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.
Table of Contents
What is Global Entry?
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.
- 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.
- Use of designated Global Entry kiosks at major airports when entering from overseas. Shorter lines, and no customs forms.
- The Global Entry Card is a REAL ID, you can use it as ID for domestic airline travel.
- Use of expedited vehicle lanes at the Canadian (NEXUS) and Mexican (SENTRI) borders. Everyone in the car must have Global Entry cards, including babies.
- Expedited cruise ship arrival lines at cruise ship ports.
- Use of expedited arrival lines for some international destinations, including New Zealand and Canada.
- 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, 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.