If you have any chance of traveling internationally in the next 5 years, you should really consider getting Global Entry.
Global Entry is a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) program that allows expedited clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travelers upon arrival in the United States. Members enter the United States through automatic kiosks at select airports.
At airports, program members proceed to Global Entry kiosks, present their machine-readable passport or U.S. permanent resident card, place their fingerprints on the scanner for fingerprint verification and complete a customs declaration. The kiosk issues the traveler a transaction receipt and directs the traveler to baggage claim and the exit.
Travelers must be pre-approved for the Global Entry program. All applicants undergo a rigorous background check and in-person interview before enrollment.
Global Entry costs $100 for 5 years and the $100 also gives you TSA PreCheck access for the same amount of time. PreCheck alone typically costs $85 for 5 years. However since travelers have to go through screening (fingerprinting, a background check and an interview) to be pre-approved for the Global Entry program, and also have to go through fingerprinting/background check as part of their vetting to get TSA PreCheck, the U.S. government just gives you both for the cost of your Global Entry.
Global Entry has become much more popular since its start as a pilot program in 2008, and, especially since it seems as if everyone and their brother wants to travel since COVID, nailing those interview appointments has become more and more difficult. Some states, such as Alaska, Georgia and Utah, among others, only have one site that conducts interviews. At least three states (I’m looking at you, Arkansas, South Dakota and Wyoming), have NO Global Entry enrollment centers.
With lots of people trying to get appointments and comparatively few places available to do them (especially if you specifically want an interview on a weekend – good luck with that!), a few alternate ways of trying to get a “golden ticket” – that is, an interview – have been developed.
Enrollment Upon Arrival
Customs and Border Patrol offers Enrollment Upon Arrival, which allows Global Entry applicants who are conditionally approved to complete their interviews upon arrival into the U.S. That eliminates your need to schedule an appointment at an enrollment center. You’ll just need to have the following thing with you upon arrival:
- A valid passport. If you travel using more than one passport, please bring them all to the interview so that the information can be added to your file. This provides you with the ability to use multiple passports at the Global Entry kiosk.
- Documents providing evidence of residency. Examples are: driver’s license (if the address is current), mortgage statement, rental payment statement, utility bill, etc. This is not required for minors.
- A permanent resident card (if applicable).
Click here to see the locations and times of where you can do Enrollment Upon Arrival.
Make an appointment and wait
Some people are proactive and if they know they’re not going to travel internationally until 2 years from now, they start to plan early ;-). If that describes you, and the enrollment center nearest you doesn’t have any availability for another 8 months or more (no joke!), just make that appointment and wait it out. Not exactly an “alternative” method, but still easy peasy lemon squeezy.
Make an appointment and travel there
But let’s say you don’t have the blessing of time. If the enrollment center nearest you doesn’t have any availability for months and months and months and you can’t wait that long, check to see if another location you can got to (maybe somewhere near where you’re traveling to anyway? Or maybe one that you can get to and back via an ultra-low-cost carrier? Or a day trip by car?).
Appointments are given up/cancelled, and therefore become available, all the time. Once you have an appointment – ANY appointment – keep checking because appointments open up virtually every hour of every day. If you grabbed a spot in Honolulu for January 2023 because you’re going to Hawaii then anyway, you may still snag an interview closer to where you are, months earlier.
Global Entry Now is an online site (and Twitter feed) that automatically lists new appointments as they come up. They update every minute. The system is free, but they also have a paid version (see below, under Pay someone to look for appointments for you) that includes push notifications.
Pay someone to look for appointments for you
Just like the genius people who are willing to make a buck by standing in lines for you in NYC, there are websites out there that will troll the internet, looking for a “better” appointment for you:
TPP Alerts allows you to set up a profile where you tell them where you want to interview at nearby enrollment centers. They’ll notify you when a new appointment becomes available, and then you login and schedule the new earlier interview appointment.
They charge $12 for 1 month of alerts, with no automatic renewals.
Appointments Scanner works the same way as TPP Alerts, but gives you more options. You can choose up to 3 enrollment centers (TPP only allows you to choose one), and you can get your alerts via email and/or text message.
Appointments Scanner charges $29 for 1 month of alerts (up to 25 alerts per day).
Besides the free service listed above, where you can refresh their page every minute to see new appointment openings, Global Entry Now also offers push notifications via Twitter and SMS. The Twitter mentions appear to be free but are limited to just 3 notifications (and then you have to sign up again), whereas you can get SMS for $20 for 2 weeks, and then $10 per week (this gives you unlimited alerts for up to 3 locations).
This program appears to be a little more “bare bones” than the other two.
NOTE: CBP has said that third-party sites are unnecessary for Trusted Traveler Program enrollment. This is 100% true – they’re not necessary. Frankly, if it’s a company that’s willing to simply fill out the application on my behalf, like those fake “We’ll get your visa!” places, yeah I’d avoid those. But if someone else is willing to continuously look for open interview appointments on my behalf for $12 or $29 per month, I might be willing to pay them that, to save me the time of doing it. Your Mileage May Vary.
A new option!
I saved the best for last 😉
The U.S. government is well aware of the delays Americans are having with some government services. Late last year, President Biden wrote an executive order regarding Transforming Federal Customer Experience and Service Delivery to Rebuild Trust in Government. The order was intended to bring important government agencies into the digital era while simultaneously decreasing the red tape for several services.
It looks as if Global Entry is one of those services, because CBP’s website says that beginning September 8th, conditionally approved Global Entry applicants will be able to complete in-person interviews at most Trusted Traveler Programs enrollment centers in the United States. That means you’ll soon be able to go to the same locations as those for TSA PreCheck enrollment – and there are a whole lot more of those centers than there are for Global Entry.
Feature Photo: CBP
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