If you are an international traveler who frequents the United States border, you may already have applied for Global Entry in order to expedite your border-crossing experience. If you haven’t heard of Global Entry, it is a program directed by US Customs and Border Protection which offers more efficient border crossing for low-risk trusted travelers through the use of Global Entry kiosks at certain airports.
US citizens and permanent residents, UK citizens, German citizens, and Mexican nationals are eligible to apply. If approved, you need only to scan your passport and fingerprints at a Global Entry kiosk and you can proceed past the line to baggage claim and the exit. This can save hours of time at border crossings, and helps international travelers make narrow domestic connections with little risk of missing their flights.
This sounds great, and it is, once you’re past the application and interview process. If you have applied and been conditionally approved for Global Entry, or if you have (be honest) started an application but haven’t quite finished it, then you may already know about the struggle to schedule a Global Entry interview. First of all, tens of thousands of people have applied for Global Entry, and all of them have to be interviewed at a select airport at some point. Scheduling an appointment for a Global Entry interview could put you on a several month wait list, unless you are lucky and catch a cancellation just in time. However, don’t wait once you’ve received approval to schedule an appointment; your application will be discarded within thirty days of conditional approval if you have not managed to schedule an interview during that time.
The application process is a throughly-vetted fine-toothed combing of your record, rightfully so, and as such it does take some time to complete. That, in combination with waiting several months for an interview and potentially having to schedule an appointment across domestic borders to do so, can leave many travelers feeling like it isn’t worth the hassle.
There is also a $100 application fee, which is not returned should you be denied access to Global Entry. This is because it is purely an application fee, rather than a membership fee. However, if you have the right credit card, you may be able to get reimbursed! Eligible cards include Chase Sapphire Reserve, American Express Platinum cards, just to name a couple.
So, that reimbursement provides a light at the end of the tunnel, and that light is getting a little brighter as the Global Entry interview process just got a little bit easier. Now, instead of scheduling a Global Entry interview for whatever time slot you can find (which may or may not align with any of your travel itineraries) applicants can now complete the interview process at the US border upon arrival!
If you have already applied for Global Entry and have received conditional approval and an invitation to schedule an interview, you may now complete your interview when you reenter the United States (or Canada) through one of five major hubs: Houston (IAH and HOU), Austin (AUS), San Francisco (SFO), and Vancouver (YVR).
Here’s how it works: instead of clearing customs and coming back to have your Global Entry interview at a later date, you may do both of these things at the same time. Travelers who wish to take advantage of this convenience will go to an “Enrollment on Arrival” station where they will clear customs as per usual, but also go through the Global Entry interview process.
Here are some things to make sure you have on hand for your interview: your passport (which you should already have with you, so no problem!) and/or permanent resident card, a printed copy of your letter of conditional approval, which will have been sent to you after your application was cleared, and proof of residency at your legal address. This could be a driver’s license with your address, a bill that was sent to your address, or a myriad of things you can use as proof that you have legal residency.
During the interview process, you will be asked to confirm some of the details that you had provided on your application. For example, you may be asked to provide clarification on the countries you had previously visited, including reasons for travel, time frames, and even stopovers and layovers. Additionally, you will likely be asked to confirm your future travel itineraries, also including layovers. Finally, you will be asked to give fingerprints such that they will be in the system when you use the Global Entry kiosks in the future.
Once the process is completed and you are approved for Global Entry, you will have access to membership for five years. You should receive your Global Entry card within ten days of your interview, and you must activate your card (via your GOES account which you used to apply) within 30 days from the date you receive it. You will also receive a KTN (Known Traveler Number) which provides access to TSA PreCheck eligibility.
Note that Global Entry and TSA PreCheck are not the only two expedited border-crossing programs that exist; NEXUS is the Canadian version of Global Entry and comes with the perks of both Global Entry and TSA PreCheck, as does SENTRI. If you are unsure as to which program is right for you, you can compare and contrast the Trusted Traveler Network programs here!
If you have been hesitant to complete the application process because you are apprehensive about the time it takes to schedule an inconvenient interview, then this should come as good news to you! For now, Enrollment on Arrival is only available at the five hubs mentioned above, three of which are in Texas. Hopefully this will be expanded to more hubs in the very near future, but in the mean time, I wouldn’t hesitate to schedule an international incoming flight to Texas and enjoy the benefits of Global Entry for the next five years!