First of all, what is TSA PreCheck?
By pre-screening applicants, TSA PreCheck allows you to skip the lines and go through airport security efficiently by providing a separate lane for low-risk travelers.
Step 1: Am I eligible?
In order to apply for TSA PreCheck, you must qualify as a “low-risk traveler.” This means you must be a U.S. Citizen or Lawful Permanent resident. It also means that you can’t have a criminal record for certain offenses. Visit eligibility requirements
on the TSA website to find out more about the ineligible crimes. If you’re also interested in applying for Global Entry
(see below), skip down to that section—TSA PreCheck membership is included for free with every Global Entry membership.
Warning: Make sure you only apply for TSA PreCheck directly through the Department of Homeland Security at TSA.gov. The Better Business Bureau has issued a scam alert for third-party websites that look similar to the DHS site and claim to assist travelers with the process, only to steal their application fee and personal data.
Step 2: Visit the TSA Application Center.
Once you determine your eligibility, you can make your way to an application center. You can find a center near you
on the TSA website and can either schedule an appointment online
or call 855/347-8371 or simply walk in. At your enrollment appointment, you’ll provide your basic information like name, birthdate, and address plus fingerprints and a valid form of identification. You can also pre-enroll online
to save some time at the application center. To process your application, the TSA charges an $85 nonrefundable fee.
Step 3: Congratulations! TSA PreCheck has accepted your application. Now what?
You will hear within a few weeks if your PreCheck application has been accepted. While you are waiting, you can check your application status online. If it has, you will receive a “Known Traveler Number.” This number is valid for five years.
Step 4: Booking a flight with TSA PreCheck
Now that you have your Known Traveler Number, the next thing you need to do is book your flight. When making reservations, make sure you’re flying with an airline that honors PreCheck. When booking your flight, either call the airline reservation center or enter your Known Traveler Number in the space provided during online booking—usually, that’s on a separate page for passenger information. Make sure your name on your plane ticket matches your Known Traveler Number name so there is no confusion at the airport.
After linking your Known Traveler Number to your flight, your boarding pass will be marked with “TSA Pre-Check” to ensure your security inspection will be quick and easy.
What is Global Entry?
After getting off an international flight, the Global Entry process is meant to make your entrance back into the U.S. as easy and painless as possible. Global Entry kiosks are located at international airports in the U.S. where a traveler can check-in to avoid paperwork and long processing and security lines. At these kiosks, Global Entry travelers have their fingerprints scanned and complete a customs declaration on a touch screen. The kiosk will then print a receipt the traveler takes directly to baggage claim, without waiting in the long queue of passengers being processed.
In a way, being accepted by Global Entry is like going through inspection once, in an office, and unless you break any Customs rules, you’ll remain cleared for five years. Best of all, if you are accepted for Global Entry, you’re automatically eligible for TSA PreCheck—there’s no need to apply for both.
To Apply for Global Entry
Step 1: Am I eligible?
To apply for Global Entry, you must be a Lawful Permanent Resident or a Citizen of the United States, a Citizen of Germany, the Netherlands, Panama, and South Korea or a Mexican National. You are ineligible for Global Entry if you have ever been convicted of a crime, have violated Customs, are a subject of a federal investigation, or do not satisfy any of the other U.S. Customs and Border Control low-risk requirements. To find out more about eligibility, visit the US Customs and Border Control Website at http://www.cbp.gov/global-entry/about/eligibility
Make sure you only apply directly for Global Entry through the Department of Homeland Security at TSA.gov
. The Better Business Bureau has issued a scam alert
for third-party websites that look similar to the DHS site and claim to assist travelers with the process, only to steal their application fee and personal data.
Once your application has been approved, you will receive an email from your GOES account telling you to schedule an interview at an enrollment center
—usually, that will be at an airport, and you’ll be given a calendar of available slots. When you arrive at the enrollment center for your appointment, you will be interviewed by a U.S. Customs Border Protection officer. You will have your picture taken and provide your fingerprints (no ink—just a scan) plus some biometric details such as your name, birthdate, and address.
Don’t forget to bring your valid passport and a form of I.D. like your driver’s license or permanent resident card. As long as the interview goes smoothly, your application will be officially accepted on the spot and you’ll be give your Global Entry number—which will also work for TSA PreCheck, too.