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I am an international student attending boarding school in the US. I am on an F1 student visa. I will likely visit home (India) one to three times a year for the next three to five years. All international flights will be out of Boston Logan (BOS) or New York City (JFK). I cannot stay on campus for breaks, so I will definitely have to fly somewhere a minimum of five (round) trips a year. Is Global Entry (and the TSA PreCheck that comes with it) worth it? What have your experiences been with both of those? Does TSA PreCheck really save that much time when flying domestic? Is immigration easier and/or significantly quicker with Global Entry? What about non-immigrants using Global Entry?

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    Short answer : yes.
    – Midavalo
    Commented Dec 30, 2023 at 1:23
  • You may want to edit this question to be clearer on what you mean by 'worth it' as it may be closed for opinion based answers otherwise.
    – Uciebila
    Commented Jan 5 at 10:45

7 Answers 7

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Absolutely.

US immigration, especially at airports, is one area where we consistently fall short compared to many other countries. By comparison, entry control into the Schengen Area as a non-citizen is (as long as you’re eligible for visa-free entry) consistently faster and less of a hassle than entry control into the US is for US citizens. For perspective, the only times I’ve had to wait longer than 5 minutes for entry or exit control in the Schengen Area were two recent trips through ZRH, and that was just a matter of sheer volume of travelers, but every time I’ve ever entered the US without GlobalEntry it’s been at least a 10 minute wait, usually closer to 15.

GlobalEntry flips that on its head, giving you a process equivalent to what most native citizens have in other countries for entry/exit control. Depending on the point of entry, you either get put in a priority queue with a relaxed screening, or you walk up to a kiosk and scan your passport (or more recently, stare at a camera for 10-15 seconds or so) and then walk on. I’ve literally never had to deal with any wait when using the kiosks, and I’ve never waited more than about 2 minutes when I still needed to interact with an officer.

It also includes TSA PreCheck despite (currently, as of 2023-12-30) costing only USD 22 more than TSA PreCheck does. This isn’t as big of a perk as it used to be given that more and more people are signing up for PreCheck, but it will still save you some time on average when entering the US (wait times for regular and PreCheck screening at security after entry control in most US airports are identical, but PreCheck means you don’t have to pull stuff out of your bags or take off quite as much clothing, which will save you some time) and at lower volume regional airports in the US (especially ones with only 1-2 lanes at their security checkpoint).

There are also a handful of other benefits (land border crossings are a bit nicer to deal with, some states will let you use a GlobalEntry card in place of some required documents for renewal of state-issued ID, etc), but there are also some limitations:

  • The fee is non-refundable, so if you don’t get approved, you don’t get your money back.
  • Any actual customs or immigration violation will get you kicked out of the program, permanently.
  • Actually securing an interview is nontrivial. It’s better than it was during the pandemic, but it’s still difficult to actually get an interview slot scheduled reasonably.
  • While you can theoretically get an interview on arrival at airports that have GlobalEntry interview centers, this is hit or miss at best (you have to show up during normal operating hours, and they have to happen to actually be operating and have the time to do it).
  • There are some additional limitations on interviews that may make it untenable for some people to get them (the most obvious is that you have to have a legal guardian present if you’re under 18).
  • For GE and PreCheck to actually do anything, you must have your enrollment number (‘Known Traveler Number’) associated with the tickets. This is not always easy to do, especially if booking through a carrier outside of the US.
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  • @Anyon, we do not mind bigger edits but a few letters and a small word is not worth the extra work for those having to approve.
    – Willeke
    Commented Dec 31, 2023 at 17:38
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My wife and I have had Global Entry for over 5 years. My experiences are as follows:

  • TSA Precheck: As more and more people have signed up, the time saving vs. the normal line has become less. However, during busy times, at many airports, the TSA agents will make an effort to speed up the Precheck line at the expense of the normal line. I’ve even seen some of the Precheck travelers diverted to agents handling the normal line; in this case, those travelers are given cards to allow them the benefits while in the normal clearance areas.

However, regardless of the time savings, Precheck gives extra conveniences including not removing the liquids bag, keeping on shoes and using the metal detector instead of the body scanner. These may be worth it to you.

  • Global Entry: this is often a significant time savings going through immigration. No only do you often bypass a significant amount of waiting in line but the typical clearance process is much quicker. You go to a kiosk, scan your fingerprints, answer a few questions on the screen and go straight to an agent who typically scans your passport and waves you on through. Also, there is no need to fill out the form 6059B which is the card that is handed out to everyone on the international flight.

They have the right to do a more thorough check and I’m sure they do that at times (probably randomly) but it’s never happened to us.

One additional note: with Global Entry, you are put through a more stringent background check vs. simply Precheck. I don’t remember the disqualifications, but many people would not qualify for GE who could get Precheck. The application process is also more time consuming, including an in-person interview at a GE center (by appointment). I don’t know how it is now but in 2021, when we renewed, getting an appointment was very difficult due to COVID. However, if you are arriving internationally to an airport with a GE center during business hours, you can get an appointment at arrival.

