HomeGeneral TravelThe Global Entry app can make international arrivals feel almost like a...

The Global Entry app can make international arrivals feel almost like a domestic arrival

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U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) unveiled a new app in September of last year that, we were told, is designed to ‘enhance security while further improving the travel experience for CBP’s trusted travelers’. Recently, I finally remembered to give the app a try and discovered that it made my arrival into LAX on an international flight feel as close to a domestic arrival as I think it will ever get.

Global Entry

For anyone who is unaware of the Global Entry program, here’s a quick recap:

Global Entry is a U.S. Customs and Border Protection program which is open to US citizens, legal residents of the US, and citizens of select nations around the world. It is designed to give members expedited entry into the United States via kiosks stationed at major points of entry (not to be confused with the kiosks that can be used by those arriving with ESTAs) and removes the need for passengers to stand in any kind of significant immigration line as they wait to enter the country.

Also, travelers who qualify for the Global Entry program are automatically enrolled in the TSA PreCheck program which offers expedited screening at US TSA checkpoints.

Check here to see if you’re eligible for Global Entry

The Global Entry app

a screenshot of a phone

The Global Entry app is free and is available for download from the Google Play Store and Apple App Store.

At the time of writing, it can be used by Global Entry members arriving into the US at seven airports:

  • Houston George Bush Intercontinental Airport.
  • Los Angeles International Airport.
  • Miami International Airport, Orlando International Airport.
  • Orlando International Airport.
  • Pittsburgh International Airport.
  • Seattle Tacoma International Airport.
  • Washington Dulles International Airport.

We’re told that ‘CBP will continue to evaluate and expand the use of the app at airports where Global Entry processing occurs in the future‘*.

*Information is correct as of 14 February 2024 based on the CBP website on that date.

How the Global Entry app works

According to CBP, the Global Entry app asks travelers to take a “selfie” which is then sent to a processing center (via the app) where it is compared to a photo gallery to verify the traveler’s identity through facial biometrics.

After the photo has been submitted and the passenger’s identity verified, the traveler receives a receipt on the app and once in the immigration hall, they can bypass the Global Entry kiosks by going straight to the CBP officers who then ‘process their entry into the United States’ after viewing their mobile receipt.

My experience

Having read how the app is supposed to work, I was interested to see it in action, and this was my experience when I last arrived home.

As soon as my phone had a signal after I landed at LAX, I opened up the Global Entry app and proceeded to work my way through the app’s instructions.

First, I had to start a new ‘entry process’

a screenshot of a cellphone

Next, I had to confirm my ‘CBP Port’ (Los Angeles, TBIT).

a screenshot of a phone a screenshot of a phone

Then I had to confirm if I was making a submission for more than one person (you can include up to 12 people on one submission).

a screenshot of a phone

I was only submitting an entry application for myself, so I moved on.

Next, the app asked if I had arrived at LAX …

a screenshot of a phone

… and when I confirmed that I had, it asked me to switch on Location Permissions for the app on my phone.

a screenshot of a phone

After I gave the app permission to verify location (only when I’m using the app), it proceeded to give me instructions on how to take the selfie that would be required in the next step.

a screenshot of a phoneI then took the selfie, and the app asked me to review it before submission.

a screenshot of a phone

After I submitted my picture, the app proceeded to verify my location …

a screen shot of a computer

… and after 15 – 20 seconds, my CBP receipt (a number with my image filling most of the screen) was shown on my phone.

a pink and white object

The whole process took me no more than a couple of minutes and I had my CBP receipt long before the aircraft had parked up at the gate.

After disembarking, I made my way to the immigration hall, walked past all the Global Entry kiosks, showed my receipt to the CBP officer who was overseeing the Global Entry lane, and a couple of seconds later, I was officially back in the United States and making my way towards the exits.

Quick thoughts

Global Entry has evolved in the years since it was first introduced, so where in the past, fingerprints were taken and passengers had to wait for the kiosks to print out a receipt, now everything works on facial recognition and things are considerably quicker.

In fact, I have become so accustomed to the whole Global Entry process being quick that (a) I kept on forgetting to try out the new app despite having multiple opportunities to do so since it was released, and (b) I was unconvinced that the app would make things any quicker.

Well, it did make things quicker.

Aside from the briefest of pauses while the CBP officer looked at my phone screen, there was no noticeable difference between this international arrival and my last domestic arrival into LAX, and for someone who still bears the scars of too many long immigration lines pre Global Entry, that felt nothing short of miraculous.

Bottom line

For the time being, the (relatively) new Global Entry app can only be used at seven airports in the US, but if you’re someone who travels between the US and the rest of the world with any kind of frequency, this is probably an app that you should have on your phone.

It will almost certainly get rolled out to considerably more airports as soon as the technology at those airports allows, and while it may not seem like it will make much of a difference to the time it takes to clear immigration, my experience suggests that it will.

Related: Which credit cards offer Global Entry & TSA PreCheck credits?

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  1. Hello, Thank you, a very nice article on Global Entry.
    Question: Were you enrolled in Global Entry before trying the APP?

    Or were you trying it for the first time, and only your photo, details, finger prints were
    in the system from previous entries to the USA? To approve you?



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