Once you've been approved for your Green Card Permanent Residency, one of the first things you will likely want to do is sign up for Global Entry and TSA PreCheck. Global Entry lets you enter the country from overseas with less hassle, and TSA PreCheck allows you to travel domestically and internationally without taking off your shoes at the airport. So how do you get these once you have your Green Card?
I know there are plenty of things to celebrate when you finally receive your Green Card, but one of the best things you can do right away is sign up for Global Entry (which includes TSA PreCheck) because the process can be quite slow and it's worthwhile getting started early.
What is Global Entry?
Global Entry is a pass for your arrival into the U.S. For most of you reading this, you’ll know that arriving can be a daunting task with extra stress added by the long wait to be seen.
Global Entry is a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) program that allows expedited clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travelers upon arrival in the United States. Members enter the United States through automatic kiosks at select airports.https://www.cbp.gov/travel/trusted-traveler-programs/global-entry
Basically, when you arrive, you again get a special and more automatic process to simply re-enter the country.
What is TSA Pre✓®?
From the TSA website, what exactly is TSA Pre-Check?:
Keep moving. TSA Pre✓® saves you time and stress.
With a 5 year, $85 membership, you can speed through security and don’t need to remove your: shoes, laptops, liquids, belts and light jackets.
What a dream! It might not sound like much but you will no longer have to wait behind that person who happens to be carrying four laptops, somehow has two pairs of shoes on their feet, and “forgot” that their pockets were filled with coins; all of which makes a stressful situation more stressful.
The benefit comes primarily to those who fly domestically a lot in the U.S. and don’t want to have to line up every time. I’m looking at you, business travelers!
Who can get Global Entry and PreCheck?
While there are some exceptions, the only people who can generally sign up for these programs are citizens of the United States and Permanent Residents of the United States.
How to sign up for Global Entry (and receive TSA PreCheck included)
So once you've received your physical Green Card as a permanent resident you can follow this process to get Global Entry:
- Go to the Trusted Traveler Program website at Homeland Security
- Select “Get Started” below Global Entry
- Confirm that you are wanting to sign up to Global Entry
- Consent & Continue if you agree to the terms laid out in the Security Notification
- Sign up for Login.gov (there's a chance that you will already have a login.gov account, which you can use for this, but if you don't you need to sign up for a new account)
- You will then be lead to a page that allows you to sign up for Global Entry using this account
- Read the questions carefully and fill in the details from your documents even more carefully: It's important that the information on your printed card, passport, and licenses match exactly to your application input, or you won't be approved
- You will then have to pay your application fee (which you can get refunded, read below)
- Finally, you will be taken back to the first page to show where you're at in the process! You'll notice that yours shows that you have selected the program, filled out the application, paid the fee, and you're now waiting for a green check in “Wait for conditional approval.
- Now we wait
- For me, this process took less than 24 hours, but for many this process takes months.
- At some point in the future you will receive an email that states there's been a status change on your application and you can log back in to see this!
From here, you're on the home straight. It's now time to book an appointment to go get an interview and finalize your application.
How to get a Global Entry Interview faster
When I first logged in to get an interview after being pre-approved, the first available was three months away! This was annoying as I was hoping to get the process out of the way as soon as possible and not have to find all my documentation again in three months.
So I decided that before I booked in a spot, I'd keep an eye on the page and see if any openings appeared.
Sure enough, if you click on any available appointment and scroll back to the current day (or days around the current day) you can click back and forth in the calendar and new appointments will appear that are canceled by others.
In my case, an appointment appeared not three months away, but three hours away! I quickly confirmed the appointment and prepared my documents!
If you do this, be sure to print out the confirmation because the sheet that the officer printed that morning won't include your name, and you will need proof of your appointment.
Tips for speeding up the Global Entry application conditional approval process
While I don't actually know if this had anything to do with how fast my application was turned around (less than 24 hours) my one tip is to provide as many documents in the application as you possibly can.
In some stages of the application, you only need to provide one piece of evidence, but if you are in possession of two or more, then I'd recommend adding both to the system.
In my case instead of just adding my green card and driver's license, I also added my Birth Certificate and my passport details (both of which I have on hand from my Green Card interview).
The more information you provide, the easier it is to pre-approve, and the quicker the process should be.
Everything you need to know about the Global Entry Interview
To get Global Entry you need to appear in person for an interview.
First things first, the most important thing to know is that if you've made it this far (you've got a green check next to “Wait for conditional approval”) then you're already 90% of the way there.
The interview is a formality to appear in person and confirm all the information that you put forward on your application form, as well as presenting the documents you submitted.
That being said: Just because it's a formality doesn't mean it's not serious and shouldn't be treated as such.
What do you need to take to the Global Entry interview?
Most importantly, you need to have original copies of all of the documents you submitted throughout the process of applying. This will include (but is not limited to) your passport, your green card, your birth certificate, and a current valid driver's license.
If your driver's license does not have your current postal/residential address on it, then you will also need to bring some documents to prove your residence (e.g. a signed lease, utility bills with your name and address).
Taking as much as you possibly can save you some heartache.
If you've forgotten what you submitted, you can revisit the process above and download a copy of everything you submitted and your answers to all the questions. I'd recommend printing this out and taking it with you as well to ensure that everything's right. You can't modify an application once you've submitted it, but you can update the officer at your interview if anything isn't quite right.
What happens at the Global Entry interview?
So you've scheduled your time and you've arrived at least 15 minutes early (that's me saying that, you should always arrive at these things 15-30 minutes early).
I was welcomed by a very friendly officer at JFK who led me into a waiting room and he took my passport and Green Card to confirm my appointment.
I was then called in about 10 minutes later to a desk with another officer.
That officer explained to me what Global Entry and TSA PreCheck was and why I was in for an interview (to confirm the documents and who I was).
I was asked a range of very simple questions:
- My full name (don't forget your middle names)
- My date of birth
- My current address
- My place of work
- What I did for that employer
- What status I was before my green card, and when I entered the States on these statuses (in my case I explained that I had been on an ESTA for a few months, and then an E3 visa)
- That I have not overstayed or done anything illegal regarding my immigration status
- That I had not committed any crimes or customs violations; and finally
- I was asked to explain all my overseas travel in the last five years. For me that meant running through that I had visited family in Australia, my brother in England, a friend's birthday in France, and a visa renewal in Barbados with my (now) wife.
One bit of planning before is to have thought about your previous travel as this was the most in-depth part of the interview for me. Knowing where I want, when, and why. It's not a test, but they just want to hear the logic to where you were headed.
The officer will then hand you some documents and you will be on your way assuming everything went ok! It wasn't a stressful process, it was just running through the appropriate steps.
As I left, I was given my Known Traveller Number which gives me TSA PreCheck and can be entered when I buy flights from now on!
How to get Global Entry and TSA PreCheck for free
In total the cost was less than $100 but why not save on this cost if you can?
So many credit cards include automatic refunds for TSA PreCheck and Global Entry applications. I know for sure that the Chase Sapphire Reserve, and the AMEX Platinum both include this perk and it's handy to use if you want to save some money!
What to do if your Passport or Green Card expires before your Global Entry does
I asked the officer (as my Green Card was a two-year conditional at the time of application) what I had to do when that expired (despite my Global Entry lasting five years).
The officer explained I simply had to visit a Global Entry location with the new green card and show them. They would then update the system to include the new expiry and I could be on my way!