Why I Went to Niagara Falls for Global Entry
Most people are drawn to Niagara Falls for—well for the falls. But, I had an entirely different, and slightly odd, reason for taking a trip to this landmark. After realizing the Newark, JFK, and Bowling Green Global Entry Offices were all completely booked for the foreseeable future, Niagara Falls was calling me.
With all the traveling I’ve been doing recently I looked into applying for TSA Precheck and found out that for an extra $15 I could get Global Entry instead. Global Entry offers all the same perks as TSA Precheck, with the addition of skipping the customs line and filling out the blue custom declaration cards, and instead using a Global Entry kiosk where you scan your passport or U.S. permanent resident card, verify your fingerprints, and quickly complete your customs declaration on the machine. To receive Global Entry you need to apply online and undergo a background check.
After submitting my GOES application, and getting “conditionally approved,” it was time to schedule my in-person interview. The only problem was when I tried to set a date back in July, the Newark and Bowling Green offices were both so backed up that the GOES website wasn’t even giving me dates to choose from, just a message apologizing for being overbooked. JFK, on the other hand, wasn’t as bad, with its next available openings just over 2 months away in late October. While waiting 2 months isn’t as long as some other offices at the moment, part of the reason I’d applied for Global Entry was so I could use it for my upcoming trip to Iceland in early October.
According to the Boston Globe, Global Entry applications are up more than 70 percent this year from the 850,000 applications last year, which means there are a lot of people out there waiting for their in-person interview. So what should you do if you’ve applied for Global Entry, paid the $100 fee (valid for 5 years), and received conditional approval only to find that the wait for an interview at a location near you is preposterous?
Go on a trip
While some Global Entry interview locations are so backed up it seems like you won’t be able to schedule an interview in your lifetime, there are other spots with much shorter wait times. I chose Niagara Falls because it was within driving distance and was somewhere I’d never been before. Have a long layover? Traveling for business? Need to visit relatives? These are all perfectly reasonable excuses for booking your interview at a location far from home. Check out the schedule and see which offices have shorter wait times.
Walk-in or keep checking online
A lot of people cancel their appointments last minute, so you may get lucky and walk-in at a time when there’s an open slot. If taking a risk and walking in doesn’t sit well with you, keep checking the online schedule, something may open up and you’ll be able to grab it right away.
Another perk to visiting a less crowded office is a shorter wait time once you’re there. Some people are reporting an hour or longer wait, mine was about 15 minutes, and the interview itself lasted about 5, just enough time for them to take my fingerprints, photo, and ask if I’ve ever committed any crimes. After watching a short video and listening to an explanation of the program I was off to ride the Maid of the Mist, and to walk across the bridge to Canada, where ironically I stood in a customs line for over 45 minutes. I had successfully turned what could have felt like a chore into a productive and enjoyable trip.