The Huge Downside to Signing Up for Global Entry, and How to Circumvent It

Airport security lines became insufferably long in the spring, but improved over the summer as the TSA seasaws between absurd overcautiousness and prioritizing speed.

While airlines are spending some money on the problem, Delta bought into CLEAR and and redesigned checkpoints while airlines generally added staff to bark at passengers how to get through queues efficiently, overall airlines just want the government to spend more or security rather than fixing airport security.


TSA Agents in Charlotte Watch News of the TSA’s Failure to Detect Weapons and Bombs, Instead of Searching for Weapons and Bombs (HT: Tocqueville)

The best way to get through security is with access to TSA PreCheck lanes. The following airlines participate in PreCheck:

  • Aeromexico
  • Air Canada
  • Alaska Airlines
  • Allegiant
  • American Airlines
  • Cape Air
  • Delta Air Lines
  • Etihad Airways
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • JetBlue Airways
  • Lufthansa
  • OneJet
  • Seaborne Airlines
  • Southwest Airlines
  • Sun Country Airlines
  • United Airlines
  • Virgin America
  • WestJet

It’s been expected that both Spirit and Frontier will get set up with PreCheck in the coming months.

I have Global Entry which allows skipping the immigration and customs queues when you return to the U.S. and provides PreCheck.

I didn’t love the fingerprinting or background check that went along with it, but I figured all my cell phone data was being logged anyway long before Edward Snowden was cool. So if the surveillance was inevitable I figured I might as well at least get the convenience.

Now that I have it, it’s hard to imagine life without it — and not just queuing up at immigration, but also that I always get PreCheck at TSA now rather than having it be hit-or-miss.


Playmobil Security Playset

Four programs provide expedited airport security:

  • Nexus is the cheapest and most comprehensive. It’s expedited immigration for Canada, but gets you Global Entry and TSA PreCheck. It’s $50. But credit card and other fee credits don’t advertise rebating the signup cost. It takes approvals on both the US and Canadian sides and while appointments aren’t super-tough to get, it can take 2-4 months to be approved.

  • Global Entry is expedited immigration. The fee is $100 and comes with TSA PreCheck. It’s open to US citizens and permament residents, UK citizens, German citizens and Mexican nationals. UK and German citizens have pre-registration requirements through their home country.

  • TSA PreCheck is $85 and doesn’t come with any border benefits.

  • Sentri is for US-Mexico land crossings, costs $122.50, and includes Global Entry (and PreCheck).

Most US citizens want Global Entry because it includes PreCheck, for an extra $15 gets expedited immigration (of decreasing importance as immigration kiosks roll out), and it reimbursed by more premium credit cards than PreCheck. Frequent Canadian visitors should get Nexus, and it’s cheaper, but the waits and dual approvals may discourage.

Here’s the rub in all of this. Wait times. If you sign up for Global Entry now, you may not get it this year.

As reader Steve G. wrote to me yesterday,

I can’t find an appointment available for my Philadelphia-based father anywhere nearby between now and November, with most enrollment centers having no available appointments until January. Some centers are even showing no appointments at all, and the earliest appointment available in DEN, for example, is in April!

When you get approved for global entry you have 30 days to schedule an appointment. But your preferred enrollment center may not have any appointments — for several months. You have to pick a date in the future. But that doesn’t mean you have to wait for that date. You can change your appointment date as many times as you wish.

Four strategies to consider:

  1. Consider a different location. When I first signed up for Global Entry I figured I’d do my registration in DC, but I wanted my appointment faster. There were available appointments at New York JFK so I made an appointment there when I could conveniently pass through the airport.

  2. Keep checking for available appointments. People make appointments and cancel them especially close in. The system updates in close to real time. Refresh the appointment times page and you may see dates open up.

