During the government shutdown TSA lines have been longer in some cases (more screeners calling in sick since it’s unclear when they’ll be paid for the work they’re doing), air traffic controllers are working for deferred pay, and immigration lines have gotten longer in some cases too.
The idea is that the federal government isn’t supposed to be paying workers in agencies where funds haven’t been approved, but that critical work has to continue. The vast majority of Department of Homeland Security employees are still ‘on the job’ and expect to be paid for their current work when the shutdown ends.
However not all functions remain ‘active’ and it’s also not entirely clear even to the government itself who is supposed to be working and what they’re allowed to do. The FAA has called back aircraft inspectors after first determining they should be furloughed.
One area that has generated confusion is the Global Entry program. While there were some reports in the late days of December of Global Entry interviews taking place, since then interviews have gotten cancelled.
- You apply for Global Entry online
- Once you receive ‘conditional approval’ you have to schedule an in-person interview
- Those interviews aren’t considered crucial enough to continue during the shutdown
Copyright: andreyuu / 123RF Stock Photo
My daughter received conditional approval for Global Entry. Unlike precheck where small children can accompany parents, if the child – even a baby – doesn’t have Global Entry then parents cannot use it when they land back in the U.S.. My wife and I wanted her to get Global Entry right away!
Unfortunately her interview was scheduled for early January, and the morning it was scheduled we received a cancellation email (unlike Phoenix in Austin they know how to use bcc: for mass emails),
The Austin Global Entry Enrollment Center (Trusted Traveler) is currently closed due to the ongoing government shutdown. Due to a lapse in funding, all Customs and Border Protection Global Entry Enrollment Centers will be closed during the shutdown. You are receiving this email as this may or may not affect you depending on when government funding is secured. If your appointment time is affected, It will be necessary for you to reschedule your interview after U.S. Government operations resume …
My wife and I took our daughter on her first international trip this past week. Fortunately we flew back into Austin and with limited international service lines there are short. We used an immigration kiosk to speed things, picked up our bags, and headed for the customs exit.
There were still signs up for Global Entry interviews on arrival, and I had even received an (automated) email saying that interviews could be conducted on arrival. I asked each border official I encountered whether we could do this for our daughter, and each told me to ask the next person.
At the last step, as we were being waived through with our luggage, I asked again about Global Entry interview on arrival. The agent there said “we can’t do that because of the government shutdown.” Really, I asked? “Each of the staff before me said to ask you, they thought it was possible.”
The agent directed us to wait by the side. He said he’d have to wait until the flight was fully processed (fortunately – Austin – there was only one international flight arriving) and he would check. A few minutes passed and two other passengers came to wait by us. It seems Customs and Border Protection had determined they were allowed to process Global Entry interviews on arrival, and two other passengers asked about having theirs. They were instructed to wait behind us.
Once our inbound flight was processed an agent asked us to come over and show our daughter’s passport, as well as one of our driver’s licenses.
- Since she’s a three month old baby she cannot answer questions
- And they do not try to fingerprint her
- Everything went quickly, all they needed to do once they pulled up her record was photograph her.
The Global Entry interview on arrival process worked, despite the government shutdown. That will help because we have our second international trip with our daughter next month.
Even if the shutdown ends soon, there will be a backlog of conditionally approved applicants who need to schedule interviews. It may be tough to do. My suggestion is that once the shutdown ends, even if you aren’t able to schedule an interview, consider showing up anyway if you’re passing through the airport. I’ve found that agents sometimes, though not always, are willing to squeeze in walk-ins.