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BY Margalit

How the Global Entry Program Can Make Travel Easier for Families with Special Needs

Have you heard about the new ’ Global Entry  Program that is now available in many airports around the U.S?

My family and I used it for the first time last month and couldn’t get over how stress-free it made our airport experience.

What is Global Entry?

The program, managed by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, allows travelers to use specially designed self-check kiosks when they return from a trip abroad instead of standing in the regular Customs and Border Patrol lines. In addition, once approved for the program you are automatically enrolled in the TSA Pre Check Program for domestic flights.

How the program can help special needs families

The program is ideal for special needs’ families. It enables them to skip the frequently long lines for the Immigration/ Customs upon returning to the US and use self-checkout kiosks instead. If at any time travelers encounter any kind of difficulty with the kiosk, there are CBP officers who help resolve any snafus encountered with the kiosk system. This is a huge help for families returning from international destinations after long haul flights when their kids are tired and jet-lagged.

Global Entry also gives its applicants access to all TSA Pre-check benefits. Participants have the option to stand in shorter TSA lines and don’t need to remove any clothing items like shoes and jackets. Additionally participants of TSA Pre-check can leave cosmetics, medicines and electronics undisturbed in their carry-on luggage.

Who is eligible?

U.S. citizens and permanent residents with a valid passport can apply. Some Citizens from other countries like South Korea, the Netherlands, Mexico and Canada may qualify for Global Entry’s benefits through their own programs like Nexus, Plimus and Korean Smart Entry Service .

How much does it cost?

The cost for the program is $100 per person. If you bear in  mind that the TSA pre-check program costs $85 and Global Entry costs $100 per person and is valid for five years, it is well worth spending the extra 15 dollars to get the access to both programs. Some platinum credit card and airline loyalty programs reimburse travelers for the expense so you might want to check if you are eligible.

How to apply?

You start your application process by filling out a multi-page questionnaire with personal information and countries you have visited in the last five years. Make sure you answer the questions as truthfully as possible and check for typos that might stop your application from being approved. You should allocate at least an hour if you plan on filing applications for multiple family members. Since every person is required to schedule a separate appointment, all family members should apply at the same time to give you the ability to arrange the interviews back to back on a specific date.

The approval process

Once you submit your application online, it can take anywhere from several days to a couple of weeks (depending upon how busy the customs and border patrol office in your area is) to get a conditional approval e-mail letter advising you to plan an interview. If multiple family members apply at the same time you should wait until everyone in your party receives their own e-mail to book the interviews in a Customs and Border Patrol office in your area.

FingerprintingSince more and more people are applying don’t be discouraged if there is one to three months wait for the next available interview. In our case (we live in the L.A area) we had to wait for two months. The interview itself is brief and consists of several identification questions, registering the person’s passport, taking a picture a picture and fingerprinting the applicant.

If you need to assist your child with special needs during the interview, ask for permission to accompany your child into the room. In our case, though we arrived at the Los Angeles airport Customs and Border Patrol Office a full -hour earlier than our appointed time, the officers were very accommodating and squeezed us in right away so our son with autism didn’t have to wait.

You can expect to hear back via e-mail whether your application was approved or denied in about a week.Once approved you can access the CBP kiosks while traveling by entering the designated identification number mentioned in the e-mail even though you don’t have the card in your possession . The actual ‘Global Entry’ card will arrive in the mail in the following 2-3 weeks. When you receive it, make sure you store it somewhere safe and don’t lose it as it can be used as a form of identification anywhere an identification is required like the TSA, DMV, and federal courts.

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Written on April 3, 2014 by:

Margalit Sturm Francus has lived in five different countries on three continents. In 2009, she established a nonprofit website, Autistic Globetrotting, to inspire and encourage autistic families to explore the world. Her articles have appeared in many media publications, including , SATH and Autisable By communicating with both the autistic and travel communities, she aims to raise autism awareness and facilitate the implementation of much needed accommodations for special needs travelers.

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