  3. Just go in. I’ve had a few readers tell me that they signed up for an appointment in the future. As long as they were signed up for an appointment at some time, somewhere, they could show up at any enrollment center. And if the enrollment center wasn’t busy they could get their interview done on a walk-in basis. There is no guarantee this will work. They don’t have to take you, it may be dependent on who is there that day and their mood. Often appointments take much less time than scheduled and employees sit around, if they’re bored they’ll take you. At least 3 readers have shared they had success with this.

  4. Give up and consider PreCheck or pay more, getting both PreCheck and then Global Entry later (less annoying if you have more than one credit card rebating fees, and one includes PreCheck fees)

The government wants more people signing up for the program, TSA blames their lack of manpower on assumptions that more people would have access to PreCheck lanes, but programs providing that access don’t actually have the throughput to accomplish those goals. Global Entry is great, but it’s important to attenuate expectations. You’re dealing with government-provided services, after all.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. I was just conditionally approved yesterday. When i tried to schedule an appointment in Charlotte, the site said there were no appointments available. Im travelling to DTW in October, so i checked there, and there were several appointment dates available.

  2. You omitted Canadians as being eligible for Global Entry. We were the first non-Americans to be part of it (and of PreCheck shortly after it was introduced…(AC being the first non-American airline to be able to use it for their passengers..) Then came the Danes to GE. Brits and Germans are more recent,

    I do agree about the scheduling issue, much of which is now the result of we first generation Nexus/GE members having to go through an interview session as part of the renewal process. When I renewed Nexus/GE a couple of years back it was impossible to find an interview date in Toronto before my expiry but I was able to find one that coincided with a connection I had at YHZ. Similarly, when GE was introduced I ended up doing my interview/fingerprinting at ORD as a walk-in. (I turned out to be their first GE registrant at that T5 office.)

    I find all three programs the best things a frequent flyer can have…after top tier elite status in an airline and hotel program!

  3. “TSA blames their lack of manpower on assumptions that more people would have access to PreCheck lanes”

    Their argument is undermined by the fact they previously put unvetted passengers through PreCheck lanes to alleviate lines at the non-PreCheck lanes.

  4. “Here’s the rub in all of this. Wait times. If you sign up for Global Entry now, you may not get it this year. ”

    That’s because of Barrack Hussein O, and his moron John F&n Kerry. That rotten secretary of state before Kerry is also swinging this with that smirk. Did anyone expect anything less?

  5. One suggestion that may be worth adding to this post is to use the Mobile Passport app if you’re arriving at an airport that supports it. I only have Precheck and not Global Entry, but Mobile Passport enabled us to skip what looked like a two hour arrival line at JFK Terminal 8. We didn’t even need to fill out the blue Customs Declaration form. And the Mobile Passport app also let us skip the baggage exit line. It was so effective that I wonder whether I want to even bother getting Global Entry, since two of my three home airports support Mobile Passport.

    Another suggestion might be, if you have multiple cards that provide Pre/GE credit, to get Pre now with one card, while waiting for your Global Entry appointment you can use the other for.

    I wrote more about these here:
    http://ivanx.nyc/tsa-precheck-and-global-entry-thats-what-she-said/
    http://ivanx.nyc/mobile-entry/

  6. @DavidB, I understand that as part of a recent “streamlining” effort, simple renewals for NEXUS without a change in risk profile now no longer require another interview.

  7. I originally had an appointment 3 months out in EWR, but was able to get one in two weeks, by checking for cancellations.

  8. Miami Airport (MIA) is a great place to do your Global Entry interview. Open till 10pm and plenty of availability. When I was conditionally approved for the interview, I was able to schedule an appointment for the night of the conditional approval.

  9. Thanks for this. A couple weeks ago I scheduled an appointment for December 29 (ugh) and meant to go back and check for openings but just never got around to it. I checked today and now have an appointment in two weeks. 🙂

  10. I had the entire Global Entry process complete in 14 days. It took 30 minutes for the online application on September 13. The next week I received my pending approval and made an online appointment for mid October then I called the GOES office at the local airport and they had appointments that were much earlier, the following week! So I had the interview today on September 27 and I’m done!

