Tips for getting a Global Entry appointment when nothing is available
Global Entry, which gives preapproved, low-risk travelers expedited clearance upon arrival in the U.S. from abroad, is among the five expedited security programs the U.S. government offers.
Like other Trusted Traveler programs, Global Entry requires new users to submit an online application, followed by an in-person interview. The problem some run into is that getting a coveted Global Entry interview spot is sometimes easier said than done.
Conditionally approved applicants, including those renewing their Global Entry upon expiration, may be eligible to skip the interview portion of the process but is seemingly the luck of the draw for who is asked to interview again at renewal and who isn't.
For those who do need an interview, it can be anywhere from tough to borderline impossible to get an appointment. This is likely thanks to an ongoing backlog created by enrollment centers being closed for a sustained period of time during the COVID-19 pandemic, an increase in travelers looking to head on an international trip, along with staffing shortages.
During my own experience last year, I had to wait four months to find a Global Entry interview appointment at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport (ORD). And in some locations, things can be worse than that, with absolutely no availability at all through the end of the schedule.
But all is not lost in your quest to get through the airport faster with Global Entry. Read on for tips on securing an appointment.
Searching for Global Entry appointments by date
Customs and Border Patrol will notify applicants via email once their application has been approved, conditionally or otherwise. At this point you should attempt to schedule an appointment through the online scheduling tool.
You can filter appointment availability by the soonest available, a specific date or a location.
Based on a recent test search conducted for this story, appointments were available as soon as the next day at five centers in Arizona, Michigan and Texas.
But for many locations, including Los Angeles; Washington, D.C.; and Philadelphia, no appointments were available on any date through the end of the schedule.
Nothing was available in the New York City area and Chicago until April at the earliest.
When I couldn't initially find an appointment at O'Hare, I searched multiple other locations for availability, including in neighboring states and states nowhere near where I lived. If you have the capability to be flexible and travel, consider traveling to an enrollment center nearby. In that case, it might be worth searching for the soonest available appointment rather than fixating on the most convenient location.
Before you give up on finding an appointment this way, know that the online scheduling portal is super dynamic and changes minute to minute, with appointments sometimes disappearing faster than Taylor Swift concert tickets.
Because of this, I would recommend checking the online tool frequently, if you can, for last-minute openings due to cancellations. That's exactly how I landed an appointment for my application — I happened to check the morning of Dec. 15 and found one open slot in Chicago for Dec. 30.
Related: Best credit cards for getting Global Entry and PreCheck
Use a service to find a Global Entry appointment
Of course, not everyone can check the site many times a day or week to find that coveted open appointment for the brief moment it is available. And even if you can, sometimes technology is just a better answer.
So if the traditional scheduling route does not get you the Global Entry interview appointment you need, consider trying an alternate service, such as Appointment Scanner, which TPG principal cruise reporter Gene Sloan tested out earlier this week.
For $29, users can receive one month of appointment alerts (up to 25 per day), based on last-minute cancellations and newly released appointments at 20-plus enrollment centers.
If you fail to schedule an appointment during your first month, you can purchase a second month of alerts. Otherwise, your account will automatically expire after one month.
Although it "can't promise you'll be able to schedule an interview," it will refund any unsatisfied customers within 30 days.
"It was super easy to sign up. It took just a few clicks and less than 10 minutes. All I had to do was put in my email, phone number for texts (optional), name, up to three Global Entry locations that I could reach for an interview, and then pay," said Gene.
"When we find an appointment that fits your requirements, you'll receive a text message or email (or both – your choice)," per the company. "This alert has a link to the Global Entry scheduler website, where you can log in and claim the appointment." Within 34 minutes of signing up for the aforementioned pings, Gene got his first alert for one of his preferred appointment centers for later that day.
Gene, who lives in remote Asheville, North Carolina, has no Global Entry interview site near him.
"I picked the closest location at Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT). Although it would be a hassle, I could drive there and back, or I can schedule the appointment when passing through the airport," he said. "Since I could pick three locations, I also selected alerts for enrollment centers in Fort Lauderdale and Miami in Florida, which I often visit to see cruise ships. If an opening were to appear for a time when I was in one of the towns, it would be a good plan B."
Note that Appointment Scanner does not book the interview for you, nor does it sell appointments.
Though Gene was not able to make it work given the distance and last-minute availability, a traveler based near their desired airport could, in theory. Appointment Scanner warns that appointment slots disappear very quickly, so don't dawdle.
This service is also a favorite of Brian Kelly, founder of TPG.
"I’m obsessed with Appointment Scanner," he told me. "Within an hour, I had multiple text alerts for the coveted Bowling Green Enrollment Center in New York."
That's also the case for TPG creative manager Alex Maben, who swears by the service.
"I had the same issue, and after paying the one-time fee, I was able to book an appointment within like three days of having the service and only about two weeks out," she said.
Completing Global Entry interview on arrival from another country
A third option when you need a Global Entry interview appointment is to consider Enrollment on Arrival. This allows travelers to complete their Global Entry appointment upon reentering the U.S. from abroad when passing through customs.
Currently, this service is available at more than 50 airports globally, so you'll want to be sure to verify that your desired airport participates in it and that it will be open during your arrival time.
Additionally, you'll need your U.S. passport (which you'll presumably already have if returning to the U.S. from abroad). Also, you may want to verify if any other proof-of-residency documents are needed to complete the interview, such as mortgage statements and rent stubs. A full list of support documents is available here.
Although I planned on going this route when I flew home from Singapore in October, the CBP officer I spoke to when I arrived told me the office wasn't doing those arrival interviews that day due to being short-staffed, so it isn't a guaranteed option.
When this works, it couldn't be easier as it allows travelers to skip an extra step since they'll already be passing through customs.
Completing the Global Entry application process isn't as easy as it used to be because of the challenge of getting interview appointments in some locations. Still, the temporary headache and legwork required to find an appointment pale compared to the benefits of five years of Global Entry, especially for frequent international travelers.
As a reminder, the application fee for a five-year membership to Global Entry costs $100 but also covers your TSA PreCheck, which allows low-risk travelers to expedite their way through airport security without taking off their shoes or belts, or removing laptops or allowable liquids from their bags.
If you apply for Global Entry and want to keep that $100 in your pocket, use a credit card that covers the application fees of both Global Entry and TSA PreCheck, including:
- Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card.
- The Platinum Card® from American Express.
- United Explorer Card.
- Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®.
- Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card.
- Chase Sapphire Reserve.
- The Business Platinum Card® from American Express.
- Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card.
- Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card.
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card.
- United Club Infinite Card.
- 13 things you need to know about Global Entry
- How to apply for Global Entry: Tips for first-timers
- I just went through the interview process for Global Entry: Here's what it was like
- 7 ways to get free or discounted TSA PreCheck, Global Entry and Clear
- Stuck in Global Entry 'renewal purgatory'? This $29 service can help you skip the line