Federal officials are struggling to keep up with what the Department of Homeland Security has called “unprecedented” numbers of applications for its Global Entry program.
Global Entry is an expedited screening program meant to help travelers get through U.S. airport security checkpoints faster when returning from abroad. It costs $100 and includes TSA PreCheck, a program designed to save time getting through the initial TSA security screening. (On its own, TSA PreCheck costs $85.) The process for getting Global Entry includes a background check and an in-person interview after a preliminary approval. It’s the in-person interviews that are hard to come by and slowing down the process.
The high demand is being driven by a big rebound in travel and a backlog of interviews following a pandemic scheduling pause (from the onset of the pandemic until September 2020). Headlines about long wait times at airports throughout the world likely have global travelers looking into ways to expedite their air travel experience.
According to the Department of Homeland Security, wait times for Global Entry interviews are currently ranging between 6 and 18 months in most cases. In July alone, the agency received an average of 11,500 applications daily. Part of the issue is that interviews, which are required for obtaining Global Entry, were put on pause at the beginning of the pandemic until September 2020 when in-person interviews started again. Two years later, enrollment centers still face staffing shortages, further exacerbating the backlog.
But there are some possible solutions. Read on for tips and tricks to speed up the process if you’re waiting for Global Entry.
Participate in Enrollment on Arrival
Travelers who have already filled out their Global Entry application, paid the $100 fee, and have been conditionally approved can participate in the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) Enrollment on Arrival program, which eliminates the need for applicants to schedule an interview at an enrollment center to finish the application process. (It’s also helpful for those who don’t live near an enrollment center.)
“When landing in an international terminal, follow the signage directing you to CBP officers who can complete your Global Entry interview during your admissibility inspection,” the CBP website reads.
Once you land at an airport with Enrollment on Arrival, proceed to the Enrollment on Arrival desk, which should be near where the inbound passengers are processed. Let the agent know that you’ve been conditionally approved for Global Entry and they’ll start the interview. During the process they’ll take a photo and fingerprints, as well as go over a list of all the countries you’ve visited in the last five years. They’ll also confirm your current address, where your physical card will be mailed. The entire interview should take under 10 minutes.
To complete Enrollment on Arrival, applicants must have their valid passport, documents providing evidence of residency (driver’s license, mortgage statement, utility bill, etc.), and a permanent resident card (if applicable).
Sign up for Appointment Scanner
→ Sign up: Appointment Scanner, $29 for one month of alerts, appointmentscanner.com
While the next available Global Entry appointment online is often several months or more in the future, there is a service can help people (like AFAR’s deputy editor Tim Chester) who just need to complete the in-person interview portion of their application.
Called Appointment Scanner, the program constantly scans the Trusted Traveler site looking for canceled and rescheduled interviews for the Global Entry, NEXUS, or SENTRI programs. (The latter two also offer expedited clearance for prescreened travelers—NEXUS is for travel specifically between the U.S. and Canada, whereas SENTRI is for travelers going between the U.S. and Mexico.)
The service will then send you texts and emails alerting you as to when slots open up at your chosen location (out of more than 100 enrollment centers). Then you can jump on the Trusted Traveler Programs site and try to grab that coveted appointment. The service costs $29, a one-time payment for one month of alerts. If you haven’t secured an appointment in that time, you’d need to sign up again. The site says, “The average user gets between 10 and 25 appointment alerts per day, so you’ll have many opportunities to grab a convenient appointment in no time.”
You can ask for a refund within 30 days if you weren’t successful and unsubscribe to the alerts if you are.
Get TSA PreCheck instead
Because the queue has gotten so long, DHS has started encouraging travelers who primarily fly domestically to forgo Global Entry in favor of TSA PreCheck.
“If you do not travel multiple times per year internationally, we recommend applying for the TSA PreCheck Program,” DHS shared on its website. “Most TSA PreCheck applicants can schedule an appointment in less than two weeks and, if approved, can receive a Known Traveler Number (KTN) in about 3 to 5 days after the appointment.”
The primary difference between the programs is that PreCheck saves you time at TSA security screenings prior to departure within the U.S. (and recently from Nassau, Bahamas), while Global Entry also works to expedite arrivals at customs after you return to the United States from abroad.
Tim Chester contributed to this reporting.