I’ll take any chance to make traveling more efficient, so when I finally received a credit card that reimburses the fee for TSA Pre-check or Global Entry, I jumped at the chance to apply. I found the application process to be easy to navigate and not as time-consuming as I assumed.
There are a number of cards that offer to reimburse the fee for either TSA Pre-check or Global Entry. Currently, Pre-check costs $85 and Global Entry $100. If you’re being reimbursed the non-refundable fee for either, it’s worth just opting for Global Entry- on approval, you will get a Known Traveler Number, which qualifies you for TSA Pre-check anyway. Both memberships are valid for 5 years.
To sign up, you need to create an account and fill out an application on the U.S. Customs and Border Protection site. The application itself is straightforward, asking questions related to your employment, housing, and arrest records. It’s a tedious exercise, but make sure you concentrate on getting all the details right. The application took me a little over 30 minutes to complete. For those interested, it took three days for American Express to credit the application fee to my account.
Status Change and Interview Scheduling
I may have been lucky or it could have been because I am an international travel celebrity, but my application took only 5 days to be approved. When you receive an official status change, of which you’ll be notified via email, you will then be able to make an appointment for your in-person interview. This may be the most difficult part of the application process.
Depending on your location, the local enrollment centers may have limited to no evening or weekend hours. If they do have extended hours, you can guarantee that those time ranges will be booked far in advance, so it may be a couple months until you can get in. If you’re impatient and have an international trip planned soon, you can take advantage of the Enrollment on Arrival option, which allows you to complete your interview when you land at a U.S. based international terminal.
The actual interview is far easier than I anticipated. I was sitting in a small lobby with a couple other folks and was then called up to the counter where the officer was sitting in front of a computer. It was a long counter similar to the DMV with individual stations. The officer asked me to confirm my name, current employment, birthplace, and a couple other seemingly minor details. I supplied my fingerprints electronically and that was it- I was approved. It took all of 4 minutes. I imagine that the extensive background check beforehand is what makes this an expeditious procedure.
You’ll be given your Known Traveler Number on the spot. It’s actually the member ID number on your initial application. This can then be immediately added to future reservations for potential Pre-check considerations. Global Entry is valid on approval, so you can take advantage of it if you have an international trip in the days immediately following the interview. You’ll be mailed a Trusted Traveler card in 7 to 10 business days, but they are only needed for land border crossings, not air travel.
I was pleasantly surprised as to how easy the process was to navigate. Application to final approval took only two weeks for me. It helps that my place of employment is only a few minutes away from an enrollment center and I was able to schedule my interview during an extended lunch break.
Don’t let any apprehension about the process be an impediment to signing up. Of course, results aren’t guaranteed. But if you have a clean record, it should be relatively pain-free. I’m glad I took the time. I now look forward to keeping my shoes on and my laptop firmly stowed.