A Brief Guide To TSA PreCheck

Branded as TSA Pre✓, TSA PreCheck is what is referred to as a trusted traveler program. In other words, a program for frequent flyers who have been vetted and proven not to be a threat to air travel in the United States. Initiated in December 2013 to reduce waiting in line times at airports, the program also allows members of special frequent flyer programs and the US military to receive expedited screening.

Administered by the United States Transportation Security Administration (TSA), as of 2019, TSA PreCheck was available at over 200 airports in the United States. Following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York and Washington in which al-Qaida terrorists hijacked planes and then deliberately crashed them into buildings, passenger screening at American airports has gotten more stringent.

TSA PreCheck allows you to save time at the airport

Unlike when you just had to put your carry-on bag through an X-ray machine, you now have to take out any electronic devices such as laptops and remove your belt and shoes. Being enrolled in the TSA PreCheck program saves you time at the airport and creates a better travel experience for all.

What are the benefits of TSA PreCheck?

When you are enrolled in the TSA PreCheck program, your boarding pass will have TSA Pre written on it automatically to show that you have PreCheck status. With this boarding pass, you can use specially designated lines that are only available to those who are enrolled in the program. Even passengers traveling first or business class who may have Platinum or Gold frequent flyer status will have to wait in long lines like everyone else if they are not in the PreCheck program.

Being enrolled in the TSA PreCheck program also means not having to take off your shoes and belt. Being enrolled in the TSA program also means that you no longer have to take your laptop out of your carry-on and that you don’t have to fumble around looking for any liquids that you might be carrying.

Often, you may have limited time to wait at the airport, especially if you are trying to catch a Friday night weekend getaway flight right after work. Being enrolled in the TSA PreCheck program lessons the chances of you missing your flight. According to the TSA, the waiting time for people enrolled in the TSA program is less than five minutes which is much better than the average 45 minutes it takes to get through security at Boston Logan International Airport (BOS).

How to enroll in the TSA PreCheck program

Enrolling in the TSA program is super easy and starts with an online application at www.tsa.gov/precheck. At the same time as you apply, you schedule an appointment at a TSA PreCheck enrollment center to have a background check and your fingerprints taken. The entire process takes around ten minutes. There are over 400 TSA enrollment centers in the United States, some of which are at airports.

TSA PreCheck speeds up your time at the airport. Photo: Getty Images

On the TSA website, you can find the most convenient center for you. When you go for your appointment, be sure and take one of the following as proof of your identity:

  • Unexpired US Passport
  • Unexpired Enhanced Tribal Card (ETC)
  • Unexpired Free and Secure Trade (FAST) Card
  • Unexpired US Enhanced Driver’s License (EDL) or Unexpired Enhanced Identification Card (EID)
  • A permanent Resident Card (I-551) often referred to as a “Green Card”
  • Unexpired Foreign Passport AND immigrant visa with I-551 annotation of “Upon Endorsement Serves as Temporary I-551 Evidencing Permanent Residence of 1 Year”
  • Unexpired Re-entry Permit (I-327)

The only downside to the TSA PreCheck is that it costs $ 85 for five years. The TSA also asks that first-time applicants do not try and pay the fee online but at the screening center. While most applicants receive their approval in less than a couple of weeks, in some instances, it can take up to two months.

Before applying for the TSA PreCheck, the TSA recommends looking at other frequent traveler programs such as Global EntryNEXUS, and SENTRI to see if they better match your travel habits.

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