After almost a two-month wait, my interview appointment date arrived for Global Entry, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) program that gives approved travelers expedited clearance when arriving in the United States AND TSA PreCheck status. The fee is $100 and is good for five years.
Here are some things I learned from my interview that may be useful for others:
1. Once you get an appointment, put it in your calendar. Even though I had to wait two months for my appointment, Global Entry sends you no reminder that your appointment is coming up.
2. Global entry status is good for five years, but the expiration date is tied to your birthday. My interviewer said I’d get almost 6 years out of my membership because I celebrated my birthday recently.
3. In an increasing number of airports, the paid Global Entry status is not always faster than the free Mobile Passport Control program, also operated by US Custom and Border Protection.
There are different kiosks for each program for arriving travelers, but because so few people know about the Mobile Passport Control program those kiosks often have shorter or non-existent lines.
The catch: Mobile Passport Control users exit the arrivals hall with everyone else who picked up their checked bags; Global Entry status fliers have a different exit lane, which is often – but not always – shorter and faster, said my interviewer because it’s filled with experienced travelers who usually don’t have much luggage. This may vary by airport, but in Seattle, my home town airport, that’s the way it works.
4. Once you get Global Entry status, keep it. In the video I had to watch before being interviewed, I learned that if I broke a customs rule – by, say, trying to bring some fruit into the country – I could lose my Global Entry status. Having forgotten that I had a piece of fruit in my carry-on on more than one occasion, I asked about this. “Just be honest,” said my interviewer, “and you should be fine.”
5. Read the instructions… If you don’t pass the interview or the background check, you’ll be denied Global Entry status and you won’t get your $100 application fee back. One of the other people being interviewed when I was in the room was evidently rejected for a legal infraction ‘no no’ that was clearly on the list. “I told him to stay clean and maybe he’d have better luck next year,” one of the CBP officers was telling another as I left the room.