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Get U.S. Global Entry in Two Weeks or Less

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Been hesitant about applying for U.S. Global Entry because you’ve heard stories that it takes months? Us too! But, we just sorted ours in less than two weeks at an airport infamous for never having appointments available (it actually made the local news).

Since we have an international flight coming up, and my Delta Amex card just started reimbursing for the program, we figured it was a good time to get Global Entry.

We are happy to share what we learned in the process to help you get your Global Entry in less than two weeks too.

U.S. Global Entry is one of the five “Trusted Traveler Programs.” Essentially, you allow Homeland Security to do an enhanced background check on you. Once approved, you can use special lines at certain airports to get through security quicker. This includes a streamlined process for customs when re-entering the U.S. from overseas.   

Why Get Global Entry?

The Homeland Security website does a good job at answering most questions about the program. However, we feel they could do better at explaining the benefits.

  1. Global Entry includes TSA Precheck*, a 90’s-ish style security screening at over 200 US airports. No need to remove shoes, belts, laptops. You still must follow the 3-1-1 liquid policy, but you don’t remove the Ziplock bag from your luggage unless asked.
  2. Use of designated Global Entry kiosks at major airports when entering from overseas. Shorter lines, and no customs forms.
  3. The Global Entry Card is a REAL ID, you can use it as ID for domestic airline travel.
  4. Use of expedited vehicle lanes at the Canadian (NEXUS) and Mexican (SENTRI) borders. Everyone in the car must have Global Entry cards, including babies.
  5. Expedited cruise ship arrival lines at cruise ship ports.
  6. Use of expedited arrival lines for some international destinations, including New Zealand and Canada.
  7. Ability to apply for some overseas expedited arrivals processes, including Mexico’s Viajero Confiable.

Global Entry costs $15 more than TSA Precheck alone (2020). If you do any international travel in five years, it may be worth the extra cost. Especially since you can’t upgrade from TSA Precheck to Global Entry.

*Get this, having TSA Pre-check doesn’t guarantee the perk of reduced security checks on every flight. A TSA algorithm sometimes denies flyers for Pre-check. TSA confirmed, those in the “Trusted Traveler” programs, like Global Entry, are more likely to be selected for TSA Pre-check perks.  

Our Timeline for Getting Global Entry Approval

Our process went like this:

  • Applied Online – January 31
  • Conditionally Approved – February 3
  • Checked for an interview appointment daily – February 3 to February 10
  • Interview – February 11
  • Approved for use – February 11
  • Global Entry cards arrived (Not needed for airport travel) – February 17

Getting conditional approval was quick, just a weekend. Most folks online report a similar experience. However, getting an interview is often the challenge. More on what we learned from our experience further down.

Before Applying

Before applying, check Global Entry Interview Locations. This will give you an idea on how challenging it is to get an interview near you.

The nearest office may be hours away. Most locations are only at major airports. Some states, like South Carolina, don’t have any interview offices at all. It’s best to be aware of the locations, before you apply.

Most important, you must have conditional approval to schedule an interview.

What to Expect From the Online Application Form

The first step in getting Global Entry is to complete an online application. It takes about 10 minutes if you prepare ahead.

What they ask for:

  • Personal details (name as on passport, date of birth, phone numbers, etc.)
  • Document details proving citizenship(s) (passport, birth certificate)
  • Document details proving you may enter the U.S. (passport, permanent resident card)
  • Driver’s License details
  • Vehicle Information (Optional) – For ground travel to Mexico, you can add after approved
  • 5 years of address history and proof of current address (Driver’s License)
  • 5 years employment history
  • List of countries visited in the last 5 years
  • Questions around criminal history, etc. (court documentation, if applicable)

Scheduling a Global Entry Interview

Once you receive conditional approval, log into the Trusted Traveler Program (TTP) site. Use the “Schedule Interview” button to look for appointments.

Every Global Entry office works differently; there’s no standard process for scheduling appointments. Here’s what we learned which may help you get an interview quicker.

