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Can Your Family Cost You Your Global Entry Membership?

Global Entry is one of the best travel perks money can buy (and that assumes you don’t have a credit card that will reimburse you for it!). It allows you to breeze through immigration and customs when returning to the U.S. from abroad, and it also includes TSA PreCheck, which lets you skip the long security lines at the airport.

But what if you have a family member who is not so squeaky clean? Can their criminal record or immigration status affect your Global Entry membership?

The answer is yes, it can. According to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) website, Global Entry eligibility is determined on a case-by-case basis and may be denied or revoked for various reasons, including:

  • Providing false or incomplete information on the application.
  • Having a criminal history or being the subject of an investigation by any federal, state, or local law enforcement agency.
  • Having a record of customs, immigration, or agriculture violations or penalties.
  • Being inadmissible to the U.S. under immigration regulations, including applicants with approved waivers of inadmissibility or parole documentation.
  • Being unable to satisfy CBP of your low-risk status.

That last part is very subjective and open-ended, and that’s a feature, not a bug. If CBP or DHS finds anything that casts any shadow of a doubt that you’re extremely low-risk, they can refuse, non-renew, or even revoke your membership. This means that if you have a family member who has any of these issues, they may not be able to join Global Entry themselves, and they may also jeopardize your own membership if you are associated with them.

For example, if you live at the same address as a family member who has a criminal history or an immigration violation, CBP may flag your application or revoke your membership after a periodic review. Generally, outside of authoritarian regimes, the very notion of collectively punishing an entire family for the actions of their kin is unthinkable. However, trusted traveler programs are a privilege, not a right, and may be revoked at any time, for pretty much any reason – so the loss of GE privileges may very well be a punishment a family must suffer collectively.

There have been reports of people who have had their Global Entry memberships revoked or denied because of their family members’ actions, such as:

  • A woman who had her Global Entry revoked because her husband was arrested for drug trafficking.
  • A man who had his Global Entry denied because his brother was on a terrorist watch list.
  • A couple who had their Global Entry revoked because their son was arrested for DUI.

Sometimes the revocation is triggered when the family member in question applies for Global Entry themselves. Reddit user XxTOHMExX posted such a cautionary tale on /r/GlobalEntry:

Another unlucky member of /r/GlobalEntry had their GE membership revoked after their wife was involved in some kind of unspecified customs violation. While we can’t help but think there’s more to the story here, what is clear is his wife’s actions while he wasn’t present were enough to get his membership pulled.

Of course, these are extreme cases, and CBP does not automatically disqualify anyone who has a family member with a criminal record or an immigration issue. But it does mean that you have to be careful and honest when applying for or renewing your Global Entry membership, and be prepared to explain any potential red flags that may come up during the background check or the interview. It’s worth remembering that GE is a program for travelers who carry almost zero risk, and membership is never guaranteed to anyone.

By joining Global Entry, you consent to a certain degree of ongoing monitoring by DHS even when you aren’t traveling. In fact, DHS performs queries on every single Global Entry member every 24 hours for changes in “risk.” In FY2022, about 12,000 Global Entry members received the boot, primarily by becoming the subject of an ongoing investigation by law enforcement.

If you do have a family member who is ineligible for Global Entry, you may still be able to enjoy the benefits of the program by traveling separately from them or by using alternative programs such as Mobile Passport Control or Automated Passport Control, which are free and do not require a membership or an interview. You can also use CLEAR Plus and CLEAR Reserve at selected checkpoints; contrary to popular belief, there is no background screening involved in CLEAR – it’s just a private service to get escorted to the front of the line. CLEAR Plus costs $189 a year (though some AmEx cards will reimburse this), while CLEAR Reserve is free of charge and available in selected airports outside the US, too. You could try your luck at getting a standalone TSA PreCheck membership, but we’d hazard a guess that previous denial or revocation of another trusted traveler program would pretty much be a permanent disqualifier here.

Global Entry is a great way to save time and hassle when traveling internationally, but it is not a right or a guarantee. It is a privilege that can be revoked at any time by CBP. So make sure you and your family members follow the rules and stay out of trouble, or you may lose your Global Entry membership for good.

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