A Global Entry Guide for Families

A Global Entry Guide for Families


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Global entry allows you to re-enter the United States quickly and easily from abroad. The following guide will help you understand what the process will look like.

Global entry allows you to re-enter the United States quickly and easily from abroad. The following guide will help you understand what the process will look like.

If you’re planning to do a lot of flying with kids, then getting through security lines quickly is going to be a priority. While some airports don’t have security lines that are too long, some airports are a complete madhouse. Trying to keep luggage and kids in tow, while going through security or customs is not an easy or fun experience.

If you have a toddler, you know what I’m talking about. Toys and food for kids, your own carry-on, perhaps a stroller, all while having to remove shoes and belts is quite stressful. If you’ve hit a long line that takes 15+ minutes to get through, you probably don’t want to fly again unless you leave the kids behind.

There are a few different programs that help you get through security and customs quickly and easily. 

What is TSA PreCheck?

If you’ll not be doing any international travel, or very little, then your best option is probably just to get TSA PreCheck. This allows you to use a special line for those with PreCheck - it’s generally much shorter in length and moves much faster. This is because you don’t have to remove shoes, belts, and whatever else. You go through the metal detector, and move through quickly.

The nice thing about PreCheck is that only you, as the adult, needs it. Your children, under the age of 12, will automatically receive PreCheck. If you have multiple adults, then all of them will need to be signed up for PreCheck for all of you to be able to use the designated line.

What is Global Entry?

A step up from PreCheck is Global Entry. Global Entry allows for quick entrance into the United States through customs. Instead of waiting in the long lines to meet with a border agent, you’ll use special machines which use facial recognition to quickly enter back into the country. If you get Global Entry, you’ll also receive TSA PreCheck as part of it, so you get both.

Once again, this is a real lifesaver with kids. After a long international flight, the last thing you want to do is keep kids in line for several minutes while you wait to be interviewed by a border agent. Global entry will make coming back into the United States a real breeze. Global entry requires that each party apply on their own, so make sure you apply for even your youngest child.

How do I get Global Entry?

Global entry is pretty easy to get, but the timelines are pretty long right now. People are waiting upwards of a year to get Global Entry as I write this, so make sure you plan accordingly. 

The first step is to apply for Global Entry through the Trusted Traveler Program website. You will need to create accounts for each member of your family, and fill out the application for each member of the family. You will need to make sure you have the passport of each family member available, along with your driver’s license or other state identification for adults. 

You will need to pay the $100 fee for each member of the family as well. If you’ve been following our articles on flying for free, you may already be using credit cards for points. Many of those cards also offer a $100 credit to be used for Global Entry. For example, the Southwest Performance Business card, or American Express Delta Platinum both offer a credit that can be used for Global Entry. You can use the credit on any of your family members, not just for yourself (although you can also use the credit once per card that offers it).

Once you’ve applied and paid, you’ll wait for your application to be approved. If you’re lucky, that can occur within a few days. I completed four applications for our family, and all of them were approved within that time period. However, you may have to wait up to 6 months for your application to be approved. Ultimately, you just have to wait until your application is approved before you can go to the next step.

The final step is to complete an interview at a Global Entry location. There are a lot of options for where this can be done, so search to find which location will work for you. If you’re in a less popular area, you may be in luck as you’ll probably have more opportunities to schedule your interview. Some locations right now don’t have any available time slots, and you’ll have to keep checking. I was able to schedule 3 interview slots together about 4 months from when our applications were initially approved. For the 4th, I scheduled our toddler on a different day.

What to expect in the interview

I couldn’t find much information on what to expect, especially with the kids, at our Global Entry interview. I also didn’t really know what to expect for my wife and I. We headed to our airport (where our Global Entry office is located), and arrived in the office. We waited a couple of minutes before we were addressed and all went in together.

We were taken into the customs area of our airport, which was completely empty. We all stood up at the officers desk, and handed over our passports. They didn’t look at our driver’s license or anything else - they just took each passport, scanned it in, typed a few things in, and then took our pictures. They also took fingerprints of each child. They had no issue completing the “interview” for our toddler along with us even though he wasn’t scheduled. And that was it. There were no questions for us, nothing really worrisome for the kids or adults. We got a little instruction as to how the machines worked and were sent on our way. In all, we were there maybe 20 minutes total. 

Overall, the process was completely painless, and really quick to complete. The kids really just needed to be present so they could verify the passports were for each of them, and to take their pictures.


If you’re looking for a way to make your flying experience with kids even better, definitely check out Global Entry. You’ll save some time, and a lot of stress.


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