If you have traveled through any number of the major international airports in the US recently, you probably have noticed a push to mobile passports. New apps like this from Customs and Boarder Protection has become a great way to speed up the process of entering the US as a citizen. So the question remains... is Global Entry worth it with new high speed methods of transiting customs?
The new CBP Mobile Passport app allows passengers to pre-fill all of your information and save it prior to your arrival. Once you land, you can connect to your mobile provider or the airport wi-fi to submit your passport control information. From there it is an easy process walking up to the next CBP officer and scanning your mobile passport, just follow the posted signs for mobile passengers.
Before the mobile passport was made available, Global Entry was the gold standard for clearing customs quickly. Global Entry requires a $100 payment, an in person interview, fingerprint scans and a background check. However, it also comes with TSA Precheck which itself costs $75 and is worth every cent of it if you travel often, Precheck saves me so much time, it's hard to even explain how helpful Precheck can be.
Now that mobile passports and Global Entry both exist side by side, what is the advantage of Global Entry? Is there still a place for Global Entry?
Global Entry is by no means dead, it's still faster than the mobile passport and there are a few reasons for that. First and foremost, there are still fewer people who will be using Global Entry. The higher bar to entry means that there are fewer people to compete with when entering the country. The mobile app is open to every citizen and as such can be used by everyone. While the program is just getting off the ground, we can expect to see people use the app more and more, as that happens we'll start to see longer and longer lines.
Another reason and probably the one I find most compelling is the ease of transiting customs. If you've traveled out of the country you probably know there are two steps to every boarder crossing. Passport control is the first and then customs is next. Global Entry allows you to basically hand the customs agent a slip of paper and walk right through, no questions asked, you've already answered them through your Global Entry kiosk.
When I went to China some months ago, Global Entry was not working so we needed to enter through the normal lanes. This meant I needed to answer more questions than usual, and that lead to them searching my belongings before allowing me on my way. Apparently spending one full day in China is weird... well maybe it is but mileage runs aren't really understood by everyone. Had Global Entry been running, I would have flown right through no questions asked, that's where the background check up front saves you time on every transit of the boarder.
So while I can see the argument for no longer being a part of Global Entry, I think TSA Precheck, and an extra $25 is worth the increased speed. Not to mention many credit cards offset this cost now anyways. So in my opinion Global Entry is still well worth it.
Rocket Scientist, Travel Junkie, and Ruler of the 4th Moon of Omicron Persei 8