Guide to TSA Precheck

Guide to TSA Precheck

Since 2001 and the creation of the Transportation Security Administration, long security lines have become commonplace at airports, slowing down the flow of passengers as they embark on their journeys. Security requirements include the need to remove your jacket, shoes, and belt, unlocking carry-on bags to present liquids for inspection, and taking laptops and other electronics out of their sleeves for inspection.

Given the opportunity, most travelers would skip the security line if they could. The TSA provides just such an opportunity with TSA Precheck.

What is TSA Precheck?

TSA Precheck is a trusted traveler program that lets low-risk travelers move quickly through security. The program is available to U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents, and international citizens participating in the Global Entry trusted traveler program.

Benefits of TSA Precheck

TSA Precheck perks allow you to move through security much faster, without needing to remove your shoes, jacket, or belt. Nor do you have to unpack your liquids or laptop. Your bags are scanned, and you still have to go through the metal detector, but without spending what seems like forever moving slowly through the rope-and-post queue.

Children under the age of twelve are included in TSA Precheck membership, making the program ideal for families with young children, who often find long waits in security lines difficult.There are some limitations to TSA precheck perks. The TSA reserves the right to pull randomly selected travelers for extra screening, and you may still have to take off shoes and belts with metal parts before going through the metal detector. Overall, however, you get through security faster and with less hassle.

How Long Does TSA Precheck Take?

According to the TSA, the average wait time for 98 percent of TSA Precheck members was less than five minutes in December of 2016. Given that December is a traditionally busy travel time, that’s impressively speedy.

How Much Does TSA Precheck Cost?

Like all trusted traveler programs, you must purchase TSA Precheck privileges. Membership in TSA Precheck costs $85 and is good for five years. You can pay the application fee by credit card, cashier’s check, money order, or company check. The application fee is non-refundable.

How Do I Apply for TSA Precheck?

To begin a TSA precheck application, go to the  TSA Precheck webpage and fill out the application form. Once your application is complete, you’ll need to make an appointment with the nearest TSA Precheck enrollment center. You’ll receive an email confirming your appointment date.

There are over 380 enrollment centers throughout the United States. Depending on your location, you may have to wait several weeks for an appointment. While it is possible to drop into an enrollment center without an appointment to complete your TSA Precheck application, it’s not recommended, as the center may not be able to accommodate you.

A TSA Precheck application appointment takes approximately ten minutes. Bring a valid photo ID and proof of citizenship or immigration documentation. You’ll be fingerprinted, asked a few questions, and undergo a background check.

As the TSA application fee is nonrefundable, make sure you qualify for the program before applying. The TSA can deny approval to people who have committed certain criminal offenses or have previously violated customs and immigration laws. Providing false information will also result in a denied application.

How Long Does it Take to Get TSA Precheck Approval?

After your TSA Precheck enrollment center appointment, you should receive word of whether your application was accepted by email and mail, usually within five working days. The approval form will include your KTN, or Known Traveler Number, which you should add to your frequent flyer accounts and airline reservations.

TSA Precheck Versus Other Trusted Traveler Programs

TSA Precheck is the only trusted travel program offered by the TSA. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection offers three other trusted traveler programs for personal and business travelers: Global Entry, SENTRI, and NEXUS.

  • Global Entry offers expedited screening upon entering the United States from international trips. The cost of the program is $100 for five years, which includes admission to TSA Precheck. If you travel outside the USA regularly, Global Entry might be the best program for you.
  • NEXUS is a joint program the USA runs with Canada to facilitate movement in both directions across the northern border. The program costs $50 for five years. 
  • SENTRI, the southern counterpart to NEXUS, offers trusted travelers expedited screening times into the United States from Mexico.

Is TSA Precheck Worth It?

In our opinion, yes. Even if you only take one round trip every year, the cost of TSA Precheck comes out to $8.50 per flight. TSA Precheck is even more worthwhile for people who travel multiple times a year and allows you to navigate the TSA checkpoint easily.


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