Chances are you’ve seen and heard about the wonders of the Global Entry program, especially if you live in a major international hub such as Miami, New York or Los Angeles. In short, Global Entry means that entering the U.S. from abroad is no longer a purgatory of lines and custom officer waits, just use the Automated Passport Control Kiosk, and basically you’re on your way. With an application process that involves a thorough background check, an in-person interview process and $100 application fee, it’s one of the best investments of time and money you could ever make for your #TravelFly life.
So you pay the fee, fill out the application, schedule the interview…and get denied?
Welcome to reality of the 3-5% of the 30,000 persons that apply for Global Entry every month. There are six main “reasons” for ineligibility for the Global Entry program, however the most common reason people get denied in the U.S. is for past convictions of a crime, both major and minor—but mostly minor. Out of that group of individuals, depending on the circumstances there is hope in appealing the U.S. Customs and Border Protection for reconsideration. There is no guarantee of acceptance and there is no way to predict the timing it may take for the process to happen, but if you’ve already invested the fee, do the work and take the chance and you may be speeding through customs sooner than you think. How do I know? It happened to me.
In October of 2014, I sat in the Global Entry interview office inside of JFK airport in New York and held back some serious tears as my assigned officer told me that he could not issue me my Global Entry membership due to a misdemeanor conviction* from 2006 which, because it took place within 10 years of my application, caused me to be denied. I was angry, I was sad, but most of all, I was resilient. After explaining my situation to my officer he suggested that I appeal and explain the situation to the CBP Ombudsman. By May of 2015, I was approved and flying through customs, and here is how I did it:
1. Write The Letter
You may receive a letter in the mail explaining why you have been denied or they will tell you in person at your interview. Even if you feel as if the decision is unjust, the first thing you need to do is to write and mail a letter of appeal to the Customs and Border Patrol Ombudsman:
US Customs and Border Protection
Attn: CBP Ombudsman
P.O. Box 946
Williston, VT 05495
In my letter I included all of my reference information (GOES number, date of birth, address, etc), explained the situation that led to my conviction, and detailed the reasons why Global Entry membership benefits me professionally (in addition to running Parlour, I travel extensively for work), and basically stated my case while recognizing my conviction and the fact that it was the only one I’ve ever had. If you’re in a situation where you feel as if the decision was based on inaccurate information, this is where you also detail the circumstances and include all supporting paperwork that proves your point—documents, receipts, etc. This particularly includes individuals who think they have an expunged record and don’t. Basically, if you’re infraction is small-time, there is a chance they will reconsider. But they also have every right not to.
2. And Then Send An Email
Shortly after sending my letter, I sent an email to the Ombudsman (CBP.firstname.lastname@example.org) to follow up on the state of my appeal, with the same letter attached. If you send an email, you will get an auto-response that includes the following line to keep in mind: “If you have not received a reply to a request for reconsideration within six months, you may submit a subsequent inquiry.” Basically, expect to wait at least 6 months for a reply.
3. Wait, Try Not To Break Any Laws
Pretty self explanatory.
4. Follow Up Again
If you haven’t heard anything within six months, follow up again.
In early May, I received an email that my account status had changed yet again, and I had the ability to schedule another interview with my local Customs and Border Patrol Office. I was sure to bring all of my appeal documents with me to the interview, and after an in person review I was approved. A few weeks later while connecting through RDU, I was flagged as it turned out that my conviction was still within my profile, after another visit to the CBP office—I was fully cleared and jetting off.
In all the entire process from application to denial to readjustment/approval took 6 months. After speaking with other travelers who were in the same predicament, that period seems to be pretty standard, so if you’re on month two just be patient. No matter what, even if you don’t get approved definitely inquire if you have TSA PreCheck eligibility for domestic travel. Be sure to get all the information you can, stay on top of it and have a bit of faith. Hopefully you will be speeding through customs in no time!
*Pretty automobile thuggin’ in California. I promise you I’m not a murderer, thief or charlatan and no one was harmed, except my for my bank account!
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