The Basics

The Longest Line I Have Seen at Global Entry – Is This a Sign of Things to Come?

Written by Charlie

Global Entry is a fantastic way to quickly enter the US and continue on your way. But, the beauty of the program is the speed and efficiency it offers. Long lines like I experienced are definitely not a good thing for the program and are hopefully not a sign of things to come!

Global Entry is one of the best government programs ever! I signed up as soon as it became available and it has saved me a ton of time over the years. However, the big part that makes it so great is the speed and efficiency that travelers can count on when they are reentering the US. My last time using it was very different from that goal!

The Longest Line I Have Seen at Global Entry

The Global Entry Process Entering the US

Global Entry is simply – upon landing in the US, you follow the signs for Global Entry, insert your passport into the machine, smile, answer the questions, do your fingerprint scans and leave with your slip. It literally takes less than a minute to do this.

Global Entry

Global Entry fingerprint scanner – photo from

There are a lot of machines but when it gets really busy, I have had to wait a minute or two for someone in front of me to finish. There are also the machine outages where CBP will have a couple of machines with Out of Order displayed on them.

But that was not where I experienced a line. Instead, it was where you go after your quick minute at the machine. Before you get to head to the baggage carousels and the customs exit, you need to show your printout with the beautiful photo of you to a CBP officer. If your paper printed with an “X”, the officer needs to have you go see another officer.

Normally, it is just a show-and-go with this officer. They take the paper and you are on your way.

The Long Line…

Not this time! There were over 40 people in line for this one officer!  (maybe some of you have experienced longer lines as of late and I have just been lucky? Let me know in the comments!) That is just ridiculous! As it turned out, my flight had been very delayed and I had to really race to get to my next flight so the kind people in line let me keep cutting until I got to the front of the line. Even then, it was a minute or so before I was called up as the next person.

At the very minimum, the people behind me would likely have had to wait about 15 minutes with the pace the line was moving. At worst, they could have waited much longer. I have no idea why the delay was at this point and I had never experienced anything like this with Global Entry before.

Edit: Sorry, I somehow forgot to initially mention that this was at JFK, Terminal 4. Apologies for leaving that out!

Is This a Sign of Things to Come?

I know, it is impossible to jump to the conclusion that Global Entry is going to be facing ridiculous waiting lines because of this one incident! But, it was bad enough that I started wondering if the program has grown too fast.

Look at TSA Precheck. There are times that it can actually be faster to use the premium/elite line than to use TSA Pre. With Global Entry members having TSA Precheck automatically, I think it is far to say that there are a lot of Global Entry members also. 🙂

Credit card issuers have contributed to a potential problem with Global Entry lines as well. With at least 17 credit cards offering Global Entry reimbursement, it is easier (and cheaper) than ever for travelers to get Global Entry. In fact, it is so popular that some of the interview locations do not have a slot for months at a time!

“Just Use More Officers!”

That can be easy to say but if you look at the clearance areas of some US airports, there is not really a whole lot of room available! In fact, in many airports, Global Entry kiosks are kind of just put in the corner of the area and in places that were likely used for storage of the people barriers before.

Part of it may be that CBP does not anticipate the demand at certain times. With the regular passport control lines, they know the number of people that are about to enter the country. But, maybe they need to start planning out more for the Global Entry lines when those flights starting getting busy as well.


I love Global Entry and will continue to be thankful for how fast it (normally) lets me get through the process of reentering the US. But, if it starts getting too busy, it is going to be tough for one of the things I value the most about the program. That is the ability to book flights with closer connections than I ever would if I did not have Global Entry. If long lines become a thing, there will be no way of knowing ahead of time if it will take me the usual 2 minutes to get through this area or 40 minutes. That is the difference of a flight right there.

Have you found long lines at Global Entry? If so, which airports?

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock

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About the author


Charlie has been an avid traveler and runner for many years. He has run in marathons around the world for less than it would cost to travel to the next town - all as a result of collecting and using miles and points. Over the years, he has flown hundreds of thousands of miles and collected millions of miles and points.
Now he uses this experience and knowledge to help others through Running with Miles.


  • I did not bother to get Global Entry yet, but we did use Mobile Passport when we returned to the states from Africa a couple of months ago. There were several people in the Global Entry line but only one person in the Mobile Passport line. It is worth checking out, but don’t make the mistake of using Mobile Passport as you taxi from the runway to the terminal and then decide to use Global Entry if they have a shorter line. You will be delayed because as far as their system goes, you have already entered the country when you processed your Mobile Passport entry. If you go to the wrong line, they will send you to a supervisor to handle your “Multiple” entries into the U.S., and that will take extra time for you to explain why you are coming through the line when the system as already logged your entry before you got the the person at passport control. Keep in mind that there are only about 24 airports that currently allow the use of Mobile Passport.

    Check it out on the Customs and Border Protection website.

    • Thanks for this detail! I have often thought about trying that on a next trip but end up forgetting to do that so just go the usual GE route. I will have to give it a try sometime!

    • I agree. For example, at ORD there are 3 ways to expedite: 1) immigration and customs in one step if you only have carryon. 2)Global entry 3) MPC. I am eligible for all and MPC have been fastest for most of my trips. Additional benefit: If you are traveling with a family, you can add all to one receipt, comparing to me having to struggle with fingerprints for all family members. Best of all: FREEEEEEEEE!

  • it’s something hilarious that the shortest line sometimes is neither GE nor the generic kiosk one or even the crew one – it’s a totally free non-hidden-but-totally-ignored gem – “US CBP – Mobile Passport”

    GE still requires you u to stop by a kiosk, albeit in expedited fashion. With MobilePass, you can literally be done with generating the QR code while the plane is still taxiing to the gate, and walk straight up to the officer, no manual-registration no fee no background-check nothing.

    • Great point and I will have to give it a try! I cannot believe the US government would make a system that efficient and make it available for free though! They must have overlooked this! 🙂

  • This is a pretty sad post when it doesn’t mention the airport at which this line situation happened. Could have been a one off issue with staffing, but we never will know since our author was remiss or negligent in leaving out such an important detail. Seems like pure click bait to me.

    I’ve never had a line at Global Entry, either with the customs officer first or the baggage customs officer second. The fact that the author doesn’t mention a location makes me wonder if it really ever happened.

    • Relax, it was an oversight. I had thought I had that included. It was JFK.
      Since you must be a first time reader here, I will tell you – I don’t do clickbait. It was an honest mistake and I appreciate Alpha asking it in a simple, direct way that reminded me to put it in.
      The staffing issue is my point entirely. There shouldn’t be delays like this – ever – with Global Entry. The lines at the regular passport control counters were not so large that all the agents were there either.
      I find it surprising you never had a line at the customs officer on the way out! There have been many times in the past (when they used to make you wait) that there would be 5-6 people in the Global Entry line with luggage.