If you are a frequent traveler who often enters or exits the US, you’re likely to be interested in any schemes that allow you to skip the security line to gain expedited access to the US territory – and several such schemes exist.
One of these is the highly popular Global Entry scheme, which allows those who have been accepted to pass through security a whole lot quicker than non-members. But what exactly is it?
To answer this and other similar questions, in this post, we have all the info you need to know about Global Entry and the all-important Known Traveler Number on the Global Entry card.
What is Global Entry?
Global Entry is a system that entitles members to expedited entry into the US at participating airports and some seaports.
Applicants for the scheme are assessed, and those deemed low risk may be accepted. Members of the scheme then gain access to expedited security clearance via automated control lanes on arrival in the US.
Who is eligible?
US nationals and US lawful permanent residents are eligible to apply for the scheme, as are nationals of the following countries:
- Dominican Republic
- South Korea
- UK (British citizens only)
In addition, Israel, Japan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Australia and Costa Rica are also in the process of joining the scheme.
However, applications to the scheme may be refused. Reasons for this include criminal convictions, providing false information on the application and customs-related offences, among others.
How do you apply?
Applications to the scheme are filed with US Customs and Border Protection. Following this, applicants are called to an in-person interview. Prior to the interview, all applicants undergo a rigorous background check to assess their eligibility for the scheme.
The fee for joining the scheme is currently $100 – and this is non-refundable in the case of an application being rejected.
Further details of the application process are available on the CBP website.
How do you know if you’ve been accepted?
After completing the interview, you may be notified of your acceptance into the scheme very quickly, sometimes almost immediately or within around 15 minutes – or sometimes within a couple of hours.
Once you are accepted, you will receive an email – and you will subsequently also receive notification by post, which will also contain your membership card if you have requested one.
What is your Known Traveler Number (KTN)?
So what is the all-important Known Traveler Number (KTN) – and where can you find it?
Your KTN is a nine-digit number that you need to communicate to airlines when booking flights and that will then grant you access to expedited security clearance.
This number will be communicated to you in the email you receive when you are accepted into the scheme, and it can also be found on the back of your membership card under PASSID.
You will also be able to find your number on TSA or Trusted Traveler Program websites, and airlines usually save the number when you use it with them for the first time, so you won’t need to find it again the next time you book with the same airline.
Once you have your number, you don’t need to carry or use the physical membership card for air travel – and the membership card isn’t usually issued unless you specifically request it.
What’s the procedure for using Global Entry?
When booking a flight, you should notify the airline of your KTN when you fill in the rest of your details.
However, if you don’t do this when booking your flight, you can notify the airline of your number later, sometimes right up until the day of your flight.
On arrival at a participating airport, Global Entry members proceed to designated Global Entry kiosks. These kiosks then scan the traveler’s machine-readable passport, and the traveler is required to fill out an online customs declaration form.
After this, the machine will produce a receipt that tells the traveler to proceed to baggage reclaim – which means the security check has been completed – or they will be told to proceed to an inspection booth to go through the regular entry procedures.
This means that once you have provided your KTN to the airline, the Global Entry kiosk will already have your number, so you won’t need to remember it or enter it again.
Note that Global Entry is only available at selected airports, and not all international airports in the US are part of the scheme.
How about for land and sea borders?
When entering the US via land and sea borders, Global Entry can also help expedite your passage through security clearance – but the procedure might be slightly different.
In this case, the Global Entry membership card is used at special “Ready Lanes” to skip regular security checks.
When entering from Canada or Mexico via land or sea, the membership card alone is sufficient, and you don’t need to carry a passport.
However, note that a valid passport is required to enter Canada, and the Global Entry card will not allow you to cross the border in that direction.
Where can you find your Known Traveler Number?
Once you have been accepted to the Global Entry scheme, you will be notified by email, and your nine-digit KTN number will be communicated to you in the email. You can then begin using it immediately.
If you have requested a membership card, this will later be mailed to you, and the number will be written on the back.
You will also be able to find your number on TSA or Trusted Traveler Program websites.
Can you use a Global Entry card instead of a passport?
No. Your Global Entry card doesn’t replace your passport, so you should always carry your passport when you travel internationally.
The exception to this is that the membership card may be used as a valid form of ID when entering the US via land or sea (but not air) from Canada or Mexico.
Do you need to carry the membership card with you?
No. You don’t need to carry the physical membership card, you just need to know your nine-digit KTN and communicate it to the airline before traveling.
Are membership cards issued automatically?
No. Membership cards are only issued upon request since the KTN is all you need to take advantage of the benefits of Global Entry when flying into participating airports in the US.
What are the advantages of requesting a Global Entry membership card?
Although you don’t need a membership card to enjoy the benefits of Global Entry when flying, you will need the card to use the scheme when entering the US overland or by sea from Mexico or Canada.
You can also use the card as a valid form of photo ID in certain places, so for many people, it’s still worth having – especially since it doesn’t cost anything extra to ask for it.
Does Global Entry guarantee expedited entry?
No. Sometimes even members of the Global Entry scheme are selected for standard or enhanced screening and will have to go through the necessary procedures instead of enjoying expedited entry into the US.
Can you add the number after reserving a flight?
Yes. Even if you don’t add your KTN during the booking process, you can still contact the airline before flying, sometimes even on the same day as your flight, to add the number to your reservation.
How long is Global Entry valid?
Global Entry is valid until five years after your next birthday on being accepted into the program. This means, for example, if you are accepted in January 2024 and your birthday is May 1st, your membership will be valid until May 1st, 2029.
How do you reapply?
The reapplication is the same as the initial application procedure, and the fee is also the same. However, not all those reapplying are required to go for an in-person interview – although in some cases, this can be necessary.
When can you reapply?
It is recommended that you reapply early since if your application hasn’t been accepted by the time your membership runs out, you may find yourself traveling while ineligible to enjoy the benefits of Global Entry.
It’s best to reapply at least six months before the expiry of your previous membership – but you can apply up to one year before, which effectively means on your birthday the year before your membership is due to expire.
How much is the fee for signing up for Global Entry?
The application fee is currently $100, and this is non-refundable, even in the case of a rejected application. The fee for reapplication is the same.
A valuable scheme for those who enter and exit the US frequently
As we’ve seen, Global Entry offers some valuable benefits to members of the scheme, and if you travel into and out of the US frequently, the $100 fee for a five-year membership will probably seem like money well spent.
Applying for the scheme is easy, and once you’ve been accepted, you can begin enjoying the benefits immediately, making use of expedited security clearance instead of wasting lots of time standing in line with everyone else.