  11. Houston is a good center to try if anyone is having trouble – and they have been opening Saturday appointments the week before and emailing those who have future appointment dates set at that center so they can switch and get in sooner.

  12. My sister in Bellingham, WA, uses her Nexus pass to speed through the fast lane when driving into Canada. Will Canada allow me to do that with my GE card?

  13. My wife and daughter were able to get walk in appointments at the DC enrollment center located in the Reagan Building. They went basically when they opened at 7am and it was a ghost town. The system had shown a December date as the first available so we saved a lot of time.

  14. If you have been conditionally approved for GE, look for your known traveler number (KTN) on that letter. It should start with 98 and have several more numbers behind it. By adding your KTN to airline reservations you should be able to use the PreCheck lanes even before having your interview with CBP which is needed to access the GE lanes.

  15. Melissa’s right-It’s all Obama’s fault. Just like everything else.

    Except the 80% rise in the stock market over the last 7.5 years. The Tea Party got that done.

  16. I don’t think it’s Obamas fault that half this country (most of them white) are dumb as a sack of potatoes. Most of these ding dongs live in the south, marry their siblings and walk around with names like Melissa, Donald etc.

  17. AMEX Platinum Card Holders have (had?) access to the Bowling Green Global Entry enrollment center in lower Manhattan. This was an exclusive benefit a few years ago, and may still be an exclusive benefit. Totally worth it to skip going out to JFK for a ten minute interview and fingerprinting.

  18. We applied to renew our Nexus cards August 1, as they were due to expire at the end of September. Should be enough time, we thought.

    Wrong. Nexus reviews are averaging 12 weeks, according to the CBP people we spoke to. And this is only to get to the point where we can schedule our interview. Fortunately, since we applied for renewal before expiration, we were also told we are entitled to an automatic extension of up to 6 months, while the application is “pending review”, and until the interview.

    The good news for us who spend significant amounts of time close to the Canadian border is that Nexus lets us report by cell phone when we go back and forth by private boat on the Great Lakes, and to use the automated entry lanes by car to/from Canada. Nexus also gives the same privileges as Global Entry (including Pre-Check), costs only $50 for 5 years. The card is a citizenship document that qualifies as a WHTI proof of citizenship for Caribbean cruises as well as land travel (but not for air entry to the U.S. – you need a passport book for that).

  19. If anyone lives relatively close to the border, it’s probably worth a drive. The center at Calexico, CA has a wide open schedule. All of the LA centers were booked for months, so my wife and I just took a day off and drove to the border. Not the most efficient thing ever, but not too bad either!

  20. Getting an appointment is tough when you don’t live in a city with an interview center. Not only do you need an appointment time to open, but you need it to coincide when you’re traveling to/through other cities! My husband has been trying to get the stars to align for 7 months. Four times it looked like it would all match up — twice the interviews were running late and he had to abandon the queue in order to make his scheduled flight and twice his incoming flight was delayed so he missed the appointment and couldn’t be re-accomodated same-day.

    Walk-ins may officially be an option, but never seems to work out at major airports!

  21. DFW would not allow any walk ins. We had modified an itinerary to ultimately do the interview in miami rather than dfw because we could get an appointment in Miami. While going through DFW on the outbound we stopped at the office and tried to get it done then, but it seems like they even had a sign on the door saying appointments only. Miami was a good place to do it, but it was a HIKE to get to their office, especially trying to do it between flights. I agree, it almost looks like Mobile App will be almost as good.

  22. My husband and I both just renewed our Nexus access. We applied in mid-June and got confirmation of approval at the end of August. No renewal interview was needed – just filled out the online form and paid $50 and the new cards showed up in the mail.

  23. Mobile Passport is actually faster than Global Entry because you skip the kiosks altogether. Plus you get Mobile Passport instantaneously (no interview or fingerprints) and its free. Mobile Passport is currently available at 20 US international gateways and more are being added. Mobile Passport does not include automatic TSAPre.

