How Kids Can Get Global Entry For Free (No Credit Cards Required)

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I think that Global Entry (and Pre-Check) is such a game changer in the world of travel.  Getting back to the US after a trip just to stand in very long lines at customs can be a real downer of a way to end a vacation for anyone – add in some tired kids who are bored, don’t want to stand, need to go to the bathroom, etc., and it can be a very poor way to end a vacation.  If you travel with any regularity I think that the $100 fee for Global Entry is absolutely worth it since with Global Entry you skip the line and head straight to a kiosk.  The process usually takes me less than 60 seconds.  The $100 fee can be refunded if you have an The Platinum Card® from American Express, and each authorized user can also get the $100 refunded via a statement credit.  However, Amex Platinum cards come with hefty annual fees and obviously not every family has one, or can realistically afford $100 per family member to pay for Global Entry out of pocket simply to avoid some lines.

Thankfully, as a reader reminded me today, there is another option out there for some families to be able to use Global Entry for free for their children.  The solution lies with the Canadian program, NEXUS.  With NEXUS you can not only get into Canada without the massive customs lines there (I have waited in about a 90 minute line in Montreal before), but you can also get Global Entry by way of having NEXUS.  Of course, Global Entry can then get you PreCheck to use on domestic flights which saves you time when going through security.  Best of all, NEXUS charges just $50 for adults and children are free!  Let me repeat that last part for dramatic effect….CHILDREN ARE FREE!

fee for nexus mommy points

So, NEXUS is $50 for adults and free for those 17 and under (you do need a custodial parent in attendance to apply).  NEXUS also gets you Global Entry.  Global Entry also gets you Pre-Check.  Sounds almost perfect!

From the Global Entry FAQ’s:

As a current NEXUS or SENTRI member, how can I use Global Entry kiosks?

ll current NEXUS members, and U.S. citizens and U.S. lawful permanent residents who are SENTRI members, are eligible to use Global Entry kiosks once they provide 10 fingerprints and document information to CBP. If CBP already has your 10 fingerprints and document information on file, you can use Global Entry kiosks without further action and at no additional cost. If you are a Mexican national in SENTRI, you must apply for Global Entry through your GOES account. For additional Global Entry benefit information, log on to your GOES account.

So, what’s the catch you must be thinking?  Well, I have Global Entry that I obtained “for free” while having the Amex Platinum card, but do not yet have NEXUS in large part because I would want NEXUS for my air travel into Canada, so I would need an iris scan done at certain locations that I don’t particularly frequent, such as airports in Monteral, Vancouver, Calgary, etc,  However, I do have trips to both Vancouver and Toronto booked over the next 6 months so I hope to get it done then.  My daughter will be with me in Vancouver, so we can all get it done then if we want.  So, the catch is you need to travel north to a NEXUS enrollment center to get NEXUS.  That will be easy for some, and pretty impossible for others.  However, you don’t necessarily have to go all the way to Canada.

Hopefully someone will correct me if I am wrong, but my understanding is you do not yet have to have done the iris scan with NEXUS for your Global Entry to be active.  That means, that even if you have only done the rest of the NEXUS process at some of the US enrollment locations, you still have Global Entry.  For example, the reader who emailed me referenced getting hers and her children’s NEXUS done at the enrollment center in Seattle.  There are also NEXUS enrollment centers in Detroit, Buffalo, Niagara Falls, Port Huron, and more.  The locations are all in the northern states, but that is easier for some to get to than Canada.

I think I have a basic understanding of how the NEXUS-Global Entry relationship works, but I would love to hear from some of you who have actually acquired NEXUS in part to also get Global Entry.  This “free” Global Entry solution for children 17 and under is not worth it for everyone, but if you live in or have plans to visit some of the enrollment center cities anyway, it can be well worth your time to get this done while you are there.


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  1. You do not need the iris scan to get Nexus, which includes Global Entry.

    You only need the iris scan to use the Nexus kiosks when you fly into a Canadian airport (no iris scan, no Nexus lane). Without the iris scan you can still use the Nexus lanes at Canadian land borders with your Nexus card.

    Also, your Nexus card is a WHTI (Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative) document, so you can use it to get into Mexico (but you can’t use the Sentri lanes) and you can use it for a Caribbean cruise that leaves from a U.S. city (you can’t fly to a Caribbean nation to start a cruise with a Nexus card – you need a passport).

    If you only have Global Entry you can use the Nexus lane to get back into the U.S. from Canada, but you can’t use the Nexus lane to get into Canada (you must have a Nexus card).

    We live in Detroit, so we did our Nexus/GE interview at the bridge. Six months later we drove to Toronto to visit friends and stopped at the YYZ Nexus office for our iris scan (it’s outside security & no appointment is needed for just an iris scan).

    I hope this helps.

