What A Smooth Global Entry Application Process Looks Like

My experience applying for Global Entry was almost delightful.

On a blustery Saturday morning in March, I found myself heading to JFK bleary-eyed, slightly hungover, with my hair in a messy bun. I thought of all the blogs I had read warning interviewees to know their travel history. I was sure I’d slip up and be interrogated.

The Global Entry office is set a few feet back from an otherwise smooth stretch of hallway. I almost walked past, but caught the tiny nondescript sign above its entrance. I was immediately confronted with a poster of instructions to sign yourself in. I took a seat in the adjacent room, feeling uneasy at the lack of human reception.

The square blue room were lined with chairs and grim-faced people sitting on them, like how I envisioned purgatory. It was hard to focus on my book. A television on the wall blared a short instructional video about Global Entry on repeat. A TSA agent soon came in to ask for my passport. She did not come back.

I overheard another agent tell a woman that, because she had not paid online, her application was incomplete. She’d come to the airport for nothing! My stomach lurched. I ran through all the steps of my application, mentally assuring myself I’d come prepared.

“I’ll take Laura… and Stephanie,” a male voice floated in from the open door. It was attached to ruggedly handsome man with dirty blonde hair who directed me to the last table in the row. To my delight, he joined me there a moment later.

What questions did they ask?

“What is your full name?”

“Still at this address?”

“Ever been arrested or had any problems with customs?” (No.)

“Do you work right now?”

“I’m a student,” I said. “And a freelance writer. So I work once in a while,” I added, flashing him a wry grin that he returned. All TSA agents should be this dreamy.

“Do you have any upcoming trips?”
I told him I was going to Costa Rica next month. He warned me to take the Global Entry line coming back, not the one marked U.S. Citizens. If the line was long, or I was spending too long at the machine, I was doing something wrong.

“Do you have any questions?”

Are you seeing anyone? “No.” I got up and shook his hand.

“Have a great time in Costa Rica.”

That was it.

How much did Global Entry cost?

I paid for the application with my Chase Sapphire Reserve card, which immediately credited my account with $100 to cancel out the fee. The trip to the airport took $17.50 and two swipes of my unlimited Metrocard. The Airtrain was $5 each way, but I took the LIRR ($7.50, off-peak) from Atlantic-Barclays Center in Brooklyn to shave half hour off the commute there.

How long did the application take?

I started the process of my application on February 25, 2017. My application was conditionally approved on March 8, 2017. I was able to make an appointment that day for March 25, 2017.

Just like that, I became a trusted traveler. Despite the hour and a half trip to the airport from where I live, I found the Global Entry process as close to a treat as I could expect.

Was your Global Entry application a breeze or a nightmare?