The Real Reason Why Global Entry Waits Are Still So Long

by SharonKurheg

Global Entry is something of an #IYKYK (if you know, you know) thing. If you have it and are returning to the US from an overseas flight, you know how it helps you whisk your way out of Customs in near-record time. Global entry members also get a number of privileges that make it even more valuable:

a man using a machineEven before the pandemic, approval for Global Entry was beginning to take longer than had been typical in previous years. And then, after Covid had waned, people were in the midst of revenge travel. CBP became even more delayed because, along with a record number of new applications, they were still trying to mull through the backlog of renewal requests and new applications during the pandemic.

Funny thing was, and still is, you may have to wait months and months for approval…or you can get approval in just days. There hasn’t been any rhyme or reason for if you’re going to be lucky or not.

This is the second or third year since people began traveling again, and Global Entry can still be frustratingly slow. CBP is well aware of this and even changed the benefits rule a few years ago: if you’re just waiting for your renewal, CBP is allowing you to keep your benefits up to 24 months after your membership expiration date (providing you submit a renewal application before your membership expires). But a wait is still a wait.

Mercedes’ story

Mercedes B. knows that wait all too well. She travels a lot and has been waiting forever for her Global Entry to get conditionally approved. She understood the process and knew it could take a while, but after applying in November, 2023, she was starting to get frustrated. So she wrote her Congressperson and (I’m paraphrasing) asked why some people are conditionally approved in 3 days and others in 3 years (she was exaggerating, but that’s certainly how it feels).

To their credit, her Congressperson’s office wrote back to her in 48 hours:

a screenshot of a phone
May 17, 20204


Dear Ms B,

Approximately 77% go through their computer system and get approved and the rest get batched into the manual system. They are currently receiving over 15,000 applications a day amd experiencing high volume. I will continue to follow up on your case every 30 days.

Kimberly S.
[Redacted contact info]

If replying please do no alter the email subject line to ensure a timely delivery.

Well, that answers that question. If 23% of the applications are reviewed manually and they’re getting over 15,000 new applications per day, that’s almost 4,000 applications per day that are going through the “manual” route. If they don’t have enough employees to process that many per day, yeah, that would cause a backlog.

They had a similar delay for passports for the same reasons (Covid, then a backlog), but the State Dep’t eventually got that backlog under control and waits are back to pre-pandemic levels. Hopefully, CBP will eventually catch up.

*** Many thanks to Mercedes B. for allowing us to share her story!

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