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The pandemic has brought chaos to a whole variety of things in the travel world and the Global Entry program has not escaped unscathed. Fortunately, over the past 18 months, the US CBP has been reasonably swift to take action to try to alleviate the issues caused by the seemingly ever-increasing backlog of applications, and now, with the backlog not really getting noticeably smaller, it has extended the Global Entry grace period to two full years.
What Is Global Entry?
Global Entry is the US CBP program that’s open to US citizens, legal residents of the US, and citizens of select nations around the world. The program gives members expedited entry into the United States via kiosks stationed at major points of entry (and at some preclearance centers) and removes the need for passengers to stand in seemingly endless immigration lines as they wait to enter the country.
Travelers who qualify for the Global Entry program are automatically enrolled in the TSA PreCheck program which offers expedited screening at domestic US TSA checkpoints. Passengers using the TSA PreCheck lanes don’t need to remove laptops or toiletries from their bags as they pass through airport security, nor do they need to remove shoes, belts, or lightweight jackets as they pass through the body scanners.
The program currently costs $100 for a five-year membership (a fee which is rebated by a number of credit cards) and having had membership of the Global Entry program for almost a decade, I can confirm that it’s worth every penny.
The Grace Period Keeps Increasing
Ordinarily, the Global Entry membership renewal process can be started a year before a membership is due to run out and anyone submitting a renewal request before their membership expires gets to keep using the benefits of Global Entry membership up to 6 months after the membership has lapsed.
Even before the pandemic took hold and brought life around the world to a standstill, a serious backlog of Global Entry applications and renewals was starting to build up. A record number of new applicants combined with a partial government shutdown meant that US CBP was struggling to find the resources to deal with all the paperwork and this led to the grace period being extended to 12 months.
The pandemic then made things even worse and the grace period was (eventually) extended to 18 months. Now, if you log in to the Trusted Traveler Programs website, you’re very likely to see a message that looks like this:
For travelers who have yet to renew their Global Entry membership, the two-year grace period should start from the day that their membership is due to expire as long as they apply to renew their membership before it lapses.
For travelers who have already started the renewal process and have been given a conditional approval notice (i.e. they’re now just waiting for an interview to complete the renewal process), the two-year grace period starts from the day their conditional approval was given.
Considering how limited interview availability can be (the LAX CBP center, for example, is currently only offering interviews on a handful of days between now and the middle of next year), this should be very good news for anyone currently stuck in the backlog.
If you’re one of the fortunate people who get their Global Entry membership renewed without the need for an interview this super-long grace period won’t be needed. For everyone else, it could make a big difference as it effectively guarantees that they will not lose the benefits that come with Global Entry just because the CBP is overwhelmed.
The backlog of Global Entry renewals and applications doesn’t appear to be getting noticeably smaller so the US CBP has decided to increase the Global Entry benefits grace period to two years for people who apply to renew their Global Entry membership before it expires.
Featured image courtesy of US CBP