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I remember the first time I heard about Global Entry with its promise of quick and easy re-entry to the U.S. from international trips without having to wait in the ridiculous lines that so often pile up at immigration. Not only that, it came with TSA PreCheck which allowed skipping some of the inconveniences involved with domestic travel – all for $100 and valid for five years. Sign me up!
Recently, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) started piloting a new option whereby you can renew your Global Entry subscription via a remote interview vice in-person. I tried it out and was surprised with the result!
Global Entry Enrollment
Global Entry began in 2008, and with it being a government-controlled program, there are bound to be some bureaucratic processes involved (speaking as a former bureaucrat). To be approved for the program, you must fill out an application, pay a fee, and wait until you are “conditionally approved”. Once that happens, you are able to schedule an in-person interview at one of their Enrollment Centers (usually at international airports), where a CBP agent will take your fingerprints and ask you some questions. If approved, you will receive a card and “pass ID” in the mail a few days later which can be used on all future travel.
I first signed up for Global Entry in 2015, using a credit from my old Barclays AAviator Silver credit card. I was posted in Cairo, Egypt at the time and I remember having to schedule the interview at Dulles Airport several months in advance in coordination with a trip to the U.S. I was taking to do some training. I recall wringing my hands a bit over timing – I wanted to schedule it close to my arrival so that I didn’t have to wait around too long, but also give myself enough of a buffer in case my flight or baggage was delayed. It worked out fine because, come to find out, the interviews don’t usually take the full allotted time (15 minutes) and if they have an opening they will take people on a walk-in basis. Once all was said and done, I had no issues using my Pass ID for expedited entry to the U.S. for the next five years.
My five-year approval for Global Entry was set to expire earlier this year and I was dreading having to go through the process of finding and scheduling an interview, knowing that it amounts to a few yes-or-no questions and a lot of time wasted. Especially during a pandemic, I was not confident that appointments would be plentiful or that I would be traveling enough to coordinate an interview at an arrival or departure airport. What’s more, the closest center to me in Maine is a 5+ hour round-trip drive. Luckily, CBP has extended benefits for all Global Entry passholders for 18-24 months beyond expiration due to the pandemic, so long as you re-apply for the program before the original expiration date.
As I was poking around my profile on the Trusted Traveler site, I noticed there was an option for a “remote interview“, which piqued my interest. I clicked the link and searched for dates but was not able to find any availability for as far out as the calendar would go. I assumed that the option was so popular that there was little chance of ever seeing much availability, so I closed out and forgot about it for a couple of months. Then, recently, I scheduled a trip to Texas and figured I should try and schedule an interview at my arriving airport and get this thing over with. Just for grins I checked the schedule for remote interviews and, to my surprise, the calendar was flush with availability. I was able to schedule an appointment for the next morning at 9AM. Great!
The Remote Interview Process
To be eligible for a remote interview, you must:
- Be conditionally approved for a renewal (new enrollments are not eligible);
- Be at least 18 years of age;
- Have a photo on file with CBP that was taken (1) within the past 10 years, and (2) after the applicant was 14 years of age; and
- Have previously submitted fingerprints to CBP.
Once you sign up for a remote interview date on the calendar, you are sent a Zoom meeting link via email to click on at the time of your appointment.
Here’s how the process went for me:
- Hold up passport to camera
- Verify name, date of birth, and address
- Verify employment and travel as listed on application
- Explain any issues I’ve had at the border (agriculture violations, etc.)
- Explain any arrests or legal issues
Which Cards Offer a Global Entry Credit
There are many credit cards which offer a $100 credit for Global Entry, meaning there is no reason to shell out any cash. Here are five of the best ones that include this benefit:
Being enrolled in Global Entry and TSAPreCheck has saved me countless hours at the airport over the past five years. Though the initial enrollment process is a bit arduous and clunky, the rollout of remote interviews for renewals is one of the best things to happen to the program.
If your Global Entry is up for renewal soon, I highly recommend you do a remote interview and, of course, pay the application fee using a credit card that offers a reimbursement credit.
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