Global Entry is the holy grail for travelers looking to get through the airport fast. But it's seemingly never been harder to get.
A massive backlog of unprocessed applications means hundreds of thousands of travelers are stuck in limbo. Once you clear that hurdle, scheduling the interview to finalize Global Entry enrollment remains a challenge. The federal government now warns that travelers should expect the enrollment process to take six months.
It's no silver bullet, but we've got a few ideas for how to speed things up.
Understand Where You're At in the Process
First, let's back up. What's Global Entry all about?
Global Entry (GE) 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 back to enter the United States. But part of what makes Global Entry so popular is that it also includes TSA PreCheck, your ticket to a shorter line and quicker trip through airport security. That's why we typically recommend Global Entry over PreCheck.
Read our guide with everything you need to know to get Global Entry.
Enrolling in Global Entry is a three-step process. Here's a look at the nuts and bolts of how getting Global Entry Works:
- Apply for Global Entry online
- Await Conditional Approval
- Finalize Global Entry Enrollment with an in-person interview
Applying for Global Entry itself is a cakewalk. The application takes about 10 minutes, with a handful of personal and historical details. It costs $100 for a five-year membership – though many credit cards will reimburse you the entire application fee!
The rest of the process … well, that's another story.
Cross Your Fingers for Quick Conditional Approval
This is where things have gotten complicated.
Traditionally, getting conditional approval only took a few days – or a few weeks, at most. But now, a wait of four to six months or more seems to be the norm.
But that doesn't mean it's the rule. Just because there's a big backlog of pending applications doesn't mean that you'll be stuck in limbo forever. Many travelers still report that they've received conditional approval within days of submitting their application. For others, crossing the 160-day mark seems to be the norm.
It's a crapshoot, with little rhyme or reason behind who gets a speedy approval and who gets stuck waiting. So fill out your application properly and hope for the best.
If you don't get lucky, keep reading.
Follow Up on Your Application with Global Entry
As with all things in life, persistence pays off when you're trying to get Global Entry. If you're waiting on conditional approval, you have a few options to prod Customs and Border Protection (CBP).
For starters, email CBP through its “Ask Us a Question” page. It allows you to tailor your question to concerns about your Global Entry application awaiting conditional approval. It's a quick way to check on your status – but also potentially get your application moving faster than it otherwise would.
If that fails, there's one last option: Escalate your application.
You can call the Global Entry information line at (877) 227-5511 and request to escalate your application. But recent reports from travelers suggest that CBP will not escalate an application until the nine-month mark – up from the previous standard waiting time of four months.
CBP did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Neither option is a slam dunk, but both are worth a shot to get your Global Entry enrollment moving. Once you receive conditional approval, you should get an email saying your application status has changed.
Now, it's time for yet another hurdle.
Get Creative to Slide Into an Interview
Scheduling the required in-person interview has long been a challenge. But it's gotten worse.
Enrollment interviews often book out many months in advance – especially in major cities. Customs and Border Protection agents' focus has shifted away from processing applications and performing these interviews as President Donald Trump's administration focuses on the southern border.
Scheduling an interview at our home airport of Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP) is a chilling sight: The next appointment currently available is more than seven months away.
Don't give up. We've written a full guide to scheduling your interview faster, but here are a few ideas:
- Keep checking the schedule! Interview availability is constantly changing as more slots are added and existing appointments are canceled.
- Traveling domestically? Check some airports you'll be at to see if you can squeeze in a quick interview during your trip.
- Enrollment centers outside of major cities often have much better availability. Can you knock out an interview during a road trip?
- Use Enrollment on Arrival! You can quickly finish your interview while clearing immigration at nearly 50 U.S. airports.
Keep in mind you're required to finalize your enrollment with an interview within one year of receiving conditional approval. If you miss this window, CBP says your application will be canceled and you'll need to re-apply – and pay for Global Entry again.
Use Mobile Passport
Waiting on Global Entry? There's a free smartphone app that's nearly as good that you can use in the meantime.
It's called Mobile Passport, and it's run by the federal government. Download it on your iPhone or Android, enter your information as you're landing from your international flight, and then get in the designated line to speed through customs and immigration. While it's free to use, you'll need to pay $15 per year to store your information – or just tap it in each time you travel.
Mobile Passport is available at most major international U.S. airports. In some cases, you'll find that the lines for Mobile Passport are even shorter than Global Entry.
Unfortunately, there is no way to get the TSA PreCheck benefit that comes with Global Entry before you finalize enrollment. Still, Mobile Passport is a great temporary solution while you wait to wrap up Global Entry.
One thing to keep in mind: Applying for TSA PreCheck typically doesn't take nearly as long, as the federal government contracts the application process out to private companies. So while Global Entry might be more cost-effective as a two-for-one, applying for PreCheck and using Mobile Entry could be much faster.
It's a tough time to register for Global Entry. Follow these tips, and we hope you'll get your membership wrapped up faster.