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If you're in a hurry to renew your Global Entry card, you could be in a pickle

If you're in a hurry to renew your Global Entry card, you could be in a pickle
Global Entry kiosks can speed registered travelers. To renew, begin months or even a year ahead. (Chris Hondros / Getty Images)

Question: We’re planning a three-week trip abroad, and I just discovered that my Global Entry card expires while I’m gone. Through Google, I found at least one private Global Entry renewal company. It promises a 24-hour turnaround if you need expedited service, but after reading the Customs and Border Protection website on renewal, it seems as though it could be a scam. What to do?

M.K. Elias

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Santa Monica

Answer: It used to be that it was only your passport you had to worry about, but now the programs that make traveling more tolerable need to be attended to as well. That means Global Entry and PreCheck.

Global Entry, which costs $100 for five years, makes life easier by speeding you through Customs upon your return to the U.S. As an added perk, it also offers the Transportation Security Administration’s PreCheck, which expedites you through airport security lines.

If you don’t travel internationally, you might want just TSA’s PreCheck, which means you don’t have to remove your shoes, belt or jacket, and you can keep your 3-ounces-or-less liquids in your carry-on at airport security.

It costs $85 for five years.

When I write about these programs, I often hear from readers who bristle about having to pay to get the government to leave them alone. That’s a bit wrong on a couple of counts: No one must have Global Entry or PreCheck, and the government isn’t going to leave you alone.

In the case of PreCheck, for example, you still have to go through security screening, and if something looks suspicious, you’ll still get pulled aside.

Global Entry doesn’t mean you get to walk out the door and be the first to collect your luggage; you’ll have to stop and scan your passport.

But both programs do give you a leg up on the race to the travel finish line.

Saving time could be an important inducement if spring travel is any indicator. The International Air Transport Assn. said demand for airline seats was up 9.5% from the previous March, although it also noted that rising fuel prices could temper enthusiasm for air travel if fares increase.

Even so, Elias could be in a bit of a fix. A Customs and Border Protection representative gave a big thumbs down to using a private firm to get a quick renewal.

“Members should not use third-party sites as they are not affiliated with CBP or the Global Entry program,” Jennifer Gabris of CBP said in an email.

You know how you can get a passport fast if you mess up and forget to renew yours and you’re leaving soon? (If not, read Christopher Reynolds’ “My mistake dragged my family into a passport crisis”)

You don’t have the same luxury with Global Entry.

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“CBP does not expedite Global Entry renewals and encourages members to apply for renewal early into the fourth year of their current membership,” Gabris said. “If approved for renewal, the five-year membership begins the day after their current expiration date.”

When you apply for Global Entry, you do an in-person interview. With a renewal, you may or may not have to, Gabris said. And that can add more time to the renewal process.

One slight twist to the renewal application: If you applied using the old GOES (Global Online Enrollment System) website, you’ll now use a new system and will need to re-enter your information. (I just did that, and it seemed infinitely faster than the old GOES system, which was about as much fun as falling face-first into a thorn bush, and, yes, I still have the scar from that.)

If you have a passport — and presumably you have one if you have Global Entry — you know that the State Department suggests renewing it after nine years.

Global Entry can be renewed in the fourth year, which means applying early and avoiding the rush.

If, like Elias, the renewal slipped your mind (and I thank Elias for the reminder), all is not lost.

There is an app called Mobile Passport. Its website says it is “officially authorized by Customs & Border Protection,” and it can be used at 24 airports, including LAX.

You download the app, complete your profile ahead of time, then connect by Wi-Fi and send your info to CBP if you’re at one of the approved airports.

You get a receipt and a barcode, you present that and your passport to CBP, and you’re done.

You won’t have PreCheck, but you also won’t have spent any money.

It’s not the same as having Trusted Traveler status, but it could save you time that you could use for … completing the Global Entry renewal.

Have a travel problem or dilemma? Write to travel@latimes.com. We regret we cannot answer every inquiry.

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