After a nearly six-month suspension, the Department of Homeland Security will lift its ban on Trusted Traveler Programs (TTP) like Global Entry, the federal government announced this week.
That ban dated back to February, when Homeland Security suspended all New Yorkers' new enrollments and renewals in Global Entry and other TTPs like NEXUS and SENTRI amid a feud over accessing driver's license data. The federal government used the ban to strike back against New York's “Green Light Law,” which granted undocumented immigrants the ability to get a driver's license, while another law blocked U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement authorities from accessing driver's license data.
Existing Global Entry memberships weren't affected by the ban, nor was TSA PreCheck. But it put all new applications and renewals from New York on hold, causing an uproar.
That problem has now been solved, as New York amended its laws to specifically grant federal access to those records “as necessary for an individual seeking acceptance into a trusted traveler program.” The Department of Homeland Security announced Thursday it would lift the ban.
But that doesn't mean Global Entry applications can move ahead, as the federal government has shut down enrollment until at least early September due to the coronavirus pandemic.
What Are Trusted Traveler Programs?
Trusted Traveler Programs, which includes Global Entry, allow U.S. citizens expedited entry through customs and border protection when re-entering the U.S.
Getting approved for all of these programs is contingent on a strict background check. Upon applying for any of these programs, you must provide information including employment history, address history, and your international travels all going five years back. Applicants must also provide proof of residence and documentation including a passport (for Global Entry) and a valid driver’s license.
That last requirement is what DHS tripped them up in New York, setting the ban in motion. While TSA PreCheck also requires a background check and ID verification, it was not included in the list of suspended programs.
New York's Response to the Ban
New York State sued the federal government over the ban, calling it politically motivated.
Just a few weeks it took place, Governor Andrew Cuomo said he would offer to give the feds limited access to records only for New Yorkers who are applying for a Trusted Traveler Program.
“I’m calling their bluff by saying, ‘You said you want access to the DMV database for TTP? I’ll give it to you,'” Cuomo told a radio host, according to CNN.
Then, in April New York amended its laws to allow access to DMV records “as necessary for an individual seeking acceptance into a trusted traveler program, or to facilitate vehicle imports and/or exports.”
Now, the federal government has relented and granted New Yorkers access to Trusted Traveler Programs. The Department of Homeland Security admitted in court that it had “singled out” New York, according to NPR, as other states had similar policies on the books but weren't penalized.
But just because the ban has been lifted doesn't mean applications and renewals will resume anytime soon.
Global Entry Remains On Pause
Enrollment in Global Entry and other Trusted Traveler Programs has essentially been shut down since March.
The last step to enroll (or renew) Global Entry is an in-person interview. But U.S. Customs and Border Protection closed enrollment centers in March as the country battled the coronavirus pandemic. The agency has continually pushed back its re-opening dates, including as recently as last week when it announced enrollment centers wouldn't restart until at least Sept. 8.
There’s still another way to finalize your Global Entry registration: Enrollment on Arrival. This allows you to quickly knock out that final interview as you’re going through customs and immigration when re-entering the country from abroad.
But with most international travel on hold, that’s not a realistic option for most travelers.
On paper, New Yorkers are once again eligible to sign up for (or renew) Global Entry and other programs. In practice, everything remains on hold across the country.