Stuck in Global Entry 'renewal purgatory'? This $29 service can help you skip the line
Editor's Note: This post has been updated to reflect current pricing.
Over the last few days, dozens of people have reached out to me — first because I re-applied for Global Entry membership, and then because I was approved for my renewal interview overnight.
Some readers had similar success stories to share, both for Trusted Traveler program updates as well as for passport applications and renewals, even though passport agencies still have not fully resumed normal operations after a long hiatus due to COVID-19. Several travelers told me they also were approved overnight for Global Entry renewals, while one lucky traveler got his passport back in three weeks flat — even factoring in a request for a photo do-over. Unfortunately, most people who wrote in had disappointments to share, including at least a dozen people who have been awaiting Trusted Traveler updates for more than eight months.
Related reading: Everything you need to know about renewing your passport, Global Entry and TSA PreCheck during the time of coronavirus
Amidst my sadder inbox messages, however, came this beacon of hope from Peter Stevens: A $15 service called Appointment Scanner, which notifies you whenever an available appointment pops up at the Trusted Traveler enrollment locations you choose.
Related: Key things to know about global entry
Peter told me that he was able to use Appointment Scanner to snatch up interview appointments for himself and his wife which otherwise would have taken them months to book. "It will notify you of available appointments as they pop up, at whatever location you're looking for," Peter said. "You can even limit it to notify you only of available appointments on particular days of the week."
Curious, I decided to give the website a look. The simple landing site makes the service proposition clear: Automatic alerts for last-minute interview appointments across more than 100 enrollment centers. The company claims to save the average customer between three to four months of wait time. Of course, the system can't auto-book appointments for you; you'll still have to log in to your own secure account to do that yourself. But you can find out immediately when time slots open up.
According to Appointment Scanner, more than 20 of the most popular enrollment centers have no available appointments for the next year, while just under a dozen more are booked at least six months out. These stats are consistent with what we're hearing from our readers.
Appointment Scanner states that the service cannot guarantee you can score an earlier interview at a time that works for you. What they do guarantee, however, is that you'll receive at least 10 appointment alerts within your first month of service. If you don't, you can ask for your money back. The website claims that the average Appointment Scanner customer receives between eight to 20 alerts for available appointments per day. Once you score your appointment, you can click "unsubscribe" or opt out of text alerts immediately.
I was struck by how clean and simple the website looked, and wanted to find out if the sign-up process is just as straightforward. I'm pleased to report that it was.
It took me a grand total of 27 seconds to sign up and select my alert preferences, including the four seconds I took to decide if I wanted to do "express checkout" via Google Pay, or go the more traditional route of inputting my credit card.
Immediately after I hit "confirm order," I was met with this screen:
I really only have one enrollment center close to me, at the Austin airport. However, I selected a New York location and a California location, just for the sake of utilizing the service to the fullest.
The system also asked me to share my current interview date, so that they would limit notifications to appointments that open up before that date. If you leave this blank, they will alert you for anything that crops up within a six-month window.
Since I opted in to text alerts, I received a test text (say that three times quickly) and immediately began receiving notifications for the New York location I had selected: the U.S. Custom House — Bowling Green.
The same information was also available to me in my dashboard, which clearly shows that my three months of access will expire on November 13, 2020.
Now that I know New York has a lot of appointment time slots available, I might delete that location to get a more accurate sense of how often I receive notifications for my preferred location, Austin.
All in all, the Appointment Scanner service was incredibly simple and easy to use, and I'm really grateful to Peter for his recommendation. Let me know if you end up finding success with this tool as well — I'd love to hear from you.
UPDATE: Just 90 minutes after sign-up, I received a notification that my preferred location had a Sept. 11 appointment available.
Since the Trusted Traveler program doesn't even reopen until Sept. 8, I'm extremely impressed.
I'm away from my computer right now, but was able to log into my Trusted Traveler profile through my phone and snag the appointment. I was worried that, since I hadn't seen the alert immediately (see the 13-minute timestamp on my text message), someone might have already snagged my spot. But nope, it's all mine.
Featured illustration by The Points Guy team.