Insight: Why I Can Skip The Lines At US Security (Part 1)

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I am constantly flying back and forth to the US, which means I’m constantly spending hours or my life waiting in lines at border control. There’s nothing worse after a long flight than standing in a switch-back queue waiting to be seen. However there’s a way to skip that – Global Entry, which is part of the Trusted Traveler Programs.

I’ve known about the program for years, yet for some reason held off applying – that was a mistake. I wish I’d applied as soon as I’d known about it and advise you to do the same. Even though we’re in an odd world where we can’t really travel to the US right now, if in the next year (assuming it’s open again) you see yourself going back and forth across the Atlantic, it could well be a game changer for you. The reason to apply now is that what was once a very quick process has over the last 12 months become incredibly slow due to the Government Shut Down. I applied back in August 2019 and it’s only recently that my application was approved. But before I tell you about that, let me tell you what Global Entry is.

The Global Entry program allows you to become a ‘trusted traveller’ to the US. You give them lots of your details, they do lots of checks and if you’re all good then you get to use the Global Entry kiosk when arriving at a US border. This cuts down hour long waits to a few minutes of tapping a touchscreen before breezing through security. It also gives you TSA precheck to help you slip through security faster when flying out of the US.  You don’t have to be a US citizen either, if you’re a UK citizen then you’re eligible to apply.

(FYI you can also apply for Global Entry or similar programs if you’re from Canada, Argentina, Germany, Switzerland, Mexico, Panama, South Korea, India, Colombia, Singapore, Taiwan and of course the UK.)

 Applying for Global Entry

As a UK citizen the application process is pretty simple, but it’s not free and like I’ve already said, it takes time. You’re looking at a 6 to 12 month wait to be approved, so get applying sooner rather than later. Here’s how the application works.

The first thing to think about is who wants to apply. I mainly travel solo, but my wife and kids often come to join me at some point in the US and occasionally we all fly together. If it were only me who was a member of Global Entry, they would not be allowed to speed their way through border control.

We therefore made the decision to apply for all of us, that means me, my wife and both of my kids. Each person needs their own application to be processed and has to pay the fee. This quickly racks up, but the way I thought about it is when I’m waiting in line at border control with two tired and jet lagged kids off a long flight, how much would I pay at that point to not have to wait in line. 

How much? The enrolment fee is $100 per person to the US Government plus you have to pay £42 per person to the UK Government for a background check. Once your application is approved, it will last five years. It’s also with remembering that you’ll still need an ESTA or Visa to gain entry to the US and this fee is non-refundable. 

Once you’ve made a decision, it’s time to apply – and I’ll be explaining that process in more detail in the next post.


  1. Chris says

    I was refused because I went to Libya as an accredited British TV journalist for 3 days six years ago. I’ve always held a US media “I” visa and had perfect credentials. So don’t waste your money if you have even a trivial skeleton in your cupboard!

    • Chris Cox says

      That’s annoying Chris. I have an O1 visa and have travelled extensively including Lebanon, Qatar, Dubai and the like but didn’t have a problem.

    • Chris says

      That’s because Lebanon, Qatar, Dubai etc aren’t on the suspect list – the countries are Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia or Yemen. I believe Libya was added to the list later than the others so I omitted to mention it. When I realised my mistake I corrected it but that lost me my ESTA, thus my Global Entry application was void. It’s no crisis, I just got media and leisure travel visas instead issued by the embassy once I confirmed I’d gone to Libya to make a film.

  2. Craig Sowerby says

    Canadians can’t apply for Global Entry. Instead Canadians must apply for NEXUS, which is similar but has a completely different application process.

    We also tend to call them “queues” over here in Blighty… 😉

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