You will have to resubmit the forms and get an interview (typically much shorter) when you renew every 5 years.

Also, if you are rejected, there is no refund of the $100.00 charge. Finally, if you are found to have made a misrepresentation of your travel circumstances (for example, not declaring items for customs and this is discovered) they can and will kick you out of GE with no compensation and no chance of re-enrollment.

I should also note that while I have had GE, they implemented Mobile Passport Control via smartphone app which also cuts down on wait time. This does not require GE and is an alternative. GE still seems to be quicker and less hassle.

Personally, I am quite happy to have Global Entry and is well worth the $100 charge every 5 years. I also think it is a much better deal then getting just Precheck for $85. You need to make a decision for yourself.

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  • Thank you for the detailed answer. Just one clarification - are you a US citizen or a US Green Card holder? Or do you travel on a non-immigrant visa? Not sure if that makes a difference to how quick/easy the Global Entry process is.
    – Zo-Bro-23
    Commented Dec 30, 2023 at 13:19
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    @Zo-Bro-23 I’m a US citizen. I have no idea what effect being a green card holder would have.
    – DoxyLover
    Commented Dec 30, 2023 at 18:18
  • Also, the interview on renewal is not necessarily required. When I renewed, I got an email a couple of days after submission that my renewal application was approved without appearing in person. Commented Dec 31, 2023 at 22:50
  • @IanCampbell Interesting. When we renewed, we had to go in for a brief interview. This may be a recent change.
    – DoxyLover
    Commented Jan 1 at 9:28
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Is Global Entry worth it?

YES, YES, YES, YES.

I've had GE for 10+ years and it's been a life saver on many occasions.

Immigration lines at US airports are highly unpredictable and can be horrendous. I've had at least a dozen incidents were regular immigration lines (both citizens and foreigners) were 2+ hours and I got through in 5 minutes or less.

One egregious example was indeed Boston: immigration was so backed up, that they were holding people on the arriving planes since there was no more space in the entire Terminal. Once we were allowed to deplane they lined up citizens on the right side of the hallway and foreigners in the left side, while the few GE people could walk through the middle right to the very front.

Keep in mind that you need to clear immigration and customs at the first port of entry in the US which makes any connection a bit of a nail better. I've certainly made connections with GE that were entirely impossible to do without including one that saved me a two extra night layover in New York (made the last flight before a snow storm out of EWR)

TsaPre Check is nice too: lines tend to be shorter and faster but IMO the biggest benefit is that you don't need to unpack your stuff, so the risk of misplacing or losing an item is much lower.

Caveat #1 Global Entry applications are horribly backed up at the moment. I've renewed mine over a year ago but nothing has happened. Mine has expired 6 months ago, but GE has now implemented a 24-month grace period after expiration. I would apply as soon as possible, but you may have to shell out $100 and don't get anything for it for the next 18-24 months.

Caveat #2 You need to always make sure that your GE number (aka "Known Traveler Number") is provided & recorded during check in. I have it on all my accounts and put it manually on all my (international) bookings, but in half of the cases it does not make onto the passenger manifest and I have to manually add it when checking in. Sometimes you need to be pushy: some check-in agents abroad don't know what that is and/or do not know how to do it.

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    If you have the time, check multiple locations for appointments. I have 3-5 within several hours drive. The 2 closest had nothing for months. The 3rd, at 2.5 hours drive, I was able to get Saturday appointments within 2 weeks. Bonus: I got my kids appts but couldn't get one for me. The agent did mine as well (luckily, I'd brought the paperwork).
    – mkennedy
    Commented Dec 30, 2023 at 17:02
  • Apparently they can't do interviews for people under 18 without a parent present. I'll be flying alone for the next three years and have no idea when (and if) my parents will travel to the US. Even if they travel, chances are slim that we'll be traveling together. I guess that's that for the time being then. Thanks for the detailed post!
    – Zo-Bro-23
    Commented Dec 30, 2023 at 18:10
  • "Mine has expired 6 months ago, but GE has no implemented a 24-month grace period after expiration." I'm pretty sure this is a typo, but is it meant to be not or now?
    – Coxy
    Commented Dec 31, 2023 at 7:25
  • @Coxy: yes, typo. Fixed. Thanks
    – Hilmar
    Commented Dec 31, 2023 at 16:46
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We can estimate the amount of hours it takes to get GE for an Indian citizen and then calculate the approximate number of flights you'll have to take for the investment to pay off:

  1. Apply Online with CBP: Complete a TTP online application and pay the $100 non-refundable application fee.

This should take 1 hour.

  1. After completion of step ‘1’ applicants need to submit the requisite information, along with the applicable fee of ₹500, in the Passport Seva Portal, www.passportindia.gov.in for their background check in India. In addition to this, all Indian applicants must schedule an in-person interview at the respective Passport Seva Kendra/Passport Seva Laghu Kendra (PSK/PSLK) office as per their residential jurisdiction in India (as per the address furnished online). During the interview, Indian citizens will have their fingerprints and photo captured and complete other formalities.

