As an international traveler from the United States, your trip is guaranteed to end with a long wait in the customs line before you can get your bags and head home. Although you can't avoid waiting for your bags and commuting home, you can escape the customs line with a Global Entry membership.
What is Global Entry?
Global Entry is one of the Department of Homeland Security’s Trusted Traveler Programs. It lets you to skip the regular customs line when returning to the United States from abroad saving you a ton of time. When you enter the United States from another country, there is a special line for members of the Global Entry Program next to the line for US Permanent Residents, Diplomats/Crew, and other visitors.
How do you get Global Entry membership?
Because you are able to avoid a time-consuming security process at the airport, getting into the program requires multiple steps.
1. Sign up on the Trusted Traveler Program website
The process begins on the official Trusted Traveler Program website of the Department of Homeland Security. You create an account, answer all the required questions, make your payment, and wait to be conditionally approved.
To be conditionally approved, a member of the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency has to manually review your application. This usually takes a few days or weeks but we have heard horror stories where it has taken months with very little transparency.
If you are currently still waiting to be conditionally approved and it has already taken several months, you can try giving the Global Entry help line a call at (877) 227-5511 and ask for your application to be escalated. Overall, the conditional approval process has a lack of transparency making it difficult to know how long it will take for your application to be reviewed. Also, the Coronavirus pandemic did not help speed this up with enrollment centers being closed for months which created a backlog.
Once you are conditionally approved, you can move onto the final step and schedule your interview!
2. Schedule your interview
After you are conditionally approved, the final step is your in-person interview before you can skip the customs line and take advantage of Global Entry on your next trip.
To schedule your interview, you have to head back to the official Trusted Traveler Program website and log into your account. Then, click "schedule interview" which will take you to the calendar page. If you don't have an option to schedule your interview, then it is likely you have not yet been conditionally approved. If that is the case, you cannot proceed until you have been conditionally approved.
On the calendar page, you can ignore all the date filters at the top and just scroll down to the name of your interview enrollment center and click it which will automatically show you to the soonest appointment available. The date filters at the top of the page can be misleading and often do not show all the available appointments for the interview location you would like to visit which is why we recommend scrolling down to the name of the interview enrollment center directly.
After you have selected your enrollment center, you may notice that the soonest available appointment is often over a year away. For many, the enrollment center may just show "no appointments available" and you can’t schedule an appointment at all.
So what is the fastest way to get an appointment that isn’t a year in the future?
All the ways you can get an interview
(From slowest to fastest)
1. Keep refreshing the scheduler website
New interviews are constantly made available due to cancellations or just new openings being made public. If you refresh the TTP scheduling page a couple times a day (usually around noon central time) you may get lucky and find a better time.
2. Book an appointment away from major cities
If you have an upcoming trip planned or are willing to do a roadtrip, you can try looking at the centers that aren’t near any major cities. These enrollment centers tend to have more flexibility and less demand so you will have a better chance to get an appointment within a few weeks.
3. Pay for an alerting service to notify you about interview openings
You can use an alerting service like AppointmentScanner.com which will send you an email, text message, or web browser alert whenever an appointment becomes available at the enrollment center you have selected. This way you don’t have to constantly refresh the scheduler page and hope for an opening. Just create your account, select up to 3 interview locations, select the latest possible interview date you would like, make your payment and you will start receiving alerts for 30 days until you disable them..
Once you receive the alert you can hop into the TTP website and if the appointment is still available you will be able to schedule it!
4. Use Enrollment on Arrival
If you have an upcoming international trip and are arriving back in the United States at one of the airports listed here you will find an option for ‘Enrollment on Arrival’ when passing through immigration. This lets you do the interview then and there without having to schedule it.
Keep in mind are that the hours may vary when this is available so we recommend to research your airport and be prepared for unexpected closures.
While this may be the fastest way to get an interview because you don't need to schedule it, we would recommend trying to schedule an appointment as a back up incase the airport you are flying through happens to be closed on the day you are passing through.
5. Schedule a Zoom interview (*only eligible if you are renewing your membership)
If your Global Entry membership is expiring and you are trying to book an interview for renewal, you may be able to book a remote appointment offered exclusively for renewal candidates. The benefits are that you don’t need to select an enrollment center close to you and don’t need to show up in person.
To schedule a remote appointment, just go to your dashboard on the official TTP website and when you click “Schedule interview” you will see an option to select between remote or in-person. If you don’t see this option, it means are you not eligible for these appointments.
* If you are eligible, you can also use AppointmentScanner.com to book your Zoom appointment at any remote interview center.