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Citing Long Delays, Feds Urge Travelers to Pick PreCheck Over Global Entry

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For years, weighing Global Entry vs TSA PreCheck has been something of a no-brainer. Global Entry not only gets you a fast-pass through customs and immigration – you get TSA PreCheck benefits to clear security faster, too. It's a twofer.

But long processing times to get signed up – and finding a Global Entry interview to finalize enrollment – have made it a months-long hassle for many flyers. And now it's apparently gotten so bad, the federal government is practically pleading with travelers to sign up for PreCheck instead.

Customs and Border Protection recently posted a bright-red warning on their Trusted Traveler Programs homepage: “If you do not travel multiple times per year internationally, we recommend applying for the TSA PreCheck Program.”

global entry warning 

“Global Entry, SENTRI, NEXUS, and FAST (other federal travel programs) are experiencing application processing delays and have limited interview availability. While many applications are quickly reviewed, in some cases the process can take from 6-18 months to complete. Moreover, interview availability in various regions is limited.”

Meanwhile, TSA PreCheck is a much quicker turnaround: “Most TSA PreCheck applicants can schedule an appointment in less than 2 weeks and, if approved, can receive a Known Traveler Number (KTN) in about 3 to 5 days after the appointment.”

Between pandemic closures and government shutdowns before that, long waits are nothing new for Global Entry applications. Fortunately, it's a much, much smoother (and faster) process when renewing Global Entry – and that's still the case today.

But the fact that the federal government is pointing travelers “who do not travel multiple times per year internationally” toward PreCheck instead is telling. A Customs and Border Protection did not immediately respond to a request for a comment on this new warning. In May, the agency told Thrifty Traveler it took 208 days, on average, for new applicants to get signed up for Global Entry from start to finish.

Global Entry Interviews 

Part of the problem might just be a surge in new applicants. This spring, the agency said they were receiving “unprecedented numbers of applications” for Trusted Traveler Programs like Global Entry. As travel demand bounced back, Global Entry applications increased from 10,500 a day in March 2022 to more than 12,000 daily in April.

TSA PreCheck costs $85 for a five-year membership while Global Entry is just $100 for a five-year enrollment – though many top travel credit cards will cover the cost of enrollment in either program.

On paper, signing up for Global Entry is simple: a 10-minute application, wait for conditional approval, get an in-person interview, and you're done. Some travelers can finish the entire process in a matter of just a week or so.

But others get left in purgatory for many months, awaiting the initial conditional approval to proceed. And then there's the matter of finding an in-person interview to finalize enrollment, which is another challenge: You can regularly scan through year's worth of dates at major airports without finding a single appointment available.
global entry interviews

Read all our best tips on how to track down a Global Entry interview faster!

Customs and Border Protection officials have regularly pointed to Enrollment on Arrival as a great option to quickly finalize the signup process for travelers returning from a trip abroad. And they've also rolled out remote interviews via Zoom for travelers renewing their Global Entry accounts.

But Zoom interviews don't help for the wave of flyers trying to get signed up for the first time. And Enrollment on Arrival means travelers can't get their TSA PreCheck benefits until after a trip is done.


Bottom Line

This doesn't look good for Global Entry.

Long processing times and delays are nothing new for this popular, time-saving travel program. But the fact that federal officials are now explicitly encouraging many travelers to PreCheck instead is a troubling sign for anyone set on getting Global Entry … or already waiting.


Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

33 Responses

  • This is the time to renew if eligible, approval in 24-48 hours, likely b/c they don’t want to dig in deeply.

  • Miami has thousands of appointments available. People don’t always want to go there.
    Some enrollment centers only open a month of appointments at a time.
    Orlando is currently booked through September of 2022. October and later will open in the future. The calendar does not show that October and beyond have not been opened up yet.

    • Good question! Hope this will be addressed. I’ve been waiting for months to renew my GE (expiring in October. Renewal application and $100 charge fee submitted in June.) Should I switch over to TSA (but . . . when I enter my GE known traveler number at the TSA site, it comes back as “not known” by TSA. ??? Am told that my current GE benefits (including TSA Pre-Check) will be extended by up to 2 years while I await GE renewal approval. True?

  • Wish I would have known that before applying. I applied for GE on 8/9 and got conditional approval. Cannot find an appointment and if this advisory was up maybe I would have chosen pre-check instead.

