Updated: May 23
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No fingerprints, no problem.
As a travel writer, I take up to 20 trips a year and many times I bring the kids. But while I had global entry for years, I was hesitant to cough up $100 a pop for my two children—unlike TSA PreCheck, where young children whip through the express line with their parents, kids can’t skip through immigration just because a parent has Global Entry. After waiting in one too many never-ending lines with two over-tired, crabby jet-lagged kids after a long-haul international flight, I bit the bullet and got Global Entry for them. And as it turned out, there were a few surprises along the way.
Here, six things you should know before getting your kids global entry.It could take months (and months) to get the interview.
I signed my boys up in June of last year and we didn’t have the interview until end of October. Granted, I live in New York—with 8 million other people—but the wait lists are long across the country. However, there are shortcuts. “One way to avoid the hassle of traveling to an airport or a city’s customs department is to contact local travel agencies,” explains Juan Fernandez, Operating Partner at Elli Travel Group in Larchmont, NY. Some savvy travel agencies bring the customs agents to their clients and make the process quick and painless. Fernandez has hosted six such events for his clients and community in the past two years. A 15-minute stop at your local travel agency is better than a haul out to the airport.
Not all kids have developed fingerprints. Who knew? My five-year old’s fingerprints were not well developed, explained the customs clerk after trying to scan them several times. This is not uncommon in kids under seven years old, so luckily immigration has a plan. Fingerprint-less young travelers still get to go through Global Entry (and skip the long lines), but he’ll always get an “x” on his form, which means we jump to the very front of the immigration line to see an agent before exiting. While it is still slightly annoying that I have to see an agent, the wait time is considerably less. If you’re traveling with a baby, you’ll have to go through this extra step as well.
You can transfer global entry after your child’s passport expires.
For those 15 and younger, passports only last five years (for those 16 and older, it lasts for 10). So if you get Global Entry a few years after you get your child a passport, the passport will expire before Global Entry, which also expires after five years, does. But don’t worry, your child’s global entry will still work for the full five years. “If the passport expires before the Global Entry, the holder simply applies for a new passport and then adds the new passport number in their GOES (Global Online Enrollment System) account,” explains Fernandez. “The real key is to save the usernames and passwords you use to establish your GOES account. The GOES system is extremely finicky and you can be locked out for several weeks if you key in the wrong password.”
Both parents don’t have to be at the interview.
I have a different last name from my kids so I figured both my husband and I had to be there for the interview. Turns out I was wrong. “Since Global Entry is attached to your child’s passport—not the parent’s passport—only one parent has to be at the interview,” says Fernandez. He recommends that the parent bring his/her passport and proof of address.
If you’re deciding between Global Entry and TSA PreCheck (officially called TSA Pre), Global Entry is the way to go.
People often confuse these two programs, but they are actually quite different and run by two different agencies. Homeland Security runs the TSA Pre program while the U.S. Customs and Border Protection runs Global Entry. What many people don’t realize, explains Fernandez, is that Global Entry also gives you access to the TSA Pre program. But it doesn’t go both ways. If you enroll in the TSA Pre you do not get access to the Global Entry program. Another note: having Global Entry means you are eligible for TSA PreCheck, but it isn’t guaranteed under Global Entry. I’ve gotten it each and every time I’ve traveled, but all travelers can be called for random security screenings. “Homeland Security randomly picks people with Known Traveler Numbers—e.g. Global Entry—and forces them to go through the normal security procedures,” says Fernandez. “Chances of this happening is typically 10%.”
Your kid will have access to Global Entry immediately.
“Global Entry is activated immediately after your interview,” says Fernandez. So if your interview is days before your departure date, don’t worry, you’re covered.
To make sure that your global entry number is registered on all your plane reservations, Fernandez recommends that you: Add your global entry number to the “Known Traveler” field in all your frequent flyer accounts. That way, when you enter your FF number, the Global Entry number is added automatically. If you’ve made a flight reservation before you received your Global Entry number, you can simply login to the reservation and add the number.
I’ve taken several trips with my kids after getting them Global Entry and the airport process is faster and, more importantly, less stressful. Especially when connecting through Miami, with a tight connection time. The customs lines can be well over an hour and we breezed through in five minutes. That’s $200 well spent.
by JUDY KOUTSKY
May 9, 2017