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Enrolling in TSA PreCheck

The TSA PreCheck program allows passengers to avoid some of the security steps in the process of boarding an airplane for flights departing from the United States. Passengers can avoid removing particular items required to complete the TSA scanning process, and are additionally allowed into a special scanning lane. By skipping long lines and avoiding cumbersome tasks, approved passengers can get through airport security much faster.

Interested passengers can enroll in the known traveler program by submitting an application to the Department of Homeland Security, consenting to a background search and supplying fingerprints for TSA records. The sections below describe the benefits available through the PreCheck program, how to enroll, how to use benefits and the difference between the PreCheck and Global Entry trusted traveler programs.

TSA PreCheck Program Benefits

When you are enrolled in the trusted traveler program, your boarding pass will indicate your membership. Benefits vary based on availability. However, enrollment generally allows you to shorten the time it takes to pass through TSA security screenings. During a typical security screening, you must remove the following items from your bag and your person and place them in a separate container for scanning:

However, as a TSA PreCheck member, you do not need to remove the items listed above. Instead, you can pass through screenings without removing your laptops and liquids or taking off your jacket, belt and shoes. This allows you to avoid the uncomfortable process of unpacking your suitcase while in line, or putting your shoes back on after passing through the screening. Additionally, if the airport offers a TSA PreCheck lane, you can bypass the standard screening lane and enter a special PreCheck lane, saving you several minutes of waiting.

Eligibility Requirements for TSA PreCheck

You must meet the TSA PreCheck requirementsYou must meet the TSA PreCheck requirements in order to enroll in the program. To qualify, you must be a US citizen, US national or foreign citizen with lawful permanent residence. In addition, you must be able to pass a background exam and supply your fingerprints. Additionally, there is no age limit for the PreCheck program. However, children younger than 12 years of age can accompany a parent through the PreCheck line.

You are permanently barred from enrolling in the TSA PreCheck program if you have criminal convictions related to terrorism, espionage, treason or sedition. Other charges such as unlawfully possessing explosives, murder, conveying false information regarding a known explosive or attempting to commit any of the above may also permanently disqualify you.

Additionally, you may be temporarily disqualified after convictions such as manslaughter or arson. For temporarily disqualifying convictions, you typically must wait until five to seven years after the charges in question to qualify. You are also temporarily disqualified when there is a want, warrant or indictment in your name. You are disqualified until the indictment, want or warrant is cleared.

How to Apply for TSA PreCheck

The process for how to get TSA PreCheck is relatively straightforward. Begin the application process by going online to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) website. Complete and submit an application, providing your name, place of birth and other identifying information. You must also pay the required fee for your application. In some cases, credit card loyalty programs may subsidize or partially subsidize the cost of enrolling. Once you submit your application, schedule an appointment with your local enrollment center.

Arrive at your appointment to complete a background check and provide your fingerprints for the TSA’s records. Once your information is submitted and you have passed your background check, you have completed your TSA application.

After Submitting Your TSA PreCheck Application

After you have submitted your TSA PreCheck Application, you will be assigned a Known Traveler Number (KTN). This number is used to identify you with the TSA. When making a reservation at an airline, you must include this Known Traveler Number in order to claim your TSA benefit. When you include it in your reservation, the TSA PreCheck symbol will appear on your boarding pass. This indicates to airline and TSA employees that you are qualified for the PreCheck. You should save your Known Traveler Number to any frequent flyer accounts you have in order to ensure that you apply your benefits to future reservations. Always double check to ensure that you have applied your PreCheck benefit before booking an airline reservation.

More than 200 airports in the United States offer the PreCheck program. However, it is not available at all airports or with all airlines. In some cases, you may have to wait in a standard line and display your PreCheck status only to bypass removing items from your person. You can check online to find a complete list of airlines that offer benefits for the known traveler program. You can even check if a particular airport offers the PreCheck lines.

PreCheck and Global Entry

The TSA PreCheck program is often confused for the broader Global Entry program. Although the programs are similar, they have distinct differences. The PreCheck program is available to US citizens, nationals and permanent residents who are traveling out of the United States. It only applies to flights that originate within the United States.

However, the Global Entry program applies more broadly. It includes the standard PreCheck benefits, but also includes an expedited US customs screening for international flyers entering the United States. Passing through Customs can often take much longer than passing through the TSA screening process.

Therefore, if you have Global Entry, you can expedite the screening process both while leaving and entering the United States. With TSA PreCheck membership, you can only expedite the outbound screening process. Because the Global program offers more benefits, it costs more than the TSA PreCheck program does. Additionally, you must go through a separate application process to qualify for the Global Entry program.