Everything you need to know about renewing your passport, Global Entry and TSA PreCheck during the time of coronavirus
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We’re well into our second month of collective quarantine and travelers are getting antsy from being grounded for so long. But even though the coronavirus pandemic has disrupted life as we know it, it isn’t all bad news.
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Now is the perfect time to take inventory of documents and memberships to plan for the days when we can take to the skies again. So if your passports need renewing or your expedited-security programs will expire soon, here’s everything you need to know.
Passport applications and renewals
The good news: This is the best time to update your passport because you have time to mail it off and get it back before your next international flight. (In fact, some TPG staffers have two passports for this very reason.)
The bad news: If you’re in a hurry, you won’t be able to expedite your passport renewal or application unless you have a qualified life-or-death emergency that requires travel within the next 72 hours. This mandate comes straight from the State Department, so you won’t be able to bypass the system by using rush services from a passport agency.
We recently wrote about all the nitty-gritty details for applications and renewals, but here’s a quick summary of the main points:
- You can still apply for passports and renewals through standard channels, although many passport processing facilities, such as post offices or district clerk offices, may no longer offer in-person services.
- Those that are still open usually require appointments. You can look up your local facility here.
- If your passport expired less than five years ago, you can reapply now for a renewal instead of starting the process of getting a new passport from scratch. But make sure you submit your application before the five-year mark; you will lose that grace period otherwise.
- Your passport doesn’t have to be fully expired to prevent you from traveling. To be safe, you should always have at least six months of validity beyond the return date of an international trip.
- If you need to update your passport for any reason, such as a legal name change or facial reconstruction surgery, you can do it any time. After the first year from the date your passport was issued, you will pay the same fee that you would for a renewal. If you need to make changes within one year, you can simply apply for a data correction, which doesn’t incur any fees.
- Note that the State Department warns that current wait times may surpass the standard six to eight week processing time.
Many of the expedited-security programs require an in-person interview with a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) official, and even returning applicants need to be prepared for a follow-up interview if requested. But most regions of the U.S. have been asked to eliminate nonessential activity and Trusted Travel enrollment centers are closed until at least June 1, 2020.
Even before coronavirus shutdowns took effect, CBP had a backlog of more than 350,000 pending renewal applications at the end of 2019. And applicants from New York state currently aren’t eligible to apply for or renew Global Entry, although travelers with current Global Entry status can still use the expedited-security lane.
Fortunately, CBP is still allowing travelers to use Global Entry benefits for up to a full year after their Global Entry membership expires. However, you must submit your application for renewal before the expiration date to be eligible for the grace period.
Given the temporary closure of enrollment centers across the nation, applicants with scheduled interviews should push back their appointments to avoid having them canceled.
If you’re part of the tiny subset of travelers who have essential travel plans, you may be able to conduct your Global Entry interview on arrival if you are passing through an eligible U.S. immigration facility.
If you have yet to apply for Global Entry, be sure to read about the 14 key things to know about getting Global Entry. This guide includes information about who qualifies for the program, what families need to know about Global Entry, what to expect during your interview and more.
And, if you hold a premium rewards credit card that reimburses the $100 application fee for Global Entry, you may be able to get Global Entry for no out-of-pocket cost.
Related reading: 3 lessons from saving $400 on Global Entry renewals
The application process can be a hassle these days, but Global Entry membership is definitely worth the trouble. The program includes TSA PreCheck for domestic expedited-security screening as well.
TSA PreCheck, NEXUS, SENTRI and FAST
Applications for TSA PreCheck, NEXUS, SENTRI and FAST programs have all been bottlenecked by the same Trusted Traveler enrollment center closures that have affected Global Entry applicants. However, Enrollment on Arrival remains operational at 60 participating airports. Here’s the full list.
If your PreCheck membership expires soon, don’t fret.Trusted Traveler Program applications now remain active for 485 days from the date of application, which means that the delay will not cause your application to expire until well past the one-year mark. Furthermore, CBP will extend your Trusted Traveler program eligibility for up to 18 months past the expiration date, as long as you have a renewal application in the queue that’s dated before your date of expiration.
So if your membership expires on May 1, 2020, you can still enjoy expedited security screening privileges through Nov. 1, 2021, as long as you successfully file for renewal by April 30, 2020.
If Global Entry doesn’t work for you for any reason, look into Mobile Passport, especially if you’re a New York resident or hold a Canadian passport. This digital passport app is available for U.S. citizens and Canadians at 31 U.S. airports and cruise ports, and allows you to enter a PIN and your passport number and flight information and receive a QR code that speeds your passage through customs. (You also need to show your passport.) The base version is free to use, but you’ll have to manually input your passport information each time you go through customs and immigration. The premium version costs $15/year and will retain your information for future use.
If you currently have a Clear membership, you might not even have to renew right now. This privately owned company is offering a free three-month extension for all members, regardless of plan. This means that any family members on your Clear plan are also eligible for the extension, whether they pay $50/year as an adult or receive free membership as minors under the age of 18.
We covered the details of the promotion here, but you can request your extension with one simple text that takes about 10 seconds.
Make the most of this time to get all of your documents in order so that when the all-clear is sounded, you can rejoin us in the skies without worrying about an expired passport or standing in a security line.
Featured photo by Shutterstock.
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