Although Global Entry has been around for about a decade, it’s only in the last five years that most people have signed up. That is beginning to cause problems for those who need to renew their status. Like TSA PreCheck, Global Entry only lasts for a five year term. My wife and I only recently found out what a problem this can be after our Global Entry status lapsed without warning.
This is also an issue for TSA PreCheck members who don’t have Global Entry. The TSA only began selling access to PreCheck in December 2013, so the first wave of applicants will find their status expiring in a matter of weeks. (Before this time, people either had access to PreCheck through programs like Global Entry or were granted free access through a variety of other criteria.)
What are Global Entry and PreCheck?
Global Entry is advertised as a way to expedite customs and boarder control for re-entry to the United States for U.S. citizens and a small number of other approved groups. It requires a background check, a complete travel history for the last five years, an interview, and a $100 application fee. It’s administered by the U.S. Customs and Boarder Patrol, which in my view has always been very professional even though the application process is about as transparent as the IRS tax code.
However, the main benefit of Global Entry for me has been the ability to also use TSA PreCheck lanes for domestic travel. The application process for PreCheck is easier and slightly cheaper at $85. But for something you only need to do every five years I think it’s well worth going through the extra hassle and paying $15 more for Global Entry. Most premium credit cards will reimburse the application fee.
No Notification for Renewals
Five years is a long time to enjoy your benefits and averages to just $20 per year. It’s also enough time that you may forget to go back and submit your renewal paperwork. My wife and I didn’t get any notification from CBP that our Global Entry status was about to expire. This might be because they switched to a new online system, but even after we began the renewal process we were warned several times that CBP would not alert us to changes in our application status. My guess is that they don’t take responsibility for any communication. It’s your responsibility to set a reminder and take care of it.
Our Global Entry status–and with it our TSA PreCheck access–lapsed without warning in September. We had no idea why our boarding passes stopped including access to the PreCheck lanes, since our Known Traveler Numbers were entered correctly. We even double-checked with the agents at check-in. It wasn’t until I tried logging into the CBP website that I realized the issue.
TSA claims that they do send email and text notifications to their members who are about to lose their PreCheck access, but remember the TSA is separate from CBP. If you enrolled in Global Entry, there’s no reason to think that TSA will take responsibility for managing your account. You can still renew your TSA PreCheck status online, just like Global Entry.
Renewals Get a Six-Month Grace Period
Fortunately you can get your Global Entry and PreCheck access extended for a six-month grace period if you submit your renewal application before the five-year period expires. This will give CBP time to process your application and complete the interview. You might even be able to skip the interview entirely.
My wife and I didn’t know about this, so no grace period applies. We have been without PreCheck access for months now as we wait for our applications to be processed and approved. We’re lucky that we don’t fly as much as we used to now that we’ve moved to Austin, but it is a problem nonetheless. It took over six weeks for our new applications to be conditionally approved. Throughout that time I had to log in every couple of days because (remember) CBP doesn’t send out emails about your application status.
Overview of the Application Process
Global Entry isn’t difficult to apply for if you’re an average traveler. If you’re like me–with six addresses, three jobs, and over a dozen countries visited in the past five years–it can be a real bear. You need to enter all this information into the online system and then submit your application for “conditional approval.” Once you that happens you will need to visit a CBP office in person for your interview. Most CBP offices are at airports near the ticketing areas before security. This means you can make a special trip to the airport or just stop by if you have a trip planned. You do not need to visit the CBP office in your city.
The first time we applied for Global Entry in Seattle, the earliest interview appointments were more than two months out. I don’t know if the pipeline has become less congested or if Austin is just a smaller city with fewer international travelers, but we were able to get our interview dates in just two weeks.
You may also be able to walk in for an interview. We used this to our advantage both when we first applied and when my wife updated her Global Entry membership with a name change. (That was its own special disaster.) It’s usually no problem at all and works great if you’re already killing time at the airport. The catch is that you must already have an appointment scheduled. It can be for a different location, date, and time, but no CBP officer will see you if you aren’t already on the books.