Not too long ago I received my approval notice from the United States Customs and Border Protection. Yep, that’s right — I now have Global Entry. Look at fancy ‘ol me!
WHAT IS GLOBAL ENTRY?
Global Entry basically offers expedited US customs service, where you can skip the majority of the lines and beat the rest of the people from your flight outside. This will of course give you the advantage of beating the others and avoiding competition when hailing uber and lyft (or god forbid, a cab) 😉 — The purpose of the program is basically to separate out, “low-risk” travelers at the land/sea/air borders as to help alleviate the already staggering lines typical of most U.S. ports of entry. If you’re a frequent traveler, or even go abroad once or twice a year, Global Entry is definitely worth considering. If you happen to have one of the credit cards that reimburse you the Global Entry application fee (The Chase Sapphire Reserve, the Citi Prestige, the Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card, the Citi AA Advantage Executive World Elite, or the Platinum Card from American Express) then there is most likely no reason to not apply.
Here are a few quick facts on the Global Entry Program:
- The application fee is $100 (non-refundable whether you’re accepted or not.)
- Depending on your credit card arsenal, this fee may be reimbursed / waived if paid for on that card.
- Comes with TSA Pre-check.
- Requires both an online application as well as an in-person interview.
- You should not apply if you have had any criminal charges against you, whether pending or not. You will be automatically denied. There have even been cases where charges were dropped and people were still turned down. This includes DUI’s!
- Wait times for the in-person interview can take a while, but I’ll explain a way to shorten the wait.
SO HOW DOES THE ONLINE APPLICATION WORK?
The first thing you’ll want to do is make sure that you’re eligible to apply. The program is not just open to US residents and citizens, but also to people from a variety of other countries. Like I said earlier, you should not apply if you have an arrest record as the $100 application fee is not given back, period. If you’re in the clear, you’ll start applying through the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website. The application asks a lot of basic questions about who you are, as well as your employment and residence history. If you’ve moved around a lot like I have this gets a bit tedious, but once it’s all down you’re good to go. Lastly, there are a few questions that are reaffirming that you are not going to do anything stupid and haven’t in the past either. These include asking if you have ever “smuggled anything across US or foreign borders”. The online application can take a week or two to get approved so be ready for this. Applying for Global Entry last minute simply isn’t going to work out. Be sure to have your passport ready, as information from that is required.
AND THE APPOINTMENT?
This is where the most interesting part of the application process comes into effect. You can only arrange an interview an “Enrollment Center” which are at select U.S. airports, and a few other locations, that are mostly all in moderate to large cities. If you don’t live in one of these cities, don’t fret, though this might be a bit more complicated. I’ll explain a possible solution in a bit.
Interviews are scheduled online through your GOES account that you’ll create when applying for Global Entry in the first place. Once you’re approved, you’ll see a box within the account that allows you to reserve a time slot. Following that trail, you will select the enrollment center / CBP office most convenient, and then select the interview date and time. Most of us, are going to be really disappointed when you realize that the earliest appointment is not available for months! When I first applied in November for a LAX (Los Angeles) appointment, it was backed up all the way into April. Don’t panic! I’ve went through this whole process and I now want to pass on my tip at getting in much sooner.
Now depending upon the enrollment center you’ve chosen and the amount of interview slots per day / traffic of people trying to make appointments, the time you’ll have to put in to moving up you appointment time will vary based on the competition. Once I figured out this trick, I got mine the same week! Here is what I recommend that you do:
- Schedule your appointment for whatever backlogged date they say is next available. Make sure that worse comes to worse, you can make this initial appointment as the longer you wait, the further backed up you’re going to get. Also keep in mind that you have to schedule an appointment within 30 days of getting the original approval.
- Whenever you have time, keep checking back on the appointment website to see if anything closer in has come available. You’ll go to the GOES appointment link and click “Reschedule appointment”.
- The website is programmed to place you at the soonest available appointment and the best part is, people cancel all of the time.
- You may have to put a lot of effort into this, but in time, you will likely be able to move up a lot.
- I would recommend checking back daily, possibly even hourly,
- If you are really desperate, simply keep refreshing the page. I’ve found that a lot of people log on to cancel around lunch time and after work realizing that they cannot make their appointment and cancel. You want to be on that page the second they do, and then swipe up that spot before anyone else. If you’re trying to get an appointment at a really busy airport like LAX, there are constantly appointments opening up and being filled seconds later. During my time refreshing, I got the impression that there were other people hovering for a spot at the same time as I was. Keep moving around in the calendar, searching for dates. Set the view to showing the entire month as the days with availability are color coded and as soon as one turns blue, a spot has become available.
- Seriously, keep checking back. You don’t have to be as persistent as I was, but you’ll eventually snag an appointment much sooner.
WHAT TO EXPECT AT THE INTERVIEW?
The interview is very straight forward. I got the impression that they mainly want to sit down with you and make sure you are who you say you are. They’ll likely re-ask you the same questions about your criminal history and if you would ever smuggle. I would sure hope that your answer is “no”! The questions depend on the officer, and if they are wondering about anything specific on your application. I’ve read before that people have been asked how often they go abroad and how they afford to travel as often as they do. Mine was much more relaxed and easy going. The customs officer will then get your picture and finger prints and explain how to use the Global Entry kiosks at customs. It’s really very simple!
SO WHAT NOW?
As I mentioned before, if you do not live near an enrollment center, you’re not completely out of options. You could consider flying into an airport with one on the day you schedule your interview for. Even better, try to coordinate the time for your interview with a time you were already planning on flying through that certain airport. Global Entry isn’t the kind of thing you need to rush into getting, but it can certainly be nice to have in the long run.
As for the final approval? That generally takes a week or two as the officers at CBP have to run your prints and double and triple check your application. I mean, this is about safety right? If it’s been a couple weeks and you’re curious about your application status, I recommend calling the Customs and Border Protection office you applied at directly rather than the number off the Global Entry website as that’s always busy. Be very polite and ask for you application status and provide your PASS ID, from your GOES account.
Once you’re approved, you should get an e-mail saying that your application status has been updated. You can log into your account and check. Your PASS ID number doubles as your “Known Traveler Number” that you input when booking a flight or when updating your flight info online Make sure to put this in at least 48 hours before a flight or else you might not get TSA Pre-Check when at the American airport you’re flying from. In addition, it takes about a week to receive a letter in the mail, with your Global Entry card (which is only good for land and sea entries into the U.S.).
If you have any more questions about the process let me know in the comments! Also, if anything in the above helps you out with your application, please let me know! I sure hope it does!
All photos in this post are from from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection page on the www.dhs.gov/ site.