How persistence paid off after 3 unsuccessful attempts at renewing Global Entry

Jan 11, 2022

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I was ready to throw in the towel on renewing my Global Entry membership last week.

Last Tuesday, I landed in Newark Liberty International Airport’s Terminal B after my third international flight in a matter of three months and was once again denied the ability to renew my membership on arrival.

But first, let’s rewind to early November when I submitted my renewal application for Global Entry. Membership in the program lasts five years, and you can start renewing your account at any point during the fifth year.

I paid the $100 renewal fee on one of my many credit cards that offer a complimentary Global Entry membership, and my application was conditionally approved a few days later.

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While some renewals are processed immediately, mine would require an interview. So, I first tried signing up for a remote, Zoom-based interview.

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency launched a remote interview pilot program back in June 2021 that allows select travelers to complete a renewal interview via video conferencing instead of physically visiting an enrollment center.

Though I fit the criteria for the pilot, I was disappointed that there weren’t any slots available for the entirety of the 2022 and 2023 schedules.

With my hopes of an at-home interview dashed, I then tried scheduling an in-person appointment.

While a handful of enrollment centers had some close-in availability, my three closest centers — Bowling Green in New York City, New York-JFK and Newark Liberty International Airport — didn’t have any appointments until mid-2022, at the earliest.

During the pandemic, the CBP extended the renewal window to 24 months, meaning that I could theoretically schedule an interview for any time before November 2024 without losing my benefits.

While I appreciate the flexibility, I’m the type of person who likes to get things done as soon as possible. After all, with a hectic travel schedule, it’s nearly impossible for me to know where I’ll be next week, let alone six months from now.

So, instead of scheduling an interview for a random date in July, I decided to try my third interview option: the Enrollment on Arrival program. With this program, the interview is conducted during the immigration process when entering the U.S. from a foreign country.

In fact, the agency’s website touts this as an efficient way to complete the interview without needing to find availability at an enrollment center.

It seemed straightforward enough, so I figured I’d give it a try … or three.

On Nov. 26, I arrived in New York-JFK’s Terminal 8 at 6 a.m., just as the customs facility opened.

When I got to counter number one (the on-arrival enrollment location listed on the CBP website), I was told that no officer was available to process my application. I chalked it up to it being Thanksgiving morning and figured I’d try again next time.

Fast forward to Dec. 16 when I arrived at JFK’s Terminal 7 after my first-ever flight in British Airways’ Club Suite.

Once again, I was told a similar story. No officer would be available to process an interview on arrival.

Immigration hall in Newark (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Hoping for better luck in the new year, I tried again in Newark on Jan. 4 after landing from St. Maarten. When I arrived at the immigration hall, no officers were available to process my application.

At this point, I didn’t have any other international trips planned, and I wasn’t holding out hope that a fourth international trip would finally score me the coveted on-arrival interview.

So, I went back to square one and tried searching for an interview either on Zoom or at an enrollment center.

Unsurprisingly, neither was available. The earliest I could get an appointment was in Newark in March. I locked it in, marked my calendar and hoped that I’d be around.

But then, I started reading reports of a snowstorm hitting New York last Friday, and I figured that there might be a last-minute cancellation.

Bowling Green in Manhattan (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Lo and behold, that’s exactly what happened. When I logged in to the portal on Wednesday morning, I was able to snag a slot at the Bowling Green Center in lower Manhattan for 2 p.m. on Friday.

When Friday rolled around and the snow started melting, I took the subway from my lower Manhattan apartment directly to Bowling Green and was in and out of the facility within five minutes. The customs officer apologized that many facilities are operating with a big backlog of appointments due to short staffing.

Bottom line

In the end, it took four tries, but I was finally able to snag a desirable appointment for my Global Entry renewal.

While the process wasn’t exactly seamless, it did teach me that persistence pays off, especially with monitoring last-minute cancellations.

Now, I’ll try my luck again, since my wife’s renewal is coming up in a few short weeks.

Featured photo courtesy of James Tourtellotte via cbp.gov

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