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Getting through my Global Entry Interview at George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) was a breeze for me and hopefully it will be for you, too. Here’s a breakdown of what you can expect at your appointment and some insight that might help you get seen a little quicker.
Scheduling a Global Entry appointment at IAH
The availability for IAH interview slots changes what seems like daily. If the earliest appointment time for you is weeks out then I definitely recommend checking a couple of times a day to see if any earlier openings show up.
After I received my conditional approval and I tried to schedule my appointment, there were no openings showing up for at least a month out! Later that evening, however, I was able to find a morning interview for 9 days later (and that’s including Christmas). So it is definitely possible to find an interview within a week or two from the time that you’re conditionally approved.
July 9, 2017 update: You can take care of your interview while returning to the US at select airport locations, including IAH and HOU. When you are getting ready to make your way through immigration, you should see a sign for Global Entry for people who are already conditionally approved. The sign should look like the image below.
Where do you go for your Global Entry Interview at IAH?
Park in the arrivals concourse for Terminal E, walk to the elevators and go down to ground level as you enter into the terminal. Walk over to the Starbucks area and you will see a sign pointing you towards a doorway where another sign tells you where to find the Global Entry office. (If you’re facing the Starbucks, the door is going to be on your left.)
The door to the room where the interviews take place won’t open until 8am but you can go through the glass door and wait in the hallway before it opens. Know that they schedule multiple people for the same slots, so If you have an 8am appointment (or any time near that time), you can go ahead and get in line to ensure that you’re the first one seen.
Tip: make sure you that you have all the needed documents before your interview.
Do they take walk-ins for Global Entry?
No. We called ahead to ask if they take walk-ins and were told no. We also checked with the alternate Houston venue for an interview, the Houston Public Library, and they informed us that they do not take any walk-ins. Those are their official policies, but see my experience below on walk-ins.
Can you arrive earlier than your appointment time?
Brad and I both had appointments. His was at 8:30 and mine was at 9:30. We arrived around 8am to see if we could get seen early. We were partly successful, as Brad was able to be seen about 15 minutes prior to his scheduled interview time and I had to wait all the way until 9:30.
It’s pretty unorganized how they run things to be honest. First, as soon as you walk in they take down your name and notate your appointment time. Presumably, they also take note of your arrival time so that you’d be seen before someone else who comes in later. However, that’s not how it worked.
After we checked-in they began calling out names and I was really surprised at the number of no-shows. For every person who showed up there was at least one or two people who didn’t. Because of the number of no-shows, Brad was able to get seen about 15 minutes early, which was really nice.
However, after they called his name, a number of people came into the room and checked in. Some of these people had appointments before me so even though I was there before them, I didn’t expect to be seen before any of them. Yet, as I waited for my name to be called, I noticed that several people were being seen before me despite the fact that they had appointments after me and had arrived after me! I realized this because when they “checked-out” the officers would announce their appointment time.
By the time I realized this, several handfuls of others had come in and all of them had appointments before my time so I wouldn’t have felt justified in demanding to be seen before them. Thus, while Brad got seen early, I had to wait till 9:30 to be seen.
It was a pretty annoying experience when others were getting called before me even though they arrived later and had later appointment times, but at least when my appointment time came I was seen first and seen on time. So I can’t really complain, too much.
So as mentioned their official policy is that they don’t allow walk-ins. However, they let a couple in when I was there. In fact, one lady stated that she was on a “waiting list” and was seen before me. I don’t know how she got on this alleged waiting list or if that was just her way of saying she’s a walk-in but it worked for her. There were also a number of others arriving without appointments with random requests like name changes and renewals and these people were usually seen within minutes.
If you try to show up as a walk-in the greeting officer will likely tell you that there’s no guarantee they can get to you but they seemed to get to at least some of the folks coming in without appointments. (This could be different at a later time in the day when they are really swamped.)
So the answer to whether or not you can arrive early and be seen early is probably a “it depends.”
What is the Global Entry interview like at IAH?
The “interview” is hardly anything of an interview.
First, the day I went, there were only three officers (there are 4 total desks in the room). One officer seemed to be the facilitator of the appointments and didn’t really do interviews but the other two officers stayed busy knocking out the interviews, which usually lasted no longer than 5 minutes.
The layout in the room is all open and unless you intend on whispering your answers to the officer, everybody in the room can probably hear your responses, as there’s really no privacy. About 12 chairs line the wall of the room and once things picked up, several people had to wait outside so don’t be surprised if you have to wait out in the hallway, especially if you don’t come early in the morning.
After being asked to give them a copy of my conditional approval letter (don’t forget that), I was only asked a couple of questions like, “What’s your occupation?” “Do you travel for business or pleasure?” “Do you travel with a family?” Very basic stuff. Both officers conducting the interviews were very friendly and it was a completely painless experience.
Unfortunately, I’d forgotten to mention that I spent time in Australia within the last five years on my Global Entry App when I filled it out online. So I told him that I’d forgotten that and he just added it to my file with no issue.
After asking me a couple of questions and notating my file, the officer then went over some of the procedural information for Global Entry and TSA Pre-Check and after only about 3 to 4 minutes the “interview” was over. Unlike many accounts elsewhere, we didn’t have to watch any introduction video or anything like that.
Once the interview was over, I was fingerprinted with the electronic machine and he took a photo and the whole thing was over just like that.
Do you get approved instantly for Global Entry and TSA Pre-Check?
This part was kind of weird. I noticed that for some people, they were told, “Congratulations! You’ve been approved!” and others were simply told to await an email for notification of their approval. The folks who were immediately approved were both young and old, so I’m not sure what determines that.
I had to wait to get an email which I got about 5 minutes after my interview telling me to check my account and when I checked it, it stated that I was approved and both TSA Pre-Check and Global Entry were ready to be used.
I think I got a little lucky being able to knock out Global Entry in about 10 days from the date of applying, as I’ve seen the process take a couple of months for others. However, you can probably get “lucky” too if you just keep refreshing that interview page a couple of times a day and hope that openings show up like they did for me. Good Luck!
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Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and creator of the credit card app, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned full-time credit card rewards/travel expert and has earned and redeemed millions of miles to travel the globe. His content has been featured in major publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, Forbes, CNBC, US News, and Business Insider. Find his full bio here.