Updated: Aug 6
Why You Should Get Global Entry for Your Kids This Summer
BY JUDY KOUTSKY
July 25, 2022
The summer vacation season is in full swing—and Americans are traveling to Europe and other international destinations in record numbers, often facing lengthy delays as a result. “With a strain at both international and domestic customs lines, clients without Global Entry are experiencing nightmare arrival lines,” explains Juan Fernandez, Operating Partner at Elli Travel Group in Larchmont, New York. “Global Entry is a great investment for families traveling with kids. After long return flights, a parent’s worst nightmare is having to stand in line for up to three hours in order to enter the United States. Imagine Disney World lines but without the fun of an amusement ride at the end.”
I know from experience. 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.
This article has been updated with new information since its original publish date.
It could take months to get the interview
“Unfortunately, COVID has created a backlog at the customs department, and they have halted sending customs agents to third-party sites like Elli Travel Group, which was a great service,” says Fernandez. Instead, the wait can now be up to nine months in some populous destinations like New York and Chicago. A good way to speed up the process? Fill out the paperwork online, and once you are conditionally approved, you can do the Global Entry interview at the airport. Enrollment on arrival (EoA) saves both time and stress. How does it work? When you land from an international flight, follow signs for Global Entry interviews, and you simply wait in line right there and then. I did it with my younger son in May and waited five minutes. For my older son, it took a bit more time—we waited about 30 minutes in June—but it was well worth it. Just make sure your airport participates in the EoA program. There are even international locations (including Aruba, the Bahamas, Bermuda, and Canada) where you can do the interview at your destination before flying home.
Not all kids have developed fingerprints
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 they’ll always get an “x” on their 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. 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 Global Online Enrollment System (GOES) account,” says 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 their passport and proof of address.
If you’re deciding between Global Entry and TSA PreCheck, choose Global Entry
People often confuse these two programs, but they are actually quite different and run by two different agencies. Homeland Security runs the TSA PreCheck 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 PreCheck program. But it doesn’t go both ways—if you enroll in TSA PreCheck, 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 are typically 10 percent.”