There's the lines, the security, the noise, the overpriced food, all while you're carting around suitcases and backpacks.
So is it worth spending a bit of money to make the airport experience more stress-free? If you think so, then here's why you should consider Global Entry.
What is Global Entry?
Global Entry is a United State Border program that allows travelers, who are low-risk and pre-approved, to enter the United States without the hustle and bustle of lines.
This can be particularly useful at MSP Airport, where there are only about 15 kiosks as you arrive in the international arrivals section.
When you de-board your plane, rather than joining the throngs in the main border check and customs lines, you can instead proceed to the expedited Global Entry kiosks.
Here you present your machine-readable passport or U.S. permanent resident card, have your fingerprints scanned and then complete a quick customs declaration.
You then get a receipt and can head straight to baggage claim or the exit.
Global Entry costs $100, which can be expensive particularly if you have children (you still have to pay full price for under 18s) but on the plus side, it lasts for 5 years.
Wait, is it different from TSA Pre-Check?
Yes, because Global Entry makes things quicker and easier when you arrive back in the U.S. after an international flight, whereas TSA Pre-Check lets you skip lines when you're departing.
But here's the crucial point, when you get Global Entry for $100, TSA Pre-Check is included.
That means you're getting the benefit of Pre-check, which costs $85 for 5 years on its own, and for just an extra $15 you get the additional benefits of Global Entry, allowing you to skip lines when you arrive back home.
The application process
This can be a little onerous and does require some strategic planning if you have a trip planned.
To get started with your application process click here. Simply follow the on-screen prompts to create an account and then continue onto the application, which takes roughly 30-45 minutes.
This may seem long, but remember, Global Entry is to get into the United States as a pre-approved low-risk traveler. This means that the United States Customs is going to want to know everything about you.
Once making it through the initial application process, you should hear back if you've been conditionally approved or declined in 1-2 weeks.
Upon conditional approval, you'll be asked to schedule your interview, which is typically booked out two months in advance. You're given a list of locations where you can interview, we chose MSP Airport.
What happens at the interview?
At MSP, the office for Global Entry is near baggage claim 4. It is a little office with one door. There is only one small sign, so arrive early, keep your eyes open, and ask for assistance if needed.
Once inside, you will be asked to a small room with a United States Customs officer. You will sit down and discuss Global Entry. Questions revolve around why you applied and some information about yourself.
I was notified of my approval at the end of the interview, but I’m not sure how it would go if you were denied. The officer informed me that I would receive an approval email shortly. Next, you will get your photo taken, have your finger and thumb prints taken, and then be on your way.
The total interview process took roughly 20-30 minutes. I received my email notification letting me know of my approval the next day. You will receive your Global Entry card roughly 7-10 days later, however you will not need the physical card to travel.
What about your TSA Pre-check information? Well it turns out they've already sent you those details in your "conditional approval" email before you even have the interview.
Your PASS-ID that you received in your conditional approval email and your follow-up approval email is your TSA pre-check number. When you purchase an international ticket, you can input your PASS-ID into the booking, and that will signify you are TSA pre-check approved.
Is it worth it?
It really depends on how often you travel, particularly internationally. If you're a regular domestic traveler but don't leave the country, then TSA Pre-check is probably best for you.
But if you travel internationally and on a semi-regular basis, then Global Entry is a real option.
It can take some time to acquire and the upfront cost is not so budget friendly, but looking at it over 5 years it doesn’t seem so bad.
With a small investment and some patience throughout the process, you will be very happy you did it.