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Global Entry Timeline [Step by step guide]

April 23rd, 2020 · 8 min read
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Global Entry is a program offered by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection to expedite your way through U.S. customs. While the application process can take a while, it offers fast and pain-free clearance through U.S. customs when returning from an international trip (I usually clear customs within 10 minutes). Here’s the timeline of everything you can expect when applying to the Global Entry Program.

Coronavirus Updates

All Global Entry Enrollment Centers will be suspended until June 1, 2020. If you are conditionally approved and scheduled to take an interview, you will need to reschedule until after June 1. If you are interested in applying for Global Entry, you can still start the process online, but it’s unclear if any applications are being processed now.

New York Residents Eligibility

Effective immediately, residents of the state of New York are no longer eligible to apply for or renew in the Global Entry program. Unfortunately, there is no timeline on when New York residents will be able to apply again.

Application Fee (and how to get it paid for)

The application fee for the Global Entry program is $100. This fee is non-refundable, meaning if you are rejected from the program, you will not get your $100 back. Even though the fee is non-refundable, it’s a great value if you travel internationally, especially when you consider that it lasts 5 years and it includes TSA PreCheck.

However, we recommend that you use a credit card that will reimburse you for your Global Entry application fee. There are plenty of rewards cards that will reimburse you for your application fee, including:

It’s worthwhile to apply for a rewards card that will reimburse you for the Global Entry fee, because 1) you can accumulate miles and points significantly faster, and 2) these cards come with extra travel goodies, such as free checked bags, lounge access, travel credits, etc, that will complement your Global Entry membership.

Application Eligibility

US citizens, U.S. lawful permanent residents, and citizens of the following countries are eligible to apply:

  • Argentina
  • India
  • Colombia
  • United Kingdom
  • Germany
  • Panama
  • Singapore
  • South Korea
  • Switzerland
  • Taiwan
  • Mexico
  • Canada (through NEXUS program)

The eligibility requirements can be found here. There are some reasons you could be ineligible for the program, including providing false information on your application or having been found in violation of any customs regulations in the country.

How to Apply

The entire application process can be done online, with the final interview done in-person at an Enrollment Center (usually at an airport). The steps can be summarized below.
Create a account to get started

  1. Sign up for a account
  2. Complete the application in the TTP website and pay the fee
  3. Wait up to for conditional approval. On average, you can expect conditional approval within 6 months
  4. Once conditionally approved, schedule your interview at one of the Global Entry Enrollment Centers OR complete the interview with Enrollment on Arrival. Enrollment on Arrival allows conditionally approved applicants to complete the interview upon arrival into the U.S. This means if you’re returning from an international trip sometime soon, you can do your Global Entry interview upon arrival instead of making a separate trip to the Enrollment Center.
  5. Bring a valid passport (or permanent resident card) and one other form of identification to the in-person interview

I’ve submitted my application online. How long does it take now? What happens after conditional approval?

According to the TTP website, it takes on average up to 6 months to get conditional approval for your Global Entry application. It’s safe to assume that it will take a few months to get conditionally approved. (I applied in April 2019 and got approved 3 months later in July 2019). Of course, since the TTP is a government program, you should expect additional delays in case of government shutdowns or furloughs.

Once conditionally approved, you have 365 days to schedule and do the in-person interview. Usually, time slots for Enrollment Centers are booked out a few months in advance, so I recommend booking in advance or doing Enrollment on Arrival. Don’t forget to do it within a year, otherwise your application fee will be wasted!

Where do I take the interview?

Once conditionally approved, you can schedule an in-person interview at a Global Entry Enrollment Center, with a list found here. These locations include major airports and U.S. Customs offices.

However, we would recommend doing Enrollment on Arrival, where you can finish your in-person interview on arrival from an international trip. If you’re travelling anytime abroad in the next year, check out this list of locations where you can perform the interview. Note: there are a few locations internationally where you can perform the interview, including Canada, Ireland, the Bahamas, and the United Arab Emirates. The one downside to doing Enrollment on Arrival is that there may be a longer wait time to do the interview, since interviews are done on a first come, first serve basis.

OK. I’ve scheduled an interview. What questions can I expect?

Interviews are short, generally less than 15 minutes.

Remember to bring all the valid documents to save time. This includes: a valid passport (or permanent resident card), one other form of identification (such as a driver’s license), your conditional approval letter (or pull it up on your phone), and evidence of your residence (mortgage bill, lease agreement, rent bills, etc). You may also have to bring some additional documents if the TTP website prompted you to.

The customs officer generally asks questions on your travel history and plans for travel in the future, along with why you want Global Entry membership. The customs officer has a copy of your application, so you can expect questions on your residence history, travel history, and other relevant information on your application. Other than answering questions truthfully, there’s not much you should do to prepare-- the process is very easy and painless.

At the end of the interview, the officer will ask for your fingerprints and take a photo for the ID card. The officer will tell you if you have been approved (or if you have to wait some time). Once approved, you can expect a letter in the mail with information about the Global Entry program and your Global Entry card.

I’ve finished the interview. What next?

Before you finish the interview, the customs officer will let you know whether you are approved on the spot or if you have to wait some time before approval. Either way, check the TTP website for your status. You should expect an email notifying you of your approval within a few days or weeks, but, of course, timelines may vary.

After approval, you can expect a letter in the mail with details about the Global Entry program along with your Global Entry card. This card can be used for lawful U.S. entry only at land and at sea ports of entry. Since I mainly fly, I just leave my card at home, since a passport will suffice at the customs checkpoint.

Global entry card
The Global Entry card and protective sleeve

Now, you’re ready to use the Global Entry kiosks and reap the benefits of the long application process! You can access these expedited kiosks upon arrival at a port of entry. After scanning your fingerprints and passport and following the on-screen instructions, you will receive a printed slip to show the customs officer. While the other passengers are waiting in line in customs, you’ll be out in a breeze! For reference, I’ve averaged 5-10 minutes to clear customs.

If that’s not great enough, Global Entry also comes with TSA PreCheck, which means you can save time at the security checkpoint at the beginning of the journey. You can simply use the Known Traveler Number, which is provided as part of your Global Entry membership, when you book a flight. At my airport, the PreCheck line is significantly shorter than the regular line, and the longest I’ve ever waited was 30 minutes.

How do I renew my membership?

Global Entry membership lasts 5 years. You are eligible for renewal one year before your membership expires. To renew your membership, log on to your TTP account and follow the instructions to pay for your renewal.

You may be approved without having to interview again, in which case the new card will be sent to your mailing address. If you are required to interview again, you will have to follow the same steps as your initial application to finish the in-person interview.

Final Thoughts

If you travel often, Global Entry can save you tons of time and make international trips painless. You can get the application fee reimbursed with certain credit cards, including the United Explorer and American Express Platinum Card, which means that this program will cost nothing for you!

It’s extremely simple to apply online. Other than answering some questions about your housing and travel history, the hardest part will be waiting for the response. Once approved, you’ll be breezing through security lines with the included TSA PreCheck membership and clearing customs in a heartbeat!

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