I highlighted the 18-month potential delays for new Global Entry applications, and ways to beat it last week. But since using the Appointment Scanner service, there’s nothing I’d more emphatically recommend.
Delays, Staffing Shortages, COVID – Oh My!
Like seemingly every other aspect of the world right now, shortages – be them supplies, or people – are causing delays though in this case, it’s at the Department of Homeland Security’s Trusted Traveler Programs. Global Entry allows pre-screened passengers to bypass the lines at Customs and Border Protection (CBP) by submitting to an in-person interview with CBP staff.
However, the two-part process first requires application processing including an extensive background check followed by conditional approval for the aforementioned interview. While some readers remarked last week that their path to Global Entry approval was faster than the potential 18-month processing period the agency had warned, many have expressed they endured extensive wait times during the process.
Additionally, as I mentioned last week, I was due for renewal during the pandemic and missed my window for Global Entry renewal, meaning that I had to go through the process from scratch. As a result, not only was my Global Entry membership revoked, but so too were my TSA Precheck benefits.
Appointment Scanner Saves The Day
Global Entry interviews are hard to come by. Small to medium markets have even fewer agents, fewer appointments, and may have a limited opportunity to participate in enrollment on arrival. I mentioned Appointment Scanner, a service that helps travelers that have applied for Global Entry and received conditional approval search for options as they become available. Many cancel or reschedule their appointments but checking the site constantly is an exhausting process.
I selected three airports that were easy for me to reach, one of which offers online appointments conducted via video conferencing. Within an hour of signing up, I had a few options texted (and emailed) to me that had become available. Some were not great options (too far, too soon, or when I already had other commitments) but I stuck with it.
One came in for Pittsburgh, my home airport, just a few weeks out. I attempted to snag it but was too slow (some are gone almost instantly.) I got another couple of opportunities and finally snagged one a few weeks out. Then, several others (as soon as one day before, and a virtual appointment) came open and I was able to improve my position considerably.
I found that my ability to capture an opening was best later in the evening when most might have been busy or asleep. At a certain point, so many appointment opportunities among my listed airports were coming in that I continued to monitor them for slightly better opportunities, but mostly dismissed them, happy that I had captured one that worked for me.
Worth Its Weight In Gold
I was a little skeptical of Appointment Scanner’s service initially for both its performance (would it send me alerts quick enough) and the government’s willingness to release space. The service, which does not renew monthly, charges $29 and allows up to 100 alerts sent and up to three airports.
Initially, while I was conditionally approved, there were no opportunities to secure an appointment at a reasonably close airport even including the entire state of Florida and all online appointments. I had grown concerned after I applied for renewal but failed to move to the interview stage due to both waiting and difficulty securing an appointment (despite a lengthy extension and grace period.)
Admittedly, I first tried to just do it myself, checking and rechecking, then refreshing the browser for new opportunities but found it to be futile. While I wouldn’t want Appointment Scanner to increase its price, it was certainly worth more than $29 to me because of the time it gave me back and the ability to move my appointment when something better came along.
While I would not let my renewal application lapse again, this was a great experience and I would repeat it. Further, for those who might be securing an appointment for multiple applicants, the fee doubles, triples, or even quadruples its value as group appointments through CBP can be arranged for traveling families but only one appointment is needed.
Pro tip: don’t sleep on renewing your Global Entry membership as I did. But if you did, or it’s your first time applying, Appointment Scanner is an easy cheat code you can apply during historic record applications to the service. I have little confidence I would be able to secure an interview and ultimately a trusted traveler number without it.
What do you think? Have you used Appointment Scanner? How was your experience?