered a few basic questions about things like my address, birthday and why I wanted Global Entry. My fingerprints were digitally scanned, my photo was taken and I was told that I’d have my approval notification in a few days. The agent also talked about about how Global Entry worked and showed me a Global Entry kiosk. My passport was handed back to me along with a booklet about Global Entry. An email notifying me of my approval was in my inbox less than 15 minutes later.
September 13: I updated all frequent flyer programs with my Known Traveler Number.
September 14: I flew home from Atlanta without TSA Precheck on my boarding pass. After researching I discovered that traveler information is submitted to TSA 72 hours before a flight’s departure, meaning my September 12th approval was too recent.
September 20: My Global Entry card arrived in the mail. I called my primary airline to have them update my secure flight passenger data to include my middle name so that all of my travel documents fully matched.
September 29: Checked into my flight for LAX the following day and received TSA Precheck. (All subsequent flights have had TSA Precheck as well.)
Getting TSAPrecheck was definitely worth all of the money and hoops I had to jump through to get it. Even when the line for regular security looks a little shorter, leaving on your shoes and leaving your laptop in its bag tends to make the Precheck line go much quicker. I’ve heard from many people with Global Entry that even one trip where you can use a Global Entry kiosk makes it worthwhile, but any personal experience with that will be somewhere down the road. It was very good fortune that I had a last minute business trip in Atlanta that allowed me to do a drop in interview. That’s something to consider if you’re deciding between Global Entry and TSA Precheck. Without that trip, I would have been stuck driving over two hours away for my interview. You should also remember that not every airport allows walk-in interviews. (This site has a helpful list of who does and doesn’t allow walk-ins.) Don’t forget that the two weeks it took me to receive Global Entry are definitely not typical and your process could take many months.