Is Global Entry valid as identification at TSA checkpoints?
Global Entry (GE) is a program administered by another Homeland Security agency, Customs and Border Protection (CBP). In exchange for a background check and information about an individual’s travel history, CBP enables frequent travelers to skip the usual immigration queue and re-enter the country via an automated kiosk. The Global Entry program is biometrically secure, and is also a qualifier for PreCheck, the Transportation Security Administration’s “trusted traveler” program. As such, a Global Entry card is more difficult to obtain than a driver’s license or passport.
As most travelers know, the TSA requires government-issued identification at airport security checkpoints. Many travelers show their driver’s license to satisfy this requirement. As someone concerned with the privacy implications of that, I choose to show an alternative (though equally valid) form of ID, typically a U.S. Passport Card or Global Entry card.
Lately I have preferred to use the latter, as it lists the least amount of personally identifiable information. Some TSA employees have questioned its validity, but these have been cases of unfamiliarity, as the card is somewhat new (they were first issued last summer). A quick check with a supervisor has always resolved any question of their validity.
The situation changed on Friday, March 9th. I approached the ID checker at the Buffalo-Niagara International Airport, and he questioned the card. I requested that he check with a supervisor, and she also rejected the card, claiming she had received an email earlier that week stating that Global Entry cards are no longer valid as identification.
Let’s examine this. Why would the TSA reject a card from a program that serves a basis for its own trusted traveler program? Even by TSA standards this seemed irrational.
I held my ground, but the three-stripe supervisor flatly refused to accept my GE card. I equally flatly refused to show other identification, mostly as a matter of principle; TSA should honor forms of ID it publicly claims to accept. I commented that we were at an impasse, to which she responded, “That’s fine, I’m not the one flying today.”
At this point I asked her to summon a police officer to help resolve the situation. The officer – extremely helpful and understanding – checked with TSA higher-ups about the validity of my Global Entry card. At one point three supervisors were present, and all of them claimed that GE cards could not be used here “yet”. It was clear to me that they were confusing the Global Entry and PreCheck programs, but my attempts to educate them about the difference were met with hostile silence.
In the end the Buffalo TSA refused to accept my Global Entry card. Having heard similar reports of GE cards being denied in Los Angeles and Portland, I took the issue up with TSA’s Office of Public Affairs. Spokeswoman Lauren Gaches responded quickly, and was able to verify that TSA’s policy is that Global Entry cards are acceptable as identification at checkpoints. To her further credit, she took the issue up with the operational side of the organization. At a minimum, supervisors Burns and Zielen in Buffalo need retraining on this issue.
TSA’s own trusted traveler program is based in part on membership in Global Entry. If there is any logic in denying its use as identification, I’m not seeing it.
Have you attempted to use valid identification with TSA and been denied? Sound off about your experiences in the comments.