Global Entry can be a gamechanger for your travels. It gets you into a designated lane to clear immigration faster when returning to the U.S. And you get TSA PreCheck to whisk through airport security, too.
So what's the issue? Well, actually registering for Global Entry is getting harder. It's a three-step process: Apply, get conditional approval, and finalize your enrollment with an in-person interview. Scheduling an interview can take months, but just getting conditional approval has turned into a major problem.
The Los Angeles Times reports that Customs and Border Protection – the federal agency that runs Global Entry – is dealing with a backlog of 350,000 applications awaiting conditional approval. That's up from 300,000 earlier this year.
Read our guide to getting Global Entry.
What's happening? For starters, Global Entry has become insanely popular. The agency receives up to 7,000 applications a day. But delays have been exacerbated lately.
It started with the federal government shutdown in December of 2018 and has continued as agents are shifted to tend to the humanitarian crisis at the southern border with Mexico. Those issues have combined to create a shortage of agents to process applications and conduct interviews. The federal government specifically warns that Global Entry applicants “should expect significant delays in application processing times.”
In the past, getting conditionally approved could take just a week or so. But We've heard from many readers who have waited three to six months or more to receive conditional approval.
And while you could once ask to escalate your application by calling the Global Entry information line at (877) 227-5511, that's gotten harder, too. Customs and Border Protection has apparently told applicants they can't escalate their applications until the six-month mark.
And it's not over once you've finally got conditional approval, as in-person interviews to finalize enrollment often schedule many months out. Read our tips to scheduling a Global Entry interview faster.
On the bright side, if you're trying to renew your Global Entry, the pressure is off. The agency is now giving a full year's grace period for existing Global Entry members awaiting renewal.
Global Entry is still a powerful tool in any international traveler's toolbelt. Just don't count on getting it anytime soon.