Travel: The Global Entry Interview

2022, Apr 03    

With enough travel around the globe comes the eventual irritation (and subsequent frustration) with passing through airports, especially the queue for passport control. Thankfully with some countries there are means to improve this situation, which is how we arrive at this short story.

In a former role with a former employer I travelled fairly frequently to the USA, which while I loved the food (biscuits and gravy all day long) getting through immigration (even with a pre-completed ESTA) was agonisingly painful. On a trip to San Francisco I was treated to a less-than enjoyable 3.5 hours queueing for passport control which took me to a whole new level of frustration I hadn't previously encountered.

During my time waiting in the queue and talking to strangers about how Chinese water torture would probably be less painful, the Global Entry signs caught my eye and peaked my interest. A quick search and some short reading later brought me up to speed on how $120 could make my subsequent trips to the USA significantly less painful. At that price (and with it being valid for 3 years) who could argue that this was a bargain (and good for my sanity).

A few forms later (and some funds) I had my application submitted with only the face-to-face interview required. The interview needed to take place in the USA (which made sense) so it would be my next trip where I would go through this. As I had an upcoming trip to Las Vegas the timings work and all being well I would have my new-fangled way to save time after arrival.

With most long-haul flights I typically pay to upgrade to the class above, for the most part to my legs can stretch out and I can walk upon landing. On flights to the USA (West Coast) it also means I can make the most of the lounges at Heathrow, and in some instances the upper class bar on the flight. With this flight requiring a connection (as there wasn't a direct flight to Las Vegas from the UK at the time) I figured I had ample time to enjoy myself in the lounge/on the plane before a 4.5 hour wait at the connecting airport, then onto my Global Entry interview in Las Vegas (all good, right?).

As those familiar with travel to the USA will have realised by now you have to go through passport control when you enter the country, not at your destination if you are on a connecting flight. Somehow when I booked my trip I had neglected to remember this fact and had assumed I wouldn't need to talk to anyone until arriving in Las Vegas (once I had sobered up somewhat).

One lounge later and I was boarding the plane in a very relaxed fashion, after enjoying two hours of nice food and free alcohol (honestly, the Virgin Lounge in Heathrow is one of the best in the UK). On the plane I struck up a conversation with two gents at the mini bar in upper class, discussing the joys (and woes) of travel for work, and amusingly how one of them considered me to be a spy (hint: I'm not). Many hours passed and many drinks were drank, before relaxing in the seat an hour or two before landing.

Upon landing and heading through arrivals it started to dawn on me that everyone was heading for passport control and as there was no way to skip this. After some thought (albeit somewhat inebriated at the time) I figured that my interview would still take place in Las Vegas and so things would be fine. Unfortunately, I had made one slight mistake on my way through the airport...

For reasons still unbeknown to me the paperwork for my Global Entry interview was folded text-side out and slipped into my passport for all to see. As I walked towards arrivals a keen-eyed member of staff spotted the logo and the word 'Interview', then decided to escort me to the interview area before I realised what had happened. As I was sat down and told that I was next in the queue, I finally asked what for, before being informed it was for my interview. At this point panic was by far the biggest emotion I felt at the time, figuring this may not have been my smartest move.

Within a few minutes it was my turn to be interviewed, and as the interviewers hand waved me over I walked and took my seat facing a lovely member of the airport staff who began asking me questions about who I was and why/how I travelled for work. In my (drunken) confidence I answered the questions with a polite but cheeky British humour. It took less than 15 minutes before the phrase "you drank quite a lot on the plane didn't you sir" was stated, to which I responded "in my defence I didn't expect to be interviewed here and I do have this interview booked in Las Vegas".

I have to hand it to interviewer as they saw the amusement in it all and did laugh at the situation. I went through all of the questions and answered them accordingly, while constantly being aware that I was in no way sober and was 95% sure I was swaying side to side in my seat. The interview was completed and I set off to my gate ready for my connecting flight (and to try and lower my heart rate), pondering how fast I would be rejected.

Less than 30 minutes later I received the email that I had been approved and could now use Global Entry at most airports in the USA. Shocked, confused, bemused, and definitely drunk, I chuckled at my phone and waited for my onward flight.

To my interviewer that day, thank you for tolerating my somewhat drunken slurs and poor British humour :-)