  24. One more unpublished “benefit” on GE. Recently flew internationally (non-USA) from YVR (on the ANA open-jaw bargain). At the long line for security, a fellow was calling out “Anyone with Nexus or GE?”. Apparently you could get fast-track security IF you had your GE card with you. And, since GE is tied to the passport, I didn’t bother to carry it. And stood there waiting in a LONG line.

    When asked, the fellow said “it’s a trial, so we don’t publicize it until it is formalized”. To which I responded “and so the data will only include those who bring the card for a trip where it is usually not needed or valid”.

    Now, GE card stays with me. Who knows where else a “trial” may start up.

  25. GE also disqualifies some misdemeanors while Precheck only concerns itself with felonies. Maybe a minor point but some folks will never get GE but can get Pre.

  26. Signed my kids up for global entry a couple weeks ago and got conditional approval a couple days later. Tried to make an appointment at PDX and it showed none available. Looked again a couple days later and it showed May 1 (6 months out!)
    Kept checking daily until yesterday when they must’ve been forced to open appointments on Columbus Day, October 10th, because the whole day was wide open.
    So keep checking!
    I had similar experience when I signed my wife and I up a year ago.

  27. I didn’t have a real problem. I signed up and got told to schedule an interview. I had a flight going out of JFK in like two weeks. I booked an appointment no problem and went to the airport early and get the interview done and flew out to China. Two weeks later when I returned my GE was all processed and I was able to use it when coming back into the country. Very simple. It takes me all of two minutes to clear customs when coming back into the country.

  28. I’ve used GE about 20 times now through three different airports and so far it’s been great, no lines and amazing speed getting through. My fear is too many will get GE and then the process will slow way down. It just takes a few duds in the line who can’t figure out how to insert their passport and scan their fingers to ruin it – granny and grandpa returning from their cruise come to mind…..

  29. It is easy to get an interview appointment for Global Entry in ORD. It is the largest interview center in the country.

  30. Is was funny. I redeemed an round trips tickett for my mom from LAX-ORD. She never ever sign up for any trust traveler programs. I help her to done the online chick in. She also got a TSAPre logo print on her boarding pass and she can just use the TSAPre lane without any problem. Similiar thing happened on her flights from Asia to LAX. Once she landed to LAX. She can just use the automatic passport kiosk to bypass the long immigration line. Since she can use all the Global Entry benefit without enrolling. So i have no clue why she still need to enroll the Global Entry program

  31. When I renewed my Global Entry in 2015, the interview was not required in my case. Very easy process and the fee was reimbursed via credit card. As noted by some, the advantage of Global Entry is modest for immigration, but AMAZING for customs. In earlier years when there were few of us GEs, it was awkward to bypass/cut hours-long lines exiting baggage claim in airports like LAX. Now only an infrequent flyer would put up with that line nonsense.

  32. For PreCheck – if you have any metal implants – knee/hip replacements, etc. you’ll need to make sure you let the TSA person know before trying to go through. It’s also very spotty at airports.

    Make sure they take you or direct you to the x-ray machines, not the metal detectors. Once you set it off then it takes FOREVER to get through. I have no issue going through the x-ray machines but it usually requires someone to take you to the front of that line.

    Just be aware if you/family members/etc. have PreCheck.

  33. Looking at interview times for SLC – it’s into July 2017 now. Booked a flight to ABQ for wide-open interview times, and tons of them.

  34. @Gary I did this earlier in the year, and already had a long wait for the interview appointment. When I finally went in to SeaTac for the interview, they had a signup sheet that had two columns where you marked whether you had an appointment, or not. They were working through the list FAST, and handled a walk-in while I was there. I was also processed by the nicest TSA officer!

    The key advice I would give: Go right when the place opens in the morning. As soon as one of the agents feels like they have a little breathing room, you’re in!

