It’s shaping up to be another busy summer in air travel.
So far in 2023, the TSA has already logged 9 of its 10 busiest days since the start of the pandemic, and we haven’t even reached the months that typically get the most traffic.
As Frommer’s reported in March, a record 15 million people have now enrolled in TSA PreCheck, the expedited security screening program that helps travelers speed through airport checkpoints.
But passengers hoping to smooth their arrival home from overseas trips have faced a sluggish process when it comes to Global Entry applications.
The expedited passport and customs program run by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has had lengthy processing times for much of the past 2 years, driven by a combination of strong demand and a scarcity of available in-person interview slots due to a backlog dating to the height of the pandemic.
And the situation hasn’t seen much improvement.
Visit the government’s Trusted Traveler Program web page and you’ll find Global Entry processing times estimated at 4 to 6 months, though as recently as a couple of weeks ago, CBP cautioned that for some applicants waits for an in-person interview could run anywhere from 6 to 18 months.
Contrast that with TSA PreCheck’s estimated processing time, which at the absolute longest can take up to 60 days, according to the TSA. The process typically requires a fraction of that time.
In fact, when you click to begin applying for Global Entry, you get a notice from CBP encouraging you to opt for TSA PreCheck instead if you don’t have plans to travel internationally in the next 6 months.
That said, Global Entry has undeniable benefits, expediting the passport and customs process and, what’s more, the enrollment includes TSA PreCheck.
And since a 5-year, $100 Global Entry membership costs just $22 more than PreCheck alone, Global Entry remains a better bang for your buck.
The good news is, there’s an alternative way to get your Global Entry application over the finish line—even if you can’t seem to find an interview slot anytime soon.
Global Entry Enrollment on Arrival
Let's say you have an international trip booked for this summer and you're hoping to enroll in Global Entry for the first time, but you just can’t find any available interview slots.
You may still have an option at your disposal: Global Entry Enrollment on Arrival.
It’s a handy tool for Global Entry applicants who have been conditionally approved—the much quicker part of the process that takes place online—and are just waiting on the interview portion of the process to finalize their applications. (That’s the part primarily responsible for the delays.)
With Enrollment on Arrival, you’ll conduct your Global Entry interview when you arrive back at U.S. customs from an international flight—no appointment required.
Instead of proceeding straight to passport control, simply follow the signs for “Global Entry Enrollment on Arrival.”
Be sure to have on hand your passport and driver’s license (or permanent resident card). A CBP official will ask you a few questions, capture biometrics—a photo and fingerprinting—and complete your application process, just as in a typical Global Entry interview.
By the way, this should suffice as your passport verification for that trip, CBP tells Frommer’s. In other words, after completing the Enrollment on Arrival process, you won’t have to go wait in the potentially long passport control line too.
Once your application is fully approved, you’ll be eligible to use Global Entry “on your very next trip,” according to a CBP YouTube video demonstrating the process.
CBP started Enrollment on Arrival several years ago. The agency now offers the option at dozens of U.S. airports. (Click here to see a list of airports with Global Entry kiosks.)
Enrollment on Arrival is even available at some international preclearance customs centers, where you go through customs before your flight back to the U.S., as is common in Canada, among other places.
Renewing Global Entry Online
For some Global Entry members seeking to renew after the 5-year term has ended, another potentially speedier interview option is now available: CBP is trying out remote interviews via videoconference.
To be eligible for the program, members must be conditionally approved for renewal, must be at least 18 years old, must have previously submitted fingerprints, and must have a photo on file with CBP taken within the past 10 years (the photo must be from when the member was at least 14 years old).
You can try scheduling a remote interview by logging in to your Trusted Traveler Program account.
First-time Global Entry applicants who opt for Enrollment on Arrival, meanwhile, will have to face the somewhat unwelcome prospect of answering official questions and providing biometrics right after a long international flight.
But look on the bright side: You should get some immediate line-skipping benefits (as long as too many other passengers aren’t doing the same thing) and, more important, you could eliminate interview wait times of 6 months, a year, or even longer.
For more information on Global Entry Enrollment on Arrival, go to cbp.gov.
And if you're looking for a free option when it comes to dodging long airport lines without Global Entry, consider enrolling in Mobile Passport Control, which allows eligible travelers to submit passport and customs declaration info via a secure smartphone app that costs nothing.