As if Global Entry wasn’t fast enough, a new app is making clearing customs after an international trip even quicker.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) released a mobile app in September that will allow Global Entry members to verify their identity with a selfie. At certain airports, members will be able to bypass the Global Entry kiosks altogether and show the receipt from the app to CBP officers.
Here’s what you need to know about the app, and whether or not you should get Global Entry.
Who can use the Global Entry app?
You must be enrolled in Global Entry to be able to use the app. Global Entry is a Trusted Traveler Program that allows members to access kiosks, priority lines and the app to make the customs process faster after arriving back in the U.S. from an international trip. The membership also includes TSA PreCheck, which can help travelers speed through security lines before flights (even for domestic trips).
Cards that reimburse Global Entry fees
The Global Entry app is available on the Google Play and Apple App stores. Keep in mind only a few airports are accepting receipts from the mobile app as a form of identity verification.
Airports that accept the Global Entry app
To start, the Global Entry app will help speed up reentry to the U.S. in seven major airports:
Seattle Tacoma International Airport (SEA).
Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).
Miami International Airport (MIA).
Orlando International Airport (MCO).
Washington-Dulles International Airport (IAD).
Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT).
George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH).
Global Entry membership is growing
The addition of a mobile app figures streamlines the Global Entry process even more, and that’s saying something. With CBP now having deployed touchless kiosks to 77 U.S. and international preclearance facilities as of mid-year, members can often speed through passport control with just a momentary pause to have their photo snapped at a kiosk.
However, CBP may want to stay ahead of the curve, with the Global Entry program growing to 12.3 million members currently — up from 2.2 million 10 years ago.
With record enrollment and some COVID-19 pandemic delays, the program has struggled to keep up with processing applicants. The backlog for first-time applicants has sometimes led to months-long waits to get the required in-person interviews. At times, applicants have to get creative to snag a timeslot.
At present, CBP continues to report average wait times for Global Entry appointments are four to six months, according to the agency’s Trusted Traveler Programs page.
Is Global Entry worth it?
On top of CBP working to make Global Entry more efficient, the program remains a much better bang for your buck versus applying for TSA PreCheck outright. TSA PreCheck costs $78 for a five-year membership but lacks any Global Entry benefits.
Less regular international travelers may want to apply for TSA PreCheck instead of Global Entry because there are more enrollment centers (and often shorter wait times to get an in-person interview) and domestic travelers might not be able to benefit as much from the extra cost and benefits.
However, if your credit card already covers the cost, you’ll probably want to get Global Entry anyway.
The bottom line
Though Global Entry is already a fast experience for most travelers, particularly with the touchless (and often paperless) kiosks, the app can make the trip through customs even quicker.
If you have Global Entry and land at one of the participating airports, you may be able to verify your arrival in the U.S. while you’re sitting on the plane, taxiing to your gate.