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What happens if you accidentally let your Global Entry expire?

June 04, 2022
6 min read
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There’s never a good time to let your Global Entry membership lapse. It would end your access to expedited border processing when arriving from an international flight. You’d also lose access to the TSA PreCheck line at airport security checkpoints.

To accidentally let your membership lapse right now is of even greater concern due to a backlog of applications and increased demand, which has led to long wait times for Global Entry interviews.

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For a sense of the delays some first-time Global Entry applicants are facing, consider this: once you are conditionally approved (a milestone you reach by applying online and having your information reviewed electronically) you have 730 days – two years – to schedule your Global Entry interview. As of last month, though, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) told TPG some applicants have not been able to get an interview even during that long timeframe.

When I heard that, I quickly double-checked the status of my Global Entry membership to ensure I’m nowhere close to expiration. I’m good – 18 months away still. Some members haven’t been so lucky though.

(Photo by James Tourtellotte, courtesy of CBP)

We’ve heard from some people in our TPG Lounge on Facebook who accidentally let their membership lapse, including one TPG reader who realized her mistake just days after her membership expired. It can happen to anyone.

Related: Global Entry vs. TSA PreCheck: Which is better?

It begs a few questions, though: if you accidentally let your membership lapse, does that mean you’re treated as a new applicant who’s never been a member before? Does this mean you could wait months -- even years -- to get your benefits back? Is there anything you can do to speed up the process?

I took my questions to the CBP. Here are some important things I learned.

No one should have to wait excessively long for an interview

This goes even for travelers who are applying to Global Entry for the first time. A big reason for this has to do with a program that, as TPG has reported, CBP is really pushing: Enrollment on Arrival. It allows travelers who have received that conditional approval to essentially enjoy Global Entry benefits when they arrive from an international destination. The one catch is that you’ll do your interview right there, on the spot when you arrive at the airport.

Enrollment on Arrival, now available at nearly 70 locations, is “the quick and best option for new applicants” to enroll, the CBP told TPG.

So, if you’ve gotten that conditional approval for Global Entry and are just waiting on an in-person interview, you don’t need to move heaven and earth to squeeze in an interview before your July trip to Europe. If you're arriving at a location offering Enrollment on Arrival, you can just complete your interview when upon your arrival back in the U.S.

Travelers walk into U.S. customs at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta. (Photo by Camilo Freedman/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Virtual interviews are available for renewal applicants

As a reminder, virtual interviews are one way the CBP has been working on clearing the backlog, while also making things more convenient for select travelers who are simply renewing their Global Entry membership.

You’ll submit your renewal application, get your conditional approval and then be able to do your interview without even leaving your house.

The CBP is also making an exception for members who have submitted their applications but have not yet received an interview. If you submit an application to the same program in which you’re a member before your membership expires, you’ll be able to still enjoy your benefits after the expiration date while waiting on the rest of the process to unfold.

On the other hand, if you don’t submit your application before the expiration date, your benefits will not resume until your membership is approved. Keep in mind, that this would impact your TSA PreCheck membership, too.

(Image courtesy of danielfela/Getty Images)

Related: Why you should get TSA PreCheck and Clear

If your membership expires, could you still be eligible for a virtual interview?

This was a key question I had for CBP. If you forget to submit an application by the time your membership expires, will you lose the chance for a time-saving virtual interview and be treated like a completely new applicant?

The short answer is, no at least for many travelers.

Under the pilot program, here are the criteria you must meet to be eligible for a virtual interview:

  • Be conditionally approved
  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Have a photo on file with CBP that was taken within the past 10 years and at the age of 14 or older
  • Have fingerprints previously submitted to CBP

So, for someone like myself, who first enrolled in Global Entry and went through the in-person process as an adult in 2018, I would be eligible for a virtual interview even if I were to forget about renewing before my membership expires.

Related: Going through Global Entry is easier than ever now

A Global Entry kiosk at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)

Bottom line

Given demand and wait times, it’s a good idea to check the expiration date for your Global Entry membership. You can start the renewal process up to a year in advance of the expiration, and the CBP recommends you start the renewal process six months to up to a year in advance. By submitting your application before the end date, you’ll be able to keep enjoying your benefits while you work your way through the process.

If you forget though, don’t panic: there’s a good chance you’ll still be able to enjoy some of the benefits afforded to renewing members, like a virtual interview.

Featured image by AFP/Getty Images
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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    For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

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  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
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