U.S. Customs and Border Protection is giving frequent international travelers more time to use their Global Entry membership before it expires. Global Entry is a program that allows preapproved travelers to use automatic kiosks at select airports to speed through customs when they arrive in the U.S. Previously, there was an automatic six-month extension if Global Entry members had reapplied but had not yet been approved by their expiration date. That grace period has now been extended to 18 months.
It’s still unclear how long some of the international travel bans due to the coronavirus pandemic will last, but the extension of Global Entry benefits may give people a little more peace of mind that they’ll be ready to travel as soon as borders open again.
Here’s what you should know about Global Entry right now.
The coronavirus outbreak prompted the extension
The process of being approved for Global Entry is sometimes notoriously slow. It requires completing an online application and scheduling an in-person interview at a Global Entry Enrollment Center. CBP says prior to the coronavirus pandemic, they were processing 80% of incoming Global Entry applications within 16 days. The remaining applications that required additional review generally took 90 days or more to complete.
The Department of Homeland Security closed all all Global Entry Enrollment Centers as of March 20, as a measure to limit the spread of coronavirus. With the processing centers closed CBP has extended the renewal grace period from six to 18 months for anyone who applies to renew before their current membership expires. Travelers arriving in the U.S. during this grace period do not need to show any special documents to utilize Global Entry. Currently, Global Entry Enrollment Centers are scheduled to remain closed until at least June 1, 2020.
New Yorkers still can’t apply for renewal
There are no loopholes in this grace period for New York residents. As of February 2020, DHS stopped allowing New Yorkers to apply for or renew their Global Entry membership, in response to a state law that restricts the federal agency’s access to certain state records.
Eligible travelers can apply or reapply right now
Global Entry is good for five years, and travelers can renew online starting in the last year before their membership expires. Some people may have to do another interview.
If new applicants are outside the U.S. and planning on flying back, CBP’s Enrollment on Arrival program is also still operating right now. Conditionally approved Global Entry applicants can do their in-person interview when arriving on an international flight at any of the 60 airports participating in this program. Otherwise, new applicants now have more than a year (485 days) from the date of their application to complete the enrollment process, including the interview.
The bottom line
The entire travel industry is making changes to give travelers more flexibility. Airlines and hotels have extended deadlines to change flights, use hotel nights and earn elite status. Now CBP is doing the same with their Trusted Traveler Programs. Frequent international travelers with Global Entry who have downtime staying at home might want to begin the renewal process.
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Meghan Coyle is a writer at NerdWallet. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. This article originally appeared on NerdWallet.