  2. I have Nexus and use it regularly. My children do as well and because they cannot do the iris scan, we’re usually in the flight attendant line up (which is just as quick and I prefer it over the eye scan). My only tip is DO NOT MAKE MISSTAKES. They are very strict under this program and if you make a mistake, for example, bringing something cross the border when you shouldn’t (for example, mangos are not permitted into Canada), they will revoke the Nexus and you are ban for life. Canadian customs are strict and to avoid this, many Canadians use Nexus into the US but line up into Canada (versus using the Nexus). If you travel regularly for business, you still need your passport as your passport contains valid work permits.

  3. The best place to go through NEXUS/GE interview and get iris scan the same day is Niagara Falls/Whirlpool Bridge enrollment center. The center is on the US side, but there is a NEXUS office on the Canadian side of the bridge. Even though the bridge is open to NEXUS holders only, I asked after the interview if I could use it, and they let me through.

    So, book a family vacation to Niagara Falls and get full NEXUS/GE enrollment done in one trip. 🙂

  4. Christina, if you are found with contraband items it doesn’t matter if you used the non-Nexus lane. Nexus is tied to your passport and they will see you have Nexus anyway and you will still be banned for life from Nexus.

  5. Yea, I figured this one out on my own and have an interview set for Nexus in two weeks. The savings at least pay for the travel to the interview.

  6. This is so awesome! We have a 2 year old son that we’re planning on getting Global Entry for so that he can join my wife and me in the GOES lines at customs. But, we live in So Cal, so getting to a NEXUS Enrollment Center in the North just isn’t in the cards for us since we don’t have any trips planned to those cities before we go back to Cabo in January.

  7. I’ve got a NEXUS card but am pretty sure I didn’t get the iris scan as, like Mark R, I did my interview in Detroit. Can I use the Global Entry lanes when returning from Europe?

  8. Question for those under 17. Do they have to reapply after they turn 18? My daughter will be traveling more in the coming years and wondering if it makes sense to try and get her in before her bday.

  9. I’m happy step in to this as a very well traveled Nexus holder.
    1) Making a mistake doesn’t get your card revoked; lying does. If you’ve got fruit with you on your way to Canada and you say ‘Yes’ when asked about if you have food, you’re fine. They will likely ask to see it, and if its not allowed they will just toss it and let you go on your way. Doesn’t matter what line you are in. Same goes for pretty much anything. Firearms, Twinkies, you name it. Declare it, and you’re fine; though you may lose your mange/gun/Twinkies. Don’t declare it, and you’ve got a world of hurt coming if you’re caught. ‘Stupid American tries to bring 59 guns to Canada’ is a bi-weekly headline up here.

    2) You don’t actually join the Global Entry program after you are a Nexus member. You are granted access to Global Entry by virtue of having Nexus. So your online GOES account won’t show two membership, just the Nexus one. You also don’t have to do anything to get it, assuming your fingerprints were taken during your Nexus enrollment (if you joined within the last 5 years, they should have been). As your GE access depends on having Nexus, when your Nexus expires, so does your GE access. Similarly, if Canada revokes your Nexus card, you also lose your GE access.

    3) I can confirm you don’t have to have Iris done for GE to be work. But you can’t use the card in airport Nexus lanes without the scan, and NO you can’t be a smart-ass and use the crew lines without a scan either.

    4) Applications take ~60 days to process before you can schedule an interview, so if you know you’re coming to Canada in 5 months, apply now. Once you get per-approval to schedule the interview, you can schedule it as far in advance as the schedule will allow. Only rule is that you must book an appointment within 30 days of getting the letter, the date of said appointment isn’t relevant as long as its been booked.

  10. Ryan is correct, my statement to Christina should have been worded “undeclared contraband items”. In another life, when I worked for the feds, I used to sometimes have lunch with U.S. CBP officers and they would always tell stories about people crossing the border with undeclared contraband ending up with massive aggravation that they could have totally avoided if they just would have declared.

  11. I just used my NEXUS for Global Entry at SEA about an hour ago, you complete the same process as you would as a Global Entry member (scan passport and fingerprints, take picture and answer questions). In Canada you can either use a Global Entry or NEXUS terminal to enter the country. The NEXUS terminal you just scan your iris (it prompts you with directions on where to position your eyes and 99% of the time you can use it with either glasses or contact lenses in) and answer the questions on the screen. It is MUCH faster to enter than using GE (and the fingerprint pad never likes my fingerprints). Most Canadian airports have USA pre-clearance and the process is the same for exit. I believe you can use a credit card on the terminal to pay any outstanding duties owed and then you can leave through the nothing to declare line; however I have not used that function yet (I will be entering Canada over my limit in a few hours so I can tell you later if needed). Then with either of them bring the print out to the customs agent and they will decide whether you owe more duty. You do not scan the NEXUS card at the terminal or really use for anything besides applying for Pre-Check on flights, but you have to bring the card with you when travelling if you plan on using it. The perk is if you are staying in North America you do not need your passport.

