In October, I decided to apply for Global Entry, the government program that speeds up the process of clearing customs for trusted travelers returning to the United States.
Why not? The membership includes TSA PreCheck, which by itself costs $85 for five years. For just $15 more you can get Global Entry, which seems totally worth it if you’ve ever waited in an epic line at customs at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport in the home stretch of an international trip.
I filled out an application through the U.S. Customs and Border Protection site, paid the nonrefundable $100, then got the bad news: Appointments for the in-person interview at MSP were backed up more than 2 ½ months. Even if you apply now, you’d have to wait until at least Feb. 7 for that required interview at MSP.
I checked the wait times at other airports such as Chicago O’Hare and Detroit. They could all get you in this week.
“As the demand for the program became more apparent, so did the interview slots to accompany those who have been conditionally approved,” wrote U.S. Customs press officer Kris Grogan in an e-mail.
Customs did recently throw MSP a bone by extending the “Enrollment on Arrival” option here. That means Global Entry applicants can have their interview whenever they’re clearing customs on the way home — no appointment necessary. More info is at cbp.gov/travel/trusted-traveler-programs/global-entry.
If you simply want the $85 TSA PreCheck without Global Entry, the TSA enrollment centers are open at the airport, in Bloomington, in Brooklyn Park and there’s even a downtown Minneapolis pop-up event Dec. 11-15 on the 19th floor of 901 Marquette Av. S.
You could also waive the fee for Global Entry or PreCheck with a big-spender credit card such as the American Express Platinum Card or Chase Sapphire Reserve. But those cardholders also enjoy annual fees of $450 to $550.
Conclusions: Don’t sign up for Global Entry right now if you mainly want it in order to have TSA PreCheck soon. If you’re already planning a world trip, though, you’re set. And if you’re like me and already plunked down $100 without a foreign trip planned, you’ll just have to wait.
Simon Peter Groebner is an assistant features editor and editor of the Midwest Traveler page. Instagram: @simonpeter6