→ Sign up: Appointment Scanner, $29 for one month of alerts, appointmentscanner.com
Airport security and customs lines can be long and dispiriting—but if you think waiting for an hour to get to the departure lounge is a lot, try waiting for a Global Entry appointment.
With airports bustling again, TSA PreCheck and Global Entry, two excellent ways to skip much of the airport security and customs lines, are massively in demand. PreCheck saves you time at the initial TSA security screening, while Global Entry also works at customs after you return to the United States from abroad. PreCheck is $85 while Global Entry will set you back $100 (but also includes TSA PreCheck) and both are valid for five years. (There’s also Clear, which works with biometric technology.)
However, to score a Global Entry or PreCheck membership, you can’t just apply online. You also need to show up, with some documentation including a passport and one other form of identification, for a physical interview at one of the enrollment centers where a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer will take your photo, scan your fingerprints, and ask a few questions.
It’s no secret that appointments for Global Entry interviews are currently hard to find. Centers were shut down during the pandemic and an inevitable backlog ensued. “Availability for appointments varies, and there can be a long wait, depending on the location,” the CBP admits. Travelers are facing waits for an appointment of up to a year—and this is after they’ve obtained conditional approval (where a CBP officer has reviewed their application) and paid the $100 fee. Imagine paying for something on Amazon and waiting a year for delivery.
I recently signed up and handed over my money, and here’s the option I was given in June 2022 for a Los Angeles appointment.
I’d managed to schedule an appointment for attendees at a travel conference earlier this month, but I frustratingly showed up without the required passport. Once I’d fully finished kicking myself, I went to see the person who would have processed my application.
He told me about Appointment Scanner, a service for people who have filled out their online application, paid the fee, received conditional approval, and need to find an in-person appointment. It constantly scans the Trusted Traveler site looking for canceled and rescheduled appointments for the Global Entry, NEXUS, or SENTRI programs (the latter two also offer expedited clearance for prescreened travelers).
The service will then send you texts and emails alerting you to when a slot opens at your chosen location (of over 100 enrollment centers). At that point, 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.
It’ll take a few goes, and Appointment Scanner admits, “We can’t promise you’ll be able to schedule an interview. It takes some quick reflexes on your part, and it’s competitive after all–that’s why you’re here!”
But the site adds that, “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.
Personally, I found that few alerts came in during the day when I was chained to my laptop, but I got a lot in the evening. I also logged on after an alert a few times only to find they were no longer available. Eventually I received notice of two different slots for the following day, and managed to secure one. I was in and out of the enrollment center near LAX airport within ten minutes.
Even if you don’t want to pay the $29, it pays to be persistent. Refreshing your browser and just dedicating a few hours to keeping an eye on the Trusted Traveler Programs site can pay off. That day I saw a June 2023 appointment? I checked later on and it was offering December 2022.
And AFAR’s senior e-commerce editor, Lyndsey Matthews, got lucky with a recent Global Entry renewal, which was due in July.
“I started the application the other week and didn’t think I needed to do the interview again for a renewal. Turns out I did, since I was only conditionally approved for renewal,” she says. “While the system says there’s still a Zoom option, dates weren’t available for years. Thankfully, when I clicked in for an in-person interview, I was able to find one available appointment for the very next day at the Bowling Green office in NYC, so I didn’t have to schlep out to the airport.”
Good luck out there, people.