My Experience Getting Global Entry (in Under One Week!)

I was recently added as an authorized user on an American Express Platinum card. One of the benefits that comes with the card (both the non-branded version and my Mercedes-Benz branded flavor) is a reimbursement for the $100 application fee for Global Entry for all card users. The fee is also reimbursed by United for Premier Platinum and 1K elite members.

Global Entry is great for international travelers since it allows users to bypass long immigration lines for automated kiosks by submitting to a background check. It’s great for frequent domestic travelers as well because it gives access to TSA Pre-Check, which is basically how security was back in the 90s — quick, easy, and shoes-on. Part of the reason I play the miles, points, and elite status game is because I dislike waiting in line and don’t want to have to pay big money to avoid it. The $100 fee is worth it for a lot of people, since it comes out to $20/year to skip a bunch of lines, but it’s definitely worth the $0 outlay if you have it reimbursed by American Express or United.

I received my American Express Platinum card on a Monday and applied for Global Entry that night. I was hoping to be approved before or during my weekend trip to New York later that week, so I kept my passport in my bag just in case. I got the conditional approval email on Friday evening while in New York, less than 100 hours after applying.

Once I was conditionally approved, I was given access to the calendar to schedule an appointment at an enrollment center. I checked Newark, Chicago, Houston, and Los Angeles, since I was flying to or through each airport — the system automatically jumps to the first date available for each center, and the best I could do was a few weeks later in LA. Every other center only had availability in 2013.

I decided to get a date close to Christmas in Los Angeles. I later same-day confirmed to a flight out of Newark at 1:50pm on Monday, so I got to the airport at 11:15am to see if I could walk-in for an appointment. The EWR enrollment center is in Terminal B, all the way to the left of the building, in the walkway leading from international arrivals (a great place to advertise to travelers who may have just waited a long time in line).

The first CBP officer told me they were packed with appointments and that I might not get a walk-in, but told me to wait just in case. After about 15 minutes of standing outside by myself, another CBP officer told me that I wouldn’t be seen without an appointment. I told him that the first officer said it would be possible if appointments didn’t show up and I pointed to the empty waiting room and group of chatting CBP officers. It took another 5 minutes, but I was finally let in. I thought this program was here to save travelers time …

The letter that’s sent to conditionally approved applicants states that one must bring to the interview:

  1. Letter stating approval
  2. Passport
  3. Other form of ID with current address, such as a driver’s license
  4. Other forms of ID for citizens of other countries

I only had the letter in electronic form on my phone, but was never asked for it. I was “interviewed” at a desk alongside another traveler, with questions such as:

  1. Why did you apply for Global Entry?
  2. Why do you travel – business or vacation?
  3. What do you do for work?
  4. Have you been to Canada or Mexico in the past 5 years?
  5. What is your income level/how can you afford to travel so much? I stated that I play the miles and points game and have a lot of miles to travel, and that my ticket that day was on miles.

I was shown a video on how to use the machine but didn’t get to use one directly as practice. My fingerprints were taken and a CBP sticker was placed on my passport’s back cover. Within 10 minutes, I was finished! Less than a week since getting my American Express Platinum Card and approved for Global Entry! My official letter arrived in the system via email with my Trusted Traveler ID, which I’ve already added to my loyalty program profiles for the major airlines. I already had Pre-Check when flying Delta (about half the time as a Gold Medallion), so hopefully this means I’ll get it more often on United and American as well.

If you apply for Global Entry, I would suggest just getting an appointment sometime in the future for your most frequented airport (the program dictates you must have an appointment booked for any time within 30 days of your approval). Once you have an appointment, look for spots to open up. If spots don’t, see which airports you have layovers in and ask to be seen as a walk-in. The whole process only involved me being at EWR about 45 minutes earlier than I would have intended for a normal day.

Winners of the “Hack My Holiday” Giveaway
Flying Alaska Airlines in and out of Sonoma Wine Country
  • Jack Tripper

    If you use Global Entry, do you still have to get a stamp in the passport by the immigration agent?

    • Hackly

      no stamp required at the port of entry

  • Bboopz

    I applied for Global Access in November and the earliest appointment I could get in Los Angeles was in April. I called the local number several times, and left several messages. To date, have not received a call back. Wonder why they list a telephone number if they do not respond. I guess its for people cancelling their appointments…. hope other government agencies are more responsive to citizen requests.

    • AKold

      The system is mostly online, and I’m sure you’ll be able to find an earlier appointment if you log in right now and check. I applied last week and got an appointment for the end of December. Things open up. And like I showed, you can walk-in for an interview and get it done much earlier.

      • Bboopz

        May try walk in tactic. Too late for my next trip which is next week. Thanks for the tip

  • Kris Ziel

    I’ll be at DEN three times in the next few weeks, so hopefully my miles from last trip credit soon so I can get Premier Platinum and Global Entry certificate and go as a walk in.

  • Scottrick

    I thought about scheduling it with a layover, but actually the availability at SEA was pretty good, so I just booked it for a lunch appointment before I fly home for Christmas. I had heard of the option to set up an appointment at BFI (Boeing Field), which supposedly has even better availability, but for whatever reason was unable to do this online.

    • AKold

      There’s also the option for land borders if you live near Canada/Mexico. I know a few people in San Diego who just went with that option.

  • Tim Archer

    I’ve had Global Entry for about a year now… and LOVE it! Definitely worth the hassle.

    I’ve even considered paying to get it for my wife; I hate having to stand in line when she’s with me.

    • AKold

      Keep in mind that if you got Global Entry via Amex, you get the $100 reimbursement for EVERY additional cardholder on the AMEX Platinum. It’s $175 for 3 additional cards, so it may be worth considering.

  • Gardy

    you got a CBP sticker on your passport? Hmm – do other people have that too? I went through the process, interviewed and got approved and everything, but they didn’t put anything on my passport.

    And Tim, my wife just singed up for it for that reason. She doesn’t travel much, but I just got it and my next international trip will be with her on vacation, and I told her I’m not standing in line with her!

    • AKold

      I did, though if you have GE, you can just stop in to the closest office for the sticker. I think it’s just a visual marker of who has GE.

    • Josh Pickles

      The little white sticker “CBP” is so if the machine does’t work you can just go to the front of the line and hold up the passport, when they see the sticker they let you go to the head of the line.

  • Worldrafter

    Tried to walk in with my spouse. My appointment was next month. She had a 1000 appointment but arrived at 930 and they took her in early. She was out before 1000 but they would not take me saying they were busy. I pointed out there was now an open 1000 appointment. My wife saw them sitting around. They also told me they haven’t done walkin iin months. Guess they weren’t being truthful.

    • AKold

      Was this at EWR? Sounds like them.

  • Quailallstar

    This is great. I’m going to apply for this but unfortunately I don’t have a Platinum Amex. I do however have the Delta American Express card and racking those miles up.

    Question: Does Uncle Sam give you a physical Global Entry “ID Card” in addition to the sticker on the passport?

    • Scottrick

      Yes, they’ll mail it to you. Mine has a horribly ugly picture (bad angle and washed out, so my chin disappeared).

    • AKold

      Yeap. I use my Global Entry card as my ID for TSA security (since it doesn’t have my address, and I don’t mind if I were to accidentally leave it somewhere)

  • wins

    I have a question, since you already have Pre-Check, and you should have a TKN already on top of the global entry, which number do you use when you book a ticket and which one would you recommend?