About 6 weeks ago, when reading the vFlyer board I chanced upon a post about a UK based member of United’s Mileage Plus scheme who had managed to obtain an enrolment code to Global Entry. UK Citizens, you understand, are not entitled to apply for Global Entry in the normal course of events. However, for some time BA had been handing out invites to its best
frequent flyers spenders. I had not been invited by BA, and although I live in the UK I don’t use United much from London any more.
The poster kindly gave me his contact at UA HQ and I wrote to her, explaining my circumstances, including my MileagePlus number and asking if I could be considered. Two hours later I had a reply, and it was a ‘Yes’. There was a deadline as their invites ran out on 31 March so I had to get my act together quickly.
United kindly pay the GE application fee for their elite flyers once you request a code from their web site.
UK Applications Process
UK nationals applying for GE are required to obtain a police certificate from the National Association of Police Officers testifying that you do not have a criminal record. Or, if you do, presumably listing the matters you have convictions for. There is a cost to this – £60 – (about $100). Application information is here. You need to supply information on a seven page form, copies of your passport, some other proof of address, a picture and someone responsible to sign the form. After about 10 days, and after paying the fee, you get a certificate with your image scanned in and details of any convictions. Mine said ‘No Trace’ – of offenses and not of me!
My certificate came within the timescales stated and there was even a helpful email to say that I had been accepted as soon as the application was processed..
However, my application had to go in without the certificate number as I did not have enough time to receive it before the deadline for the expiry of the invitation from United.
The online GE application was easy enough to complete and I received an email acknowledgment advising me to check back fairly often to see progress. Knowing that I had a trip to the US coming in early May I was hoping the application would be approved so that I could undertake the interview whilst on this trip.
Luckily about 10 days before I was due to leave (and three weeks after I applied), I received the provisional acceptance email and was able to go online and book an appointment.
Booking the Appointment
Because my trip involved several stays at airport hotels I was hopeful that I could arrange an appointment on a day that I was at an airport. However, when I checked the online calendar for my stays in Las Vegas, Los Angeles and Houston there were no appointments for months.
BUT, as luck would have it – San Juan, PR had almost limitless appointments (3 per hour) for both days I was there. Whoopee - I was going to be able to do my interview.
Preparing for the Interview
The confirmation of the appointment email informed me that I need my passport, and then other documents that would prove my address – such as my Mortgage Statement, Utility bills etc. So I went overboard and packed these two, my Drivers License, my UK Security Clearance paperwork, my last end-of-year tax statement, two previous checks undertaken for my Trustee roles and a couple of other things! Overkill as it turned out, but it was a long way to go home for a form.
I had arranged to fly from Miami to San Juan with American, (using Avios for Business Class – great value) on the day of my interview. I was at the airport early enough to notice that the aircraft was coming from Quito was an hour late. Ouch, I had 50 minutes between landing and my interview. Did I call them and tell them? No, I decided to wait until we go on the plane to see what the new arrival time. As luck would have it we had a really quick flight time (2 hrs 10mins) and so I got to SJU with 30 minutes to spare.
Locating the office
Having been to SJU before (can you say BA Mileage Runs?), I had a good idea where the office was. However, you have to call when you get there as their buzzer is broken. I called when we landed and the officer was happy to see my right away. For reference, there is a lane between Security for gates 1-19 and the AA ticket desk where you wait for the officer to collect you. 2 minutes later she came and escorted me ‘back stage’ to their office.
The officer was efficient and charming – going through the application to make sure it was correct and then asking me questions – she was especially interested in my visits to Panama and Turkey. She scanned the Police Certificate and my Drivers License. The only query was why I had only a provisional license! Truth was, I had only obtained a copy for the interview! I’ve never driven in the 40+ years that I could. Satisfied with my explanations about my job and travels and not being a driver, she trained me on the machine.
Interestingly I have to keep renewing my Online Travel Permission or ESTA, every two years.
15 minutes later it was done and she explained that the card would probably take 14 days and that I was not eligible for TSA Pre – the expedited security clearance – as I was not a US citizen. Shame!
The day after
I received my email this morning asking me to log in and confirming that I had been accepted. Now I need to find a weekend I can pop to New York to test it out.
I am excited! Delighted that I won’t have to join what seem to be ever slower queues for US Immigration for the next 5 years at least. Thanks United.