Ready for a 2020 challenge? Try renewing your Global Entry membership like I just did
There's never a good time for bad news. Monday morning, bright and early, I received an email in my inbox reminding me that my Trusted Traveler membership was about to expire.
If the Trusted Traveler Program doesn't mean much to you, it's the umbrella system responsible for expedited security programs Global Entry, TSA PreCheck, SENTRI and NEXUS.
Since I've covered the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) office closures since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic lockdown, I knew that I wouldn't be able to schedule a renewal appointment any time before Sept. 8 at the earliest. And since thousands of people have had appointments pushed back for months now, I was concerned that available time slots for renewal appointments wouldn't be available until much farther out than September.
Related: DHS resinstates New York State's Trusted Traveler privileges
Fortunately, I also know that CBP has extended an 18-month grace period for continued membership privileges, as long as the applicant in question has already applied for renewal at the time of expiration. I'm also not traveling right now for a number of reasons, particularly overseas, so my travel perks don't matter quite as much to me right now as they usually do.
We've had hundreds of TPG readers ask us about applying for TTP membership during this time, so I was curious to see how long the process would take me. First, I navigated to the Trusted Traveler enrollment page linked in my email:
Since I hold multiple credit cards that offer me a $100 statement credit for Global Entry enrollment, I made sure to have my preferred travel credit card handy for check-out, as the system requires payment at the time that you book an appointment.
Related: Best credit cards for Global Entry and TSA PreCheck
I haven't logged in to the website since I first enrolled in Global Entry back in 2017, so I had to consult this guide on how to transfer my previous account into the CBP's new Trusted Traveler system.
Once logged in, I was able to see my Trusted Traveler status and click "renew membership."
I was asked to acknowledge that a background check would be required, as well as an in-person interview with a CBP official.
I was also asked to go through a checklist of eligibility terms, including citizenship status.
As I filled out the simple application form, I temporarily contemplated adding on the optional APEC Business Travel Card for $70, since I frequently fly to Taiwan to visit my extended family. But I ultimately decided against it, primarily because I don't know how helpful it would be for me specifically.
The system says that it saves all of your past information, but of course, a lot has happened over the past five years. So when I initially looked at my application, here's how many errors appeared:
There was a link immediately below the error notification which said "Expand All"; when I clicked on it, I was able to go through each of the sections listed above to update my passport number, my home addresses and employment history.
My travel history in particular required a lot of updating since 2015. I'm really grateful that, five years ago, I decided to quit a miserable job to freelance and give myself the flexibility to see more of the world. (Amongst other things, that decision led me here to TPG!) I highly recommend it — when we get COVID under control, that is.
Finally after clicking "confirm and continue" what felt like 46,387 times, I was on the purchase summary page.
Once I was paid up, I was taken to my main dashboard which showed that I was waiting on conditional approval in order to book an interview. When I looked up interview locations, I was able to view availability but not select a time slot at my nearest enrollment center in the Austin airport.
The earliest available time slots currently listed on the site are for early December 2020, and I'm not sure what will be available by the time my renewal application is approved. (CBP also reached out to TPG to state that calendars will be updated in real time once offices are open and accepting applicants again.) I will report back when I know that information. As always, enrollment for Global Entry is available upon arriving in the U.S. at select airports, and is a traveler's best bet for getting an appointment that skips the current wait queue. Of course, it not really being safe to travel overseas right now makes enrolling upon arrival home a bit of a catch-22.
All in all, the process was reasonably straightforward — just tedious and time-consuming, as one might expect. It wasn't the worst government form I've filled out lately, however. All in all, I'd give the re-enrollment process a 6/10 thus far, and will update that score once my full renewal is complete.