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Demand for international travel has soared since pandemic restrictions subsided. And when those Americans return home, they have to pass through airport customs facilities.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) data shows airport passport control lines saw 17% more passengers in July 2023 compared with the same month in 2022 and 124% more than in July 2021.
That, combined with a nationwide shortage of customs officers, has fueled lines lasting two to three hours in some cases, according to the U.S. Travel Association.
Travelers hoping to avoid those crowds by applying for Global Entry have encountered a roadblock: getting an in-person appointment to complete their enrollment.
What is Global Entry?
Global Entry is a Trusted Traveler Program run by CBP, which dramatically speeds up the passport control process when people arrive in the U.S. after an international trip. Approved travelers head to a kiosk and are often cleared within seconds.
The other key benefit is members get access to the TSA PreCheck lanes at airport security.
To become a member, first-time applicants must complete an in-person interview at an enrollment center. Many travelers report checking the agency’s website to find no appointments available close to home or wait times of three months or more. At the time of writing, some enrollment centers don't have appointments until 2024.
With that in mind, here are some tricks and tactics you might try if you’re hoping to get enrolled in the program ahead of an upcoming trip.
Tips to find a Global Entry appointment
1. Start looking for appointments early
If you’re hoping to be Global Entry-approved, start the application process and your search for an appointment now. Depending on where you live, it may take a few months before you’re able to get a convenient appointment.
2. Use Enrollment on Arrival
Traveling abroad soon? If you can’t find an appointment and have a trip on the horizon, there’s another option CBP encourages for new applicants.
The agency offers enrollment on arrival for applicants who have received conditional approval (the fast, online part of the process). This method lets you do your interview on the spot after landing on an international flight.
Instead of proceeding to the standard customs line, follow signs for “Enrollment on Arrival.”
3. Check back on the first Monday of the month
Mark the first Monday of the month on your calendar, and be at your computer. CBP says it releases new interview appointment slots at 9 a.m. local time.
4. Be open to last-minute appointments
Check the agency’s scheduling page often, and be ready to adjust your plans and snag an appointment if you suddenly find an opening.
Don’t forget to bring your passport and at least one other form of identification, such as your driver’s license.
5. Attend an enrollment event
As part of its effort to reduce its backlog, CBP has held some multiday Global Entry enrollment events and "blitzes" in different parts of the country.
Past events have come to cities like Little Rock, Arkansas, and Memphis, Tennessee.
6. Consider a third-party service
There are some third-party websites that will monitor Global Entry appointments and alert you if one opens up.
Keep in mind, that some of these sites, such as TTPAppointments.com, may charge you a fee for certain monitoring services.
7. Go to an unconventional place
Traveling somewhere within the U.S.? If appointments close to your home are all filled up, check to see if there’s one near where you’re visiting.
The interviews typically take just a few minutes, so it shouldn’t detract from your travels, especially if you can grab a time slot when you’ll be at an airport anyway.
8. Consider TSA PreCheck
Because of its Global Entry backlog, CBP encourages infrequent international travelers to opt for TSA PreCheck instead.
The agency has a quiz on its website that helps you decide which program is best for you. A traveler who indicates they fly internationally less than three times annually, for instance, is usually encouraged to apply for TSA PreCheck.
TSA PreCheck and Global Entry memberships are both five years, so you’ll want to think about any potential international trips for that entire duration.
Cost is also a factor. TSA PreCheck costs $78. Global Entry is $100 and it includes PreCheck access. Some travel credit cards may also reimburse the enrollment costs.
Global Entry is generally a better bang for your buck and worth the wait for an interview. However, if you don’t anticipate you’ll fly internationally much, TSA PreCheck has more enrollment centers, so you can start skipping lines even sooner.
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