    • Keep checking the website for available appointments. I was looking at next year for the earliest, but I checked every hour or two and was able to get an interview the next day!

  • I got my mom global entry appointment the same day she was conditionally approved. There are people canceling all the time so I had to keep refreshing and something came up. I also got my daughter an appointment within the same week. It’s possible.

  • I’ve been waiting for months to renew my GE (expiring in October. Renewal application and $100 charge fee submitted in June.) Should I switch over to TSA (but . . . when I enter my GE known traveler number at the TSA site, it comes back as “not known” by TSA. ??? Am told that my current GE benefits (including TSA Pre-Check) will be extended by up to 2 years while I await GE renewal approval. True?

    • True. So long as your renewal application is in process, you should continue to have valid GE benefits for another 2 years.

  • As noted above, a viable option is to apply when you arrive on an international flight as long as you have already completed your paperwork–they call it “conditionally approved.” I did mine at JFK in under an hour with plenty of time to catch my connecting flight home. I then cancelled my appointment at my home airport.

  • My brother in law applied for Global Entry on a Sunday, was approved on Tuesday, and through Appointment Scanner got his interview on Wednesday. It can take a long time, but it doesn’t have to.

  • I’ve been waiting for conditional approval for GE since April 4th. 5 months. Yikes. Hopefully it won’t be too much longer. I travel in February.

  • My Global Entry expired during COVID. Re-applied in March, 2022. My in-person interview scheduled for late August was just cancelled by them, saying I had to re-schedule. There are no available appointments either via Zoom or in-person for years to come according to their calendar at my location, MSP, or any midwest hub (Milwaukee, Chicago, Detroit, etc.). Now what? Do I eat the $100 and re-apply for TSA, which is what I really want (not travellng internationally yet)?

  • Used enrollment upon arrival during a 2 1/2 hour layover in Miami (my other option was a one day round trip to a city some distance away). Showed up early for the appointment and they took me early. Interview was so quick I couldn’t believe it was done. And the CBP personnel were real cordial. Give it a try.

  • My husband and I both applied the middle of March. I was conditionally approved in June. He has not been YET! We travel internationally this month and want to do enrollment upon arrival. How do we contact someone about his application being stuck in limbo? Any suggestions?

  • I applied for Sentri on March 9, 2022, and I’m still waiting for conditional approval, six months later and still counting. Who knows how long it will take for me to make an appointment, even when I get conditional approval. I don’t understand why CBP can’t hire more staff to speed up the process. This is ridiculous.

  • I applied for Global Entry February 19th 2022. I am still waiting for the conditional approval. Can I just apply for the TSA pre-check?

  • UPDATE: I applied for TSA pre-check because i have been waiting since February 19, 2022 for conditional approval for Global Entry. I went to my appointment today at 9:00 AM for TSA pre-check. At 6:00 PM today I got an email saying I now have conditional approval for Global Entry. The next interview appointment for Los Angeles and San Diego is May 2023.

  • Just an FYI, I’m in WA state. I applied 10/23/22. I was conditionally approved 10/29/22. There are several appointments at the Seatac airport staring mid November, which is in a couple weeks. My spouse applied maybe 1-2hrs after me and he is still not conditionally approved. I’m not sure how the process works but we will see how this goes.

  • Good grief… the wife and I applied in early June hoping to have the process completed before a European vacation in September. Nope… but… her application was approved and ready for interview when we arrived back in Seattle. She now has her GE. But me, I’m stuck in that proverbial purgatory. 150 days and counting and still waiting on approval. If I could cancel and reapply for TSA Pre I would. What a drag.

  • I have done my enrollment upon arrival on 16th of October and was told that I will receive the confirmation in 3-4 working days. It has been over a month and still waiting for that mail or the status change on the website.
    Are there any recent experiences with how long it took btw. enrollment upon arrival and the final approval?

    • That’s definitely far too long, it should be instant or close to it after completing the enrollment on arrival interview. I’d recommend calling Global Entry at (877) 227-5511 to see what the holdup is and if they can finalize it.

  • I applied for renewal of my Global Entry 6 months prior to expiration. I’ve been waiting for approval for 9 months. Glad they’ve extended the grace period to 24 months.

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