Now’s the Perfect Time for Travelers to Apply for Global Entry
Global Entry is a must for any frequent traveler, as it’s your ticket to skip the lines and speed through immigration after returning to the U.S. on an international flight. You get TSA PreCheck to clear airport security quicker, too.
However, the knock on Global Entry has always been how difficult it can be to schedule the required in-person interview. Some states don’t have many enrollment centers, and they can often be booked out for months at a time.
Well, there’s good news on that front, as we see some wide-open interview windows throughout the summer at enrollment centers across the nation. And U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the federal agency that runs the program, also has some novel ways that make it easier to get your final approval.
The Basics of Global Entry
Global Entry is one of two popular “Trusted Traveler Programs” run by the U.S. government, and it’s the best way to clear immigration quickly after your international flight.
The other program is TSA PreCheck, which you can use to skip long lines at airport security before getting on your flight whether you are traveling domestically or internationally. Here’s the thing: Global Entry comes with PreCheck. So if you travel internationally just once, that makes Global Entry the easy choice over PreCheck.
Both programs have a five-year membership once you’re enrolled. Global Entry costs $100, while PreCheck costs $85. More and more credit cards offer credits to cover the enrollment cost – more on that below.
Applying for Global Entry
Applying for Global Entry is pretty simple and straightforward. You just need to provide your passport and driver’s license information, as well as five years of work history and home addresses. Conditional approval of your application can take a few weeks but often comes much faster. Once you’ve been conditionally approved, you have a full year to finalize your enrollment.
The necessary in-person interview is a breeze, but getting it scheduled has been a roadblock for many flyers. For years it’s been a struggle for travelers to get in, as a backlog of appointments left few openings. That’s been especially true in states like Minnesota that have just a handful of enrollment centers.
However, that’s not so this summer. I’m in the process of enrolling in Global Entry and can confirm there is plenty of availability for interviews at some major enrollment centers nationwide, including Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP) airport, the lone enrollment center in the Twin Cities.
Getting a Global Entry Interview
I was a bit on the fence about applying for Global Entry for this very reason. I worried it would be a struggle to get an interview on the books before some upcoming international travel late this summer. It turns out I was worried for nothing. Scheduling my interview at MSP was a breeze, as there are openings almost every single day in July and August.
At one of the nation’s busiest airports at New York City-JFK (JFK), it is wide open. There are even a handful of dates still available in June.
Ditto with Chicago-O’Hare (ORD), Los Angeles (LAX), Washington, D.C. and more.
While airports are the biggest enrollment centers, major cities like Chicago and New York have some other office options. And some of those centers have excellent openings, too.
Of course, not all cities are this lucky. At last glance, the next available appointment in Denver (DEN) isn’t until October. Appointments aren’t open in Boston until September. Availability is spotty in San Francisco (SFO) as well.
Other Options to Enroll in Global Entry
The federal government is touting another way to finish up your Global Entry registration: Enrollment on Arrival. If you’ve been conditionally approved, you can do the interview and finalize your Global Entry enrollment after exiting the plane and before clearing customs at select airports. It’s just another way that the government is trying to ease the backlog of registrants who can’t get in for an interview, and the number of airports participating is growing fast.
Currently, 35 U.S. airports can finish up the process, as can another six Canadian airports. Check the full list here.
If you want to wrap up the process before your trip but your local enrollment center is jam-packed, it pays to keep checking the schedule. You can often squeeze into a slot last-minute if someone else cancels or reschedules their interview. And keep in mind that you don’t need to schedule an interview near your home. If you have a layover somewhere, check to see if that airport has an enrollment center. You may be able to pop in for the interview while you wait for your next flight.
How to Get Global Entry
Another reason why it’s such a great time to apply for Global Entry is that more and more credit cards are covering the cost of your application. And increasingly, it’s not just the top-tier cards with huge annual fees that do it. Just yesterday we outlined the 4 best credit cards offering free Global Entry.
The latest addition is the Capital One Venture card, which added the benefit last week. With a $95 annual fee that is waived in the first year, you could get Global Entry and completely negate that fee in year two.
One card with no annual fee even comes with a Global Entry credit. The PenFed Pathfinder Rewards is the only card without an annual fee that we’ve ever seen with this benefit.
And of course, top-of-the-line cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve and American Express Platinum come with the same perk. It’s just one more feature that can quickly outweigh the seemingly enormous $450-$550 annual fees.
If your card covers Global Entry or PreCheck enrollment, the credit will be automatic so long as you pay the enrollment fee with that card when you apply. That means you can cover a friend or family members’ enrollment if you already have Global Entry.
If you’ve been on the fence about applying for Global Entry, it may be time to reconsider and pull the trigger. The combination of more credit cards that will cover your $100 enrollment fee and some wide-open interview availability to finish the process make it a no-brainer.