    My favorite perk is at most Canadian airports they have a priority security line for domestic flights for NEXUS members regardless of status or airline. This line even takes precedence over the crew line (which has given me some dirty looks). If they do not have a NEXUS lane most Canadian airports are happy to escort you to the front of line (which again gets dirty looks)

    When applying you have to apply online and when you are conditionally accepted then you can set up an interview to receive the card where both Canada and the USA interview you and then issue the card, take fingerprints for GE and iris scan for NEXUS. This has to be done at a NEXUS center and you have to have an appointment (No walkups). When there are cancellations they put those slots back on the website so it pays to check frequently if you want an early date. If in the future you need to update documents (Drivers License, Passport, Birth Certificate etc.) you can simply walk in to update this information.

  12. @ Lee @
    Hi Lee, I also live in so cal and was able to get GE for my 3 year old daughter, through the AMEX platinum, without having to go through the NEXUS program.

    You just need to add authorized users to AMEX platinum, up to 3 for additional $175, and each AU can get one time GE for ANYONE, even if not the actual AU.
    The charge just shows up on statement as Global Entry, and you get credited for it. I was able to do this for my entire family with ONE amex platinum + 3 authorized users. (Total of 4 GE application in one shot-all got statement credit) I then cancelled all the 3 AU cards, and did not have to pay the $175 annual fee.

  13. Can someone answer a question on how this works for pre-check? My husband and I both got Global Entry almost exclusively for Pre-check. Dulles is our home airport and the security lines are huge. However, our children who are over 12 cannot use pre-check with us, they have to be registered themselves. I was planning to do this, but at $100 each I would rather go the free NEXUS route. But will NEXUS really transfer to having pre-check?Ryan above says “You don’t actually join the Global Entry program after you are a Nexus member. You are granted access to Global Entry by virtue of having Nexus. So your online GOES account won’t show two membership, just the Nexus one.” So I wonder whether having NEXUS really will carry through to having pre-check, if in fact you don’t actually get Global Entry, just the ability to use the GLobal Entry kiosks. ANyone know for sure?

  14. @Lynn, having NEXUS alone absolutely works for Pre-Check. I have NEXUS but don’t have Global Entry and get Pre-Check all the time. You just enter the NEXUS number in the “Trusted Traveler” box on the frequent flyer account and it doesn’t matter if it’s a NEXUS, SENTRI or Global Entry number, it’ll be accepted.

  15. To clarify, yes. The word is “undeclared contraband items”. If you use the Nexus line, you do not have the opportunity to ‘declare’ and I’m really referring to honest innocent mistakes that a family can easily make. Nothing may come out of it but it is a pain when you are called aside for further clarification. If you use the regular line, the officer often gives a verbal warning and will let you pass. Personally, the consequence of an honest mistake exceeds any $ saving, or to save time unless you plan to use it frequently. I cross with my children several times a month via car or plane. Car lines can easily exceed 1 to 2 hours, hence, Nexus is very handy.

  16. Re: Pre-Check – just to clarify, you have to enter the “PASS ID” number in the Trusted Traveler field in your airline’s profile in the Secure Flight information. Some people have gotten confused and entered their GOES ID number, which will not get you Pre-Check.

  17. Thanks so much to everyone with first hand experience for chiming in! Glad to hear that the process essentially works as I thought even if a couple details are slightly different. 😉 Also glad to hear that so many families are simplifiying their travel experience by getting NEXUS/Global Entry/Pre-check!

  18. My wife and I have the AMEX Plat so we got out GE earlier this year. But, at the same time found it useless when our kids needed to have GE too to bypass the lines if we travelled with them. This is all great information. If I were to get NEXUS so my kids who are under 8 years old can get GE, do I have to apply for NEXUS too even though I have GE already?

    @John K interesting. Are there ramifications for my children’s credit history/fraud vulnerability if I make my child an authorized user? I am not worried about careless spending on my part, but more of opening my child’s credit to differnt types of fraud, since they would be on the “grid” now for identity theft and credit fraud. Anybody have thoughts?

  19. @jedijood – I am not sure specifically about identity theft issues with regard to having your children as AU’s on your credit card but can say that my dad added me as an AU to his amex when I was 12. I was going on a trip to Alaska to visit my aunt and uncle and wanted me to have access to emergency funds while I was there. When I came back, it went into a drawer until I was 16 and driving. Now I’m 24 and have a credit score close to 800. I can only think this is due to my parents being proactive with my credit at a young age. Itll help out tremendously as I look to buy a home here soon (although I can’t churn anymore… bummer!)

  20. @jedijoo. You can not add your child as AU on the account, legally speaking. However you can add any other friends or relatives as AU and in that account, purchase the GE entry application. The point here being that AMEX does not check for the name of the GE applicant but just pay for one time GE application regardless who it is. Hope that clarifies.

  21. I’m really confused. I think we should have signed up for Nexus since you get GE and save $50, go figure. But my question is: if we are US citizens with GE do our children (5&6) need GE if we are only going back and forth between Canada by car/ferry? thanks

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