  35. I saw a customs agent in SLC yesterday, waiting to buy food near the international arrivals gates. I stopped and asked him if walkins would work at SLC and he said no, they weren’t staffed to support that like some other, more full service offices would be. He said that to watch at the start of the fiscal year, it’s possible offices like SLC will get additional funding to work through the backlog they’ve got. He told me SLC alone has 2000+ applications waiting for interviews… He was very embarrassed about the whole situation in his local office…

  36. I was conditionally approved in Dec 2015 and the first appointment I could get is Dec 2016. I tried many airports I was flying through. I tried walk ins. I tried getting appointments at cities I was visiting. No luck. I have never, in hundreds of tries, seen a cancellation pop up for a date close in. I don’t really believe they post cancellations. It is ridiculous to have a system that takes a minimum of 6 months and up to 12 months to complete the process.

  37. No! It does pop up immediately (or perhaps few second delay?) when I cancel my first apportment. The apportment time does became available right away. I was conditionally approved in July 2016 and the first appointment I could get was Dec 2016. Since I have a trip to Honolulu, Hawaii in Aug 2016. I then keep checking the appointment day in HNL every hour everyday. At first there was no apportment available at all. I thought maybe fully booking or not yet available for booking. Keep check keep checking. Finally there was a single apportment time available, which was the day I arrive and the time was perfect. My arrival time of my flight was around 2:00pm and the apportment time was set on 3:15pm. Lucky my flight have no delay at all. So I passed the interview and already got the GE card in my hand. From submit application to interview took me about 1 months only. Lucky me!!!!

  38. We applied for Global Entry and was conditionally approved few days ago.

    The problem is not waiting months for an interview. The problem is we got 30 days to sign up for A interview, and there is 0 spots all the way to 2022 for LAX… Without scheduling an appointment, i don’t think you can do a walk in, and once 30 days is up, you lose the fee you paid. They need to open up more appointments or lift the 30 days restriction.

  39. I walked in at Philadelphia. When asked I said that I had the paperwork and had scheduled the interview at another city and hoped not to have to make the trip down there. I was told that the wait would be long. It was 60-90 minutes. Only one other person and I were permitted to walk in this morning because the waiting room was full of customers. The actual appointment was about 15-29 minutes. I was and am very satisfied.

  40. My children were looking for FAA Draft Job Aid Operator Application to Conduct Data Link Operations several days ago and were told about a web service with lots of form templates . If you require FAA Draft Job Aid Operator Application to Conduct Data Link Operations too , here’s https://goo.gl/yDMGDu

  41. Just took my 9 month old twins to the Houston Central Library as walk ins & were in/out in an hour. We got there a few minutes after 10 am, he saw all of the people with appointments first & a woman with her 2 year old daughter (who were also a walk in). Once we were in it took all of 5-10 min! Definitely recommend.

  42. I am a US citizen who lives in the downstate NY Metro area, who works in walking distance to the Global Entry office in lower Manhattan, and whose Chase Sappphire Reserve card would have reimbursed the $100 Global Entry fee but will not reimburse the $50 NEXUS fee. Nonetheless, I wanted a NEXUS card, since I periodically travel to Canada.

    My timetable, from application through approval, has been:

    May 8, 2017: Received updated passport and immediately applied for NEXUS.

    July 19, 2017, 11:48pm: Received conditional approval.

    July 20, 2017, 12:00am: Booked interviews at Champlain, NY, gullibly believing the numerous online posts and articles, and the CBP and CBSA website pages indicating – erroneously – both the US interview and fingerprinting, and the Canadian interview and iris scans would be done at this location.

    July 25, 2017:
    …Had a short, easygoing USA interview and fingerprint scans. …Immediately thereafter, had a longer, more formal Canadian interview during which we reviewed the regulations and procedures, and after which I was directed to drive 10 minutes to the St. Bernard-LaColle Canadian border crossing station for iris scans. (One could, at their option, do their iris scans at a more convenient time and place.) I was not yet eligible to use the NEXUS lane, so I waited in traffic 10-15 minutes to cross the border and another 5-10 minutes to get my iris scan. The iris scanning process took another 10 minutes.
    …Approved. The card should arrive by mail, in 8-10 days

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