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Applicant increase, ‘border crisis’ behind Global Entry slowdown

Question: My husband and I applied to renew our Global Entry card after being notified in May they would expire in July. We submitted the renewal forms and payments of $100 each on credit cards; each of the payments cleared. Customs and Border Protection is impossible to reach by telephone or email. — Suzan Appel

Answer: Let’s skip to the good news: Appel got her Global Entry card, which gives you PreCheck, the expedited passage through airport security, and, separately, expedited clearance through U.S. Customs.

Don’t thank me; I played no role in this happy outcome. But don’t thank Customs and Border Protection either, at least not until you read to the end of this column.

As I tried to make sense of this spaghetti, I’ve learned a few things about why you may not have received your card. And I’ve also learned that poking a sleeping bear gets you exactly what you think it will.

Where the ho-hum is my card?

Probably stuck with about 300,000 others that CBP says are pending.

To get a Global Entry card, which confers on you Trusted Traveler status for five years if your application is approved, you fill out a form at bit.ly/globalentry app, pay $100 (which you don’t get back if you’re not approved), are interviewed and get your card, assuming you pass the background check.

Global Entry has been around about five years, which means it’s time for that first crush of GE card holders to renew.

In ordinary circumstances, the wait time for approval is four to six weeks, CBP told me. I submitted my renewal in early or mid-December and had my card at the beginning of the year. That’s noteworthy because the partial government shutdown began on Dec. 22. It lasted 35 days. Let the backlog begin.

Strike 1: Apparently, the program is quite popular and has had what CBP called in an email a “historic increase of new applications and renewals.”

Strike 2: Then, some CBP personnel were reassigned to deal with what CBP called the “ongoing humanitarian and security crisis on our southern border.”

Because of this, getting an appointment can take a month or two, CBP said.

Strike 3: But as baseball fans know, when the ball is dropped, you run to first anyway. You’re not completely out, and you won’t know if you don’t try.

What you can do

No easy fixes for this, but here are some things that might work:

If you need an appointment, check often to see whether a time has opened because of a cancellation.

If your application says pending, go to ttp.cbp.dhs.gov, where you can check the status.

The good news is that if you have applied for a renewal, CBP is granting a grace period “from six months to one year beyond the expiration date.”

And don’t bother us again!

A frustrated Appel turned to the office of Rep. Katie Porter, D-Calif., to see whether her staff could help clear the logjam blocking Appel’s Global Entry application.

In response to an inquiry from Porter’s office, CBP replied, “Because applicants can check on the status of their applications at any time and because of the high volume of Trusted Traveler inquiries currently pending with CBP, we kindly request that your office refrain from requesting additional updates from OCA (Office of Congressional Affairs) so that we may focus our time and resources to addressing new and unanswered inquiries.”

Here is Porter’s response to CBP’s response. “I take every part of my job as a congress member seriously — that includes helping 45th District residents get answers from federal agencies,” Porter said in an email after we requested her reaction.

“CBP’s suggestion that I refrain from doing that part of my job is deeply problematic, and it will not deter me from cutting through agency red tape on behalf of my constituents.”

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