Global Entry is a program created by the United States Government which you can join to skip the regular customs and immigration line when arriving in the US from abroad. For any frequent international travelers out there, you will know the pain that is ending a long flight with a long wait in the customs line.
Global Entry is one of the Department of Homeland Security's Trusted Traveler Programs (TTP). As you might be expecting from a program created by a government department, there is a fair bit of bureaucracy involved in joining. Because you are able to skip an important aspect of national security, you have to jump through some hoops to prove you are a low-risk traveler.
Check out this in-depth guide on Global Entry if you want to learn more about how to join the program.
To summarize for anyone who is just getting to know Global Entry for the first time, the application has 3 distinct steps.
First, you must apply online on the official Trusted Traveler Program website. Make your payment ($100 for 5 years at the time of writing this article) and submit all the personal information that is asked. This information is used to conduct a background check on you.
Second, after you have submitted your online application, you have to wait to be conditionally approved. You will be notified when this happens and it means you have passed your background check and can proceed to the final step. It took me 4 days to get conditionally approved but we have heard horror stories where this has taken months (that was often during COVID times when there was a major back up though).
Finally, once you are conditionally approved you can schedule your interview with a Customs & Border Protection (CBP) officer. This is often where the trouble can begin because when you return to the official Trusted Traveler website to schedule your interview you may notice that there are no interviews available or that all interviews for the next year are booked.
Don't worry though, we have personally helped thousands of people complete their appointments within weeks (sometimes even days) so check out our top tips to make your Global Entry application process smoother.
Here are the top 5 tips to getting Global Entry
1. Check if the application fee is covered by your credit card
If you have recently gotten a new travel credit card or are planning to get a new one soon, keep in mind that many travel credit cards include a free Global Entry application fee. This would let you save the $100 fee that you pay for the 5 year membership. The fee is also non-refundable so if you are still hesitant about trying the application, the free application could help you make your decision.
Check out this list from The Points Guy that details credit cards that include Global Entry perks.
2. Don't use the date filters on the official interview scheduling site
The scheduling page on the official TTP website can be very misleading. There is a date filter at the top of the page to select the "Soonest available appointments" but in our testing, this filter will often hide the results for the interview location you are actually interested in.
Why? Though it's not explained anywhere on the TTP site, the date filter will only ever show five centers with the most recent appointments, (even if there are 100 centers with open appointments), so this can prevent you from seeing the center you want to interview at, even if there are appointment available.
Instead, ignore the date filter and scroll down to the full list of centers. Find your state and click the name of the center to fetch the soonest available appointments for that center.
3. Use an alerting service like AppointmentScanner.com to help book your interview
To schedule your appointment, you need to go to the official Trusted Traveler Program (TTP) website and find an appointment on the scheduler page at the enrollment center closest to you.
If this center is a busy location, you may find that there are no appointments available or that everything is booked for a year in advance. In that case, you will either have to book what you can, go to a different location, or keep refreshing the page until there is a new opening or cancellation.
You can use AppointmentScanner.com and be sent instant SMS, email, or web browser alerts whenever a new appointment is available that meets your criteria. Simply sign up, pay $29 for one month of alerts, select your interview enrollment centers and the latest date you would like to interview. Then, just wait to receive alerts whenever something opens up and you can hop into the TTP website to schedule it.
Keep in mind that AppointmentScanner.com can't reserve or book the interview for you. You'll still need to book the interview yourself, just as you would without Appointment Scanner. It takes some quick reflexes and persistence, but if you're willing to stick with it for a week or so, your odds of success are extremely high.
Appointment Scanner has helped thousands of people schedule an interview within weeks of signing up, even at the busiest centers such as JFK, LAX, and SFO.
4. Use Remote / Zoom interviews if you are renewing your membership
The Customs and Border Protection Agency is allowing remote interviews via Zoom for certain Global Entry candidates applying for renewal (after the 5 years are up).
To sign up for a remote interview, go to your dashboard on the official Trusted Traveler Program website and check your eligibility. Click the “Schedule interview” button on your pending application. If you see an option to select between "remote" and "in-person," you are eligible! If you don’t see this option, it means are you not eligible for remote appointments and will need a traditional in-person appointment.
The main benefit of remote appointments is that you don't need to go in-person to a center to interview. You can also interview with any enrollment center that supports remote appointments (not just the nearest location that you can drive to).
Also, keep in mind that if you are using Appointment Scanner for alerts about interview appointment openings, remote appointment are also supported. There are generally less cancellations for remote appointments compared to regular appointments (because generally people can do the appointment from anywhere in the world), but there are still new Zoom appointment releases every few days, which Appointment Scanner will monitor for. Hundreds of Global Entry renewal candidates have successfully scheduled remote appointments using Appointment Scanner. If you're eligible, Appointment Scanner and remote appointments are one of the quickest and most convenient ways to renew your Global Entry membership.
5. Look into Enrollment on Arrival
The Enrollment on Arrival program allows you to complete your interview while going through customs when you arrive back in the US from an international destination. You'll need to be conditionally approved and traveling through a supported international airport. (Check the list of supported airports). Look for the signs for Enrollment on Arrival or ask a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer to direct you when you land.
The major downside to Enrollment on Arrival is that you have to take an entire international trip before securing Global Entry benefits–no TSA PreCheck to skip the security line, no accelerated customs line.
Enrollment on Arrival can also be very hit or miss and hard to rely on if you need Global Entry by a particular deadline. At busy airports, the line for Enrollment on Arrival can stretch for hours, so be prepared to wait–not exactly the most enjoyable experience after a long international flight. If you're traveling with a group, this may be a non-starter. The centers also close during certain days and times, sometimes without notice. Overall, Enrollment on Arrival is hardly the silver bullet for Global Entry that travelers hoped it would be when it first began, but it's another option to consider.
We recommend treating Enrollment on Arrival as a last case resort if you can't schedule an interview. For most travelers, scheduling a last minute interview via Appointment Scanner ends up being a far more painless option, and allows you to breeze through your next international trip with your Global Entry benefits secured, rather than than worrying about completing an interview after your flight.