Our Global Entry Interview

TSA guy is singing 12 Days of Christmas, unaware that  passengers, most of whom have been up since 5am, want to pelt him with our 3oz bottles.
– Tweet from @hollyburns

About six months ago my husband and I applied for Global Entry approval so that we could always go through TSA Pre✓ lanes at the airport AND have expedited treatment through the immigration lines when returning to the US. Little did we know as we completed the application that the wait time for the interview (required for final approval) would be six months. But they had our non-refundable fee (required at application) so we had no good choice but to wait.

Every time I travel I resolve to memorize my passport number.

Every time I travel I resolve to memorize my passport number.

Our appointment date finally came the Monday before Thanksgiving, so we went to the interview in a quiet corner of Terminal E at Logan airport. It is not easy to reach the interview center by telephone; you usually leave a message and no one gets back to you.  But I did once reach a live person, soon after we completed the application. The agent I spoke with said that their appointment schedules are always fully booked but they occasionally have “no shows.” If we wanted to come in earlier in hopes of being there when an appointment failed to show up, we might be taken in on the spot. I considered doing that, but the prospect of sitting a few hours in hopes of success was not attractive enough to make me try it. But I saw that other people had not been dissuaded, as a few people in the waiting room with us were there without appointments.

The waiting room in Terminal E had good chairs and a few brochures about TSA and Global Entry. Otherwise there were no amenities to make it seem welcoming. No frivolous government spending here! Every few minutes a uniformed agent came out from the door (marked with something like “Do Not Enter”) to see who was present as scheduled. As our first appointment time approached they offered to interview us together even though our appointments were half an hour apart.

We were ushered into a warren of small offices furnished by the same utilitarian decorator who provided the waiting room. Our agent was friendly, organized, and complete in his explanations. He confirmed the information on our applications. (It turns out I really should have included my maiden name under “other last names” regardless of how long ago it was last used.) He took our pictures and recorded fingerprints electronically (all ten fingers, no ink). Done!

The agent told us we would receive a confirming email within 48 hours. At that point we would be able to benefit from our “Pass ID” numbers. We have known for six months what our respective numbers would be but they had not yet been valid. Then within ten days we would receive photo ID cards, valid for use wherever a government issued photo ID is required.

As research for this article I asked how their appointment times are running now. Is there still a six month wait? Until recently Logan’s office has been the only interview location available north of New York’s JFK Airport. This means all applicants in New England are funneled here unless they think creatively and apply for an appointment at another location (say, while on a trip to Chicago). But Homeland Security has recently set up an interview spot in the Tip O’Neill Federal building, and they are opening an office at the Providence airport. These alternatives should help a bit – but currently they are setting up appointments for July, 2017, so it is not getting better yet.

The wait time for getting TSA Pre✓ approval is much shorter and costs less ($85 instead of Global Entry’s $100). More interview locations are available; a colleague had her interview in Burlington MA. We opted for the Global Entry ID because it includes expedited immigration benefits in the US in addition to the TSA Pre✓ access. The pass is valid for five years, expiring on our birthdays. Once you have your Pass ID number, or “Known Traveler Number” for TSA Pre✓, you should pass it on to your travel agent and frequent flyer affiliations so that it will automatically be entered in your flight reservations.

So my husband and I are “good to go” now. Right now our next planned trip is in May. Maybe we should fly somewhere before then just to try out the new numbers!

What is your tolerance for lines? Photo by Telecast | Dreamstime.com

What is your tolerance for lines? Photo by Telecast | Dreamstime.com

Boundaries divide. Travel unites.

1 December 2016

About Travel Unites

A travel agent since 1994, I want people to get together for greater understanding across boundaries.
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