  • Some offices book appointments months in advance. Others have appointments available almost every day. If you have multiple locations near you, check all locations.
  • Other offices release appointments on a month to month basis. It may look like they never have appointments, but find out when they typically release more appointments.
  • Some Global Entry offices are located in restricted areas, requiring an international flight for access. Most make exceptions for people with appointments, but check with the airport before making an appointment.
  • Utilize Enrollment on Arrival when returning from an international flight. At approved airports, instead of going through customs, follow signs to the CBP office. You must have all required interview documents on you.
  • Consider scheduling an interview at an airport where you have long layover. For example, as New York residents are no longer eligible for the program due to a change in state regulation, airports like JFK are easy to get appointments.
  • Check for walk-in availability on a long layover. This worked great for a guy we met at our interviews. Charlotte Douglas says they only interview after 1 pm, but he went to the office at 8 am during his 3-hour layover and only waited 20 minutes before they took him in.
  • Most Global Entry interview locations accept walk-ins. Appointments cancel all the time. Call the airport and find out their interviewing hours.

Getting a Global Entry Interview at Charlotte Douglas Airport

A few months before applying, we occasionally checked for appointments. Charlotte Douglas, never had anything available. Once we received our conditional approvals, we checked daily for a week.

Concerned, I called the airport’s Global Entry office. The lady was super nice and sympathetic. She told me; they schedule appointments month by month. There’s no set date, but normally they release appointments around the end of the month for the following month. However, they were releasing extra appointments that evening after 7 pm for the following day.

We went online just before 7 pm, and hit refresh on the scheduling website about 100 times. Around 7:15 pm about 30 appointments for the next day became available. We quickly grabbed appointments for 8 am and 8:15 am.

What to Expect At the Interview

When you schedule an appointment on the Trusted Traveler website it will tell you what to bring to the interview. Usually it’s the documents you provided in the online application, plus your PASSID number.

At the interview a Global Entry officer will ask you:

  • To confirm your legal name, address and date of birth.
  • Why you applied for the program.
  • If you have ever been arrested or or had an issue at customs or border patrol.
  • A few other officer discretionary questions.

Then then take your photograph and scan your fingerprints. The whole process took 7 minutes of the 15 minutes scheduled.

We were told, officially approval could take 72 hours, but if our finger prints came back clear, we’d be approved by the time we reached the parking lot. Sure enough, both of our phones pinged before we even got to the parking deck.

Our cards came less than a week later, though you do not need them for airport travel.

A Few Final Notes

It’s worth noting that expiry is not exactly 5 years. Expiration is on your birthday, so it normally works out to a little over 4 years, depending on when you apply. Most credit cards that reimburse for for the program provide the perk every 4 years to accommodate for this.

When you get a new passport you just need to update your details on the Trusted Traveler site. Make sure you save your log in details when you set up your account.

Have any other tips that can help others get their Global Entry quicker? Did any particular method work well for you? Leave a note in the comments. 

Travel Resources

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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Aaron

    My experience at Charlotte-Douglas (CLT) was much the same in late 2022. It took 2-3 days for my on-line application to move to the pre-approved status (ready for interview). Their calendar for interviews was full for the next year, but I paid the $15 for a month of the Appointment Scanner application (a separate, non government tool that scans the interview database and texts you when an opening appears). On most business days I’d get 1-3 texts per day about appointments that had become available (someone canceled). I went for 2-3 days being very frustrated that by the time I got the text, logged in and found the appointment page, the appointment would be gone. When I worked from home, I started leaving the website on my screen, logged in and on the page. The next time I got a text, I hopped on and nabbed an appointment for the next evening. I found the place, waited 10 minutes (I was about 20 min early) and they called me in. Confirm my info… why do you want it… do you have any criminal history or have you had problems with customs/immigration before? Take fingerprints. Done. I got my approval a few hours later and my ‘Pass’ number was on my dashboard.

    Also…. for CLT: Follow the signs to Baggage Claim E. Tucked back into a corner is a long hallway with signs that say “Do not enter”. People who just clearerd customs/immigration would be coming out of that hallway. Go against the flow and walk down that hallway. Do not, of course, go through any DOORS that are labled ‘do not enter’. You will pass the CLT airport credentialling office (not Global entry… they provide employee badges for airport workers). Keep going up that hallway to some American Airlines desks (looks like international lost luggage). The Global Entry interview office is there… right before the doors leading to the immigration/customs hall (and if you go through those doors, expect to be challenged 😀 ).

    1. Nicole

      Thanks Aaron, those are great tips to add, especially for anyone specifically dealing with CLT for their Global Entry. I remember walking past the Do Not Enter Sign and was a little concerned! Last place I wanted to get in trouble was at the airport just before a security interview. haha. Also great tip on the Appointment Scanner, I’ve never used one before but that sounds well worth it!

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