Global Entry can’t get a fingerprint because there isn’t one

Georgeann Lenard’s Global Entry application is stuck because of an unusual problem, the result of an unusual accident. Can this application be rescued?

Question: I need your help with my application for Global Entry, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection program that allows expedited clearance for travelers entering the United States. I can’t contact anybody at the Global Entry number or email about the status of my application and interview.

I believe the problem is that it is difficult to get fingerprints from my right hand as a result of an industrial accident over four decades ago. My hand and forearm were saved by pioneering hand surgeons, but my fingerprints are severely compromised on my right hand. I’m not even sure I have much in the way of prints.

My application was accepted months ago, and I went for my interview and fingerprinting at Philadelphia International Airport in January. I have not heard anything from Global Entry — not even a rejection of my application. I have tried to call them, but I get recordings and can’t get a person on the phone. I have emailed with no result.

I know the problem was with the fingerprinting, but I can’t be the only one with this problem. I was also given a TSA PreCheck number at the time of the fingerprinting, but I’m not sure whether I can use it legally. I have no criminal record. I can’t think of any other reason I have not heard from Global Entry except for the fingerprinting problem. — Georgeann Lenard, Philadelphia, Penn.

Answer: You’ve raised a question that I asked when the first kiosks were installed years ago: What happens when a traveler doesn’t have a finger to scan? I should note that the question was laughed off by my colleagues in the newsroom and deleted by my editor. Too abstract, they said. They were wrong.

Related story:   A car rental conundrum: What would you do with this case?

The answer, unfortunately, is that U.S. Customs and Border Protection has no idea what to do with someone who had an industrial accident.

You were correct to put your grievance in writing. That’s the best way to document a problem and ask for a resolution. Calling Customs may or may not fix the problem. That’s the way it works with most consumer grievances. You have to create a paper trail.

By the way, I highly recommend Global Entry, even if you travel infrequently. It cuts the amount of time you have to wait at the border, and it gives you TSA PreCheck status, so you don’t get harassed at airport security. That’s well worth the $100 application fee.

Finding a real person at Customs can be a challenge, even for me. I can’t take any credit for the following resolution: Thanks to a friend of a friend who works for the government, someone looked into your Global Entry application. And I’m happy to report that it’s been approved.

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or check out his adventures on his family adventure travel site. Contact him at Read more of Christopher's articles here.

%d bloggers like this:
Get smart. Sign up for the newsletter.