Here's how it works.
We filled out the application online, gave all the particulars of our identities (passport, driver's license) and work history, places of residence and countries we have visited -- all items for the past five years. We also had to tell whether we had ever been arrested or committed agriculture violations (we haven't, by the way) and paid a nonrefundable $100 to secure our face-to-face interview with a CBP agent. After our applications were reviewed, we received notification of our preliminary acceptance.
We set our appointment for an interview and went in Tuesday to the Border Patrol office at the Philly airport. (Married couples and families can interview together.) The interviewer asked us pretty much the same questions we answered online, took our fingerprints and a photo, and we were on our way. A quick tutorial in the waiting room showed us what to expect when we use the system. Our $100 payment is good for five years and automatically gets us into the TSA's pre-check program, allowing us to quickly pass through security on our way to our gates (we don't even have to remove our shoes). In a couple of weeks, we'll receive our cards, which are sufficient for ID when we cross borders in North America or return to the U.S. by sea (as we do quite often when we cruise). When traveling by air, we're required to scan our passports and input our fingerprints at kiosks.
The Global Entry Program lets us simply go to a kiosk and check ourselves back in to the country when we return, bypassing the often long, long lines (especially on debarkation day off a cruise ship) and interviews with border agents. Kinda pumped about this streamlined travel system we now are part of.
If you leave the country a few times a year, I'd say the $20 annual price is well worth it. I mean, how many times have you stood in TSA lines or immigration re-entry lines for an hour or more?
Peace and happy travels.