Global Entry and TSA PreCheck are the two main options you have to choose from if you want to get precertified for expedited treatment at U.S. Government checkpoints. Both of the services give access to the TSA PreCheck lanes at U.S. airports. This means you don’t have to go through the whole security theater of taking off your shoes and belt and removing your iPad and liquids from your bag. Most of the time you’ll also avoid going through TSA’s nude-o-scope and only need to pass through an old fashioned metal detector.
Global Entry, while a more lengthy process, also gives you expedited passage through U.S. Customs and Border Protection lanes when re-entering the United States. Just go to a Global Entry kiosk and enter your travel info, answer the usual questions and get your picture taken. Go to meet an agent and you’re on your way.
If you had asked me up until now, I would have told you to go for Global Entry. In fact, I did say exactly that in my article comparing the services:
IMHO, for the extra $15 it’s worth getting Global Entry over TSA Pre✓® even if you only make one international trip in the 5 years. If you’ve ever made a 12 hour transpacific flight only to be greeted by a huge line at immigration with guards yelling instructions at you while you see panoramic scenes of the USA while listening to inspirational American anthems (including, sometimes, “Golden Dream” from the American Adventure at Epcot…does Disney know they’re doing that?;-)), you’ll agree that it’s a $15 well spent to skip that experience.
I’m invoking my privilege as a blogger to change my mind about my decision. If you’d ask me right now, for most travelers I’d advise just signing up for TSA Precheck.
What’s different now from when I wrote the above? In short, the government changed.
Wait before you comment, please. Or not, whatever. I’m going to explain what I mean anyway.
Up until now, it was time-consuming to get a Global Entry interview but not impossible. Once receiving preliminary approval, people in major cities often had to wait for months for appointments. That did prevent you from getting your final approval and your Known Traveler Number, which is needed for TSA PreCheck.
Reports are now that appointments are impossible to find. Even the CBP website says so.
The extended partial government shutdown has resulted in a substantial backlog of CBP’s Trusted Traveler Programs (TTP) applications and renewals.
Applicants for Global Entry (GE), SENTRI, NEXUS and FAST should expect significant delays in application processing times and limited appointment availability at TTP enrollment centers.
Conditionally approved GE members should seek to complete their GE interviews without an appointment upon arrival from an international flight at any of the 49 airports participating in CBP’s Enrollment on Arrival (EoA) program
So the delay is being blamed on the government shutdown earlier in the year but no matter the reason, they’re significant delays in getting an interview.
So what option do you have if you really want Global Entry?
The solution from Customs and Border Protection is to go for your appointment when you’re returning to the United States. The Enrollment on Arrival program lets you go for your Global Entry interview when you’re arriving from a flight outside the U.S. Yeah, that’s exactly what I want to do when arriving from a long flight, getting interviewed by a Border Patrol agent.
Enrollment on Arrival is a program operated by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to allow Global Entry applicants who are conditionally approved to complete their interviews upon arrival into the United States. The Enrollment on Arrival program eliminates the need for a Global Entry applicant to schedule an interview at an enrollment center to complete the application process.
Participating Enrollment on Arrival locations can be found on the Customs and Border Protection website at https://www.cbp.gov/travel/trusted-traveler-programs/global-entry/enrollment-arrival/locations
If you’re a frequent international traveler, this would probably still be the best bet for you. You have the most to gain from getting approved as quickly as possible.
For everyone else, there are other options.
While I’ve said before it made sense to get Global Entry if you’re even going to use it once in the five years. Right now, if that were the case, I’d just apply for TSA PreCheck. Why? Because the TSA isn’t subject to the same government pressures Customs and Border Protection is currently facing. All of TSA’s offices are open for interviews and it’s much easier to get your interview and be approved for your membership.
So what about when you’re arriving from outside the U.S.? Do you just have to stand in line? Not necessarily.
Mobile Passport App
If you’re only an infrequent international traveler, you can use the Mobile Passport app on your phone to get through the US border.
Mobile Passport is available at 26 major U.S. Airports and 3 seaports of entry. The process is similar to Global Entry. Once you land, you enter your passport and flight (or cruise) information into the app. After answering the questions, you’re given a QR code which can be scanned by a CBP officer. The Mobile Passport lanes are often the same ones used by Global Entry so it’s about the same amount of time to use either one.
Now the Mobile Passport app is run by a third party and they got some grief earlier this year when they moved the ability to store your information behind a paywall so it’s necessary to type in the passport info every time if you’re using the free version. However, if you’re only an occasional (less than once a year) international traveler this wouldn’t be such a big inconvenience.
Since there are several credit cards that pay for both Global Entry and TSA PreCheck enrollment fees, hopefully, you’ll be able to get reimbursed no matter which one you sign up for. Until the government
gets its act together works through the backlog of applications and interviews, for most travelers it would make sense to sign up for the TSA PreCheck program. Frequent international travelers should still sign up for Global Entry and possibly go for an interview upon arrival at a participating US airport.
If you really want, you can sign up for both. If you have multiple cards that cover the entry fee, that might actually make sense. You can get approved for TSA PreCheck sooner and take advantage on your domestic flights. Then when you’re approved for Global Entry you can wait until you’re able to get an interview at your local airport or if you’re going on an international flight you’d be able to go for your interview on arrival.
Which one of these options you choose will depend on your travel patterns and how many cards you hold that reimburse your enrollment fees. As usual, Your Mileage May Vary.
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary