Will My Travel History Affect My Global Entry Application?

Oct 9, 2016

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TPG reader Jaquelyn sent me a message on Facebook to ask about Global Entry:

“The only thing that’s held me back from applying for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck is my travel patterns. I’ve been to the Middle East quite a few times in the past 10 years; will that affect my interview and my chances of being approved?”

I’m a big fan of Global Entry, and I’d encourage anyone who travels regularly to consider signing up, especially since you can get a credit to cover the cost of applying. The expedited immigration lanes have saved me a ton of time when returning from international trips, and domestic travel has been a bit easier thanks to the included TSA PreCheck. The application process is pretty easy, and aside from the long wait to schedule an interview at some enrollment centers, it isn’t too lengthy. That said, there are a few things you can do to avoid delays and maximize your chances of being approved.

During your initial online application, you’ll be asked to list countries you’ve visited in the past five years, so any travel prior to that shouldn’t be an issue. Based on my personal experience and anecdotal evidence from others, I think the only way you can really mess this up is to provide incomplete or inaccurate information. You’ll probably get a bit more scrutiny than normal if you’ve spent a lot of time in countries like North Korea or Syria, but just having been there shouldn’t prevent you from getting approved. On the other hand, failing to acknowledge previous travel could slow things down or be grounds for denial, even if the destination is considered relatively benign.

As for the actual interview, your travel history might not come up at all. If it does, then again be forthright about where you’ve been and why you went there. If you accidentally forgot to include a country in your application, be sure to bring it up right away. I wouldn’t expect to be grilled about every trip you’ve taken overseas, but it can’t hurt to have an explanation at hand. Any academic or professional obligation is worth mentioning — really, you just want to avoid saying something like “I don’t know” or “no reason” when asked about your motivations for going.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.
Be sure to list all the countries you’ve visited, even if they seem mundane. Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Ultimately, it’s hard to say for certain how your travel history will impact your enrollment. I had an issue last year when I was tagged by TSA for advanced screening after a trip to Turkey, but that didn’t affect my Global Entry status. I think a criminal record is far more likely to create problems, as I’ve heard plenty of stories about people being denied even for ancient misdemeanors. However, US Customs and Border Patrol doesn’t publicize its approval process, so the only way to know for sure is to apply!

For more on applying for Global Entry and other expedited security programs, check out these posts:

If you have any other questions, please tweet me @thepointsguy, message me on Facebook or send me an email at info@thepointsguy.com.

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