This will probably take around 6 hours total, taking into account extra travel, waiting in line, and the interview process itself.

  1. Schedule an Interview in the U.S.: Once your application is reviewed, you will receive a message in your TTP account instructing you to schedule an interview at one of the Global Entry Enrollment Centers.

This should take around 3 hours, taking into account potential extra travel and the interview itself. So we're looking at a total of 10 hours of your time, plus $107 in application costs.

As far as the flights are concerned you'll save approximately...

  1. 20 minutes per outbound flight on average, thanks to TSA PreCheck
  2. 40 minutes per inbound flight on average, thanks to bypassing normal immigration lines with Global Entry

So around 1 hour per international round trip. If you do 10 international round trips in 5 years, the GE card will pay off.

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    Not all hours are created equal. Hours saved using GE can be more valuable if you need to make it to a connecting flight in time.
    – akhmeteli
    Commented Dec 31, 2023 at 5:21
  • @akhmeteli I’ve previously missed connecting flights despite having GE. It helps on the margin but doesn’t guarantee anything.
    – JonathanReez
    Commented Dec 31, 2023 at 12:51
  • I agree with both points.
    – akhmeteli
    Commented Dec 31, 2023 at 14:45
  • @JonathanReez: YMMV but I've had some "high value" connection saves due to Global Entry (and PreCheck) including multiple overnight stays. Just having to take a later flight on the same day is not much of a deal but having to spend an extra (or in case 2 extra) night/s can be a bummer. US international to domestic connection are one of the most "fragile" since immigration times can vary drastically. That's IMO the real value of GE.
    – Hilmar
    Commented Dec 31, 2023 at 17:48
  • @Hilmar would depend on how many of the flights will be a connection then. If OP flies from NYC it’s unlikely to be a concern. Boston might be a concern if they fly via NYC or Atlanta rather than via Dubai or Turkey.
    – JonathanReez
    Commented Dec 31, 2023 at 20:28
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I've looked into this a couple of times, and for me it absolutely would not be worth it. I fly internationally only around 5 times a year these days (down from 30-ish a year 20 years ago) and there are no benefits that would be worth it to me for the money it costs.

It can reduce queues, but the last few times I have flown to the US, the difference has varied from the GE queue being around 30 minutes faster to about 15 minutes slower! and queues aren't exactly stressful.

Of course, being Scottish, and using an ESTA means the checks are a quick fingerprint and a couple of questions anyway, so it isn't onerous. It may be worse for other nationalities.

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    Interesting: that goes to show that everybody's experience can be different. I enter the US maybe 5-10 times/year and I have NEVER encountered a significantly line at Global Entry (3 minutes tops), whereas the normal lines are horribly about 1/3 of the time. Earlier this year I came through Chicago where not only immigration was totally gummed up but there was a massive line at customs as well (no idea why), Luckily for me customs had also an extra line for GE so I walked right out.
    – Hilmar
    Commented Dec 31, 2023 at 17:30
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Personally, I don't think pre-check is worth $85.  It may get you through faster.  On the other hand, here's a photo taken at JFK in 2019, of a sign saying that both queues were five minutes long:

enter image description here

And twice, I've been had pre-check gratuitously printed on my boarding pass but didn't think it made much difference.

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    Not having to take out electronics and leaving on shoes and belt are good enough for me--but traveling with two kids under 12 (they get pre-check automatically when flying with me) is a wonderful bonus.
    – mkennedy
    Commented Dec 30, 2023 at 17:04
  • I've seen the opposite too where PreCheck was 20+ minutes and non-PreCheck was 10 minutes. But most of the time you do end up saving time, especially if you have Clear.
    – JonathanReez
    Commented Dec 30, 2023 at 20:37
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This is a frame challenge.

Just because the campus is shutting down for US holidays doesn't mean you need to fly out of the country each time. Even if your school doesn't have an exception to its everyone must leave on certain holiday period policy for international students (the one I attended did), staying somewhere else in the US is a much cheaper option than flying halfway around the world.

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  • Round trip from NYC to Delhi is $1300 during the summer. You won't find accommodation in the US for $1300/3 = $430/month unless you choose a very rural area.
    – JonathanReez
    Commented Jan 2 at 1:01
  • "I cannot stay on campus for breaks, so I will definitely have to fly somewhere" - Even if I choose to stay within the US, I'll still need to fly, which means that PreCheck could potentially be useful.
    – Zo-Bro-23
    Commented Jan 2 at 10:52
  • @JonathanReez OP stated they were expecting to need to leave several times a year, that would include some holidays. Staying in a basic hotel/etc would be cheaper than $1300, staying with newly made friends could be free if they're within driving distance. Commented Jan 2 at 20:33

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