Frequent international travelers may be familiar with the Global Entry program, which expedites the customs process when re-entering the United States. Whether you are new to Global Entry or an existing member, you may find yourself asking, “Do I need to carry my Global Entry card?" Let's find out.
How Global Entry works at the airport
Global Entry is a program run by U.S. Customs and Border Protection under its Trusted Traveler Programs umbrella. It allows for expedited clearance upon arrival in the U.S. for travelers who have been determined as low risk. Members enter the country through an assigned kiosk.
As a Global Entry member, when you arrive back in the United States, you'll enter through the automatic kiosks. There, you present your passport or permanent resident card to the machine and place your fingers on the scanner for biometric fingerprint identification verification. You may also, or alternatively, be positively identified using a facial scan. You can typically complete a customs declaration right at the kiosk, which will then issue you a transaction receipt and direct you to baggage claim.
Where does Global Entry work without a card?
If you're flying back to the United States from a trip abroad and planning to use the Global Entry airport kiosks, you won't need to have your physical card on you. In fact, these kiosks don't accept Global Entry cards at all. To access Global Entry kiosks, you'll need your passport or U.S. lawful permanent resident card.
As for where Global Entry works, it's available in nearly 60 major airports across the United States, and almost 20 international airports. And remember — you don't need to carry your card to access them.
When is a Global Entry card necessary?
While your card isn't required to access Global Entry kiosks at the airport, there are other scenarios in which you'll need it. If you plan to take advantage of Global Entry's access to NEXUS or SENTRI, your Global Entry card will be required.
- NEXUS: The NEXUS program, which also falls under the Trusted Traveler Programs umbrella, allows expedited processing for prescreened travelers when traveling between the United States and Canada. This includes land, air or marine travel.
- SENTRI: The Trusted Traveler Program SENTRI allows pre-cleared travelers expedited entry into the United States from Mexico. SENTRI members can use a dedicated lane into the U.S. when entering by land.
Global Entry members' access to NEXUS is limited, as it only allows expedited entrance into the U.S. from Canada, and not into Canada from the U.S. Additionally, if you plan to use your Global Entry card for NEXUS or SENTRI, you must add the programs to your account via your Trusted Traveler Program account. After you do this, you may receive an additional membership card. However, you can still access the respective lines for these programs at the port of entry using your existing Global Entry card. Once you receive your Global Entry card, it must be activated within 30 days.
If you're flying internationally and are worried about one more item to keep track of, just know your Global Entry card might not need to be one of them. To use Global Entry kiosks, you just need your passport or permanent resident card. However, if you're planning on traveling to Canada or Mexico, consider adding the NEXUS or SENTRI programs to your membership and remember to bring your card with you!