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What is the TSA PreCheck?

It's a way to avoid long lines at airport security

While many people love to travel, there’s one thing about traveling that most people dread: going through the airport and waiting in the security line. The Transportation Security Administration recognized that the long waits were becoming an increasingly aggravating problem, so they created the TSA PreCheck, a program that allows pre-approved passengers to go through an expedited security screening.

The TSA PreCheck was created in October 2011 in an effort to increase the efficiency of airport security without compromising the safety of travelers. Through the TSA PreCheck, pre-approved passengers are able to go through security without removing their shoes, belts, or light jackets. Additionally, passengers using the TSA PreCheck will not have to take their electronics or liquids in pre-approved amounts out of their carry-on bags.

Since the program launched, more than 15 million passengers have gone through the TSA PreCheck, and this fall the TSA will expand this program to 60 new airports in the United States. In 2014, the TSA PreCheck program will have been rolled out in 118 airports throughout the United States, Guam, and Puerto Rico.  Click to view the full list.  

Are you eligible for the TSA PreCheck?
Frequent Flyers

Not everyone is eligible for TSA PreCheck, but you might be eligible if you travel often. American citizens who are part of frequent traveler programs may be qualified to participate in the TSA PreCheck program. Participating airlines include Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, United Airlines, U.S. Airways, and Virgin America.

Trusted Travelers

U.S. citizens who are not members of frequent flyer programs but are members of a Customs and Border Protection Trusted Traveler Program, like Global Entry or SENTRI, are also eligible to participate in the TSA PreCheck program. Canadian citizens may also be able to participate if they are part of the NEXUS expedited travel program, which is a Customs and Border Protection Trusted Traveler Program for Canadians and Americans who often have to commute across the border for work related purposes.

Active Duty Military

At certain airports, active duty military are also eligible for the TSA PreCheck. Any member of the U.S. Armed Forces, including reservists and members of the National Guard, who have a valid Common Access Card are eligible for the TSA PreCheck at these airports. The active duty military member must present their Common Access Card to be scanned along with their boarding pass to the Travel Document Checker in the TSA PreCheck lane.

By scanning the Common Access Card, the TSA agent will be able to immediately confirm that the military member is active and in good standing with the Department of Defense. Service members do not need to be in uniform when using the TSA PreCheck program, and their children ages 12 and under may also pass through expedited screening while traveling with them.

Notification of Eligibility

Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, and US Airways will notify you of your eligibility for the TSA PreCheck by putting a TSA PreCheck symbol on your boarding pass. If the TSA PreCheck logo is on your boarding pass and you are flying out of a participating airport, go straight to the TSA PreCheck line upon arrival. If you’re flying through another participating airline that has yet to put the logo on their boarding passes, you can also go to the TSA PreCheck line to see if you are eligible for expedited security screening.

How can I participate?

Individuals looking to participate in the TSA PreCheck program immediately must register for a Customs and Border Patrol Global Online Enrollment System (GOES) account. After registering in GOES, the traveler will be able to enroll in one of the Customs and Border Patrol eligible programs.
You have to apply in person at one of the 250 enrollment centers in the US.

Once they have enrolled, the Global Online Enrollment System will provide them with a PASS ID number in the Trusted Traveler program of their choice. Passengers will enter their PASS ID number into the “Known Traveler Number” field when booking future travel. By entering their number, the traveler will be sending their Trusted Traveler information to the TSA’s Secure Flight system, enabling them to go through the expedited security line.

The Transportation Security Administration is currently creating a direct application process for the TSA PreCheck program, (fall 2013). The application will involve an online and an in person proponent. After filling out an online application, travelers will need to go to a TSA PreCheck enrollment center to verify their identity and get their fingerprints taken.

The first two enrollment centers are set to open this fall at the Washington Dulles International Airport and the Indianapolis International Airport, but there are plans to expand the program to include enrollment sites nationwide. The predicted fee for enrollment in this program is $85, and the membership will last for five years.

How is this safe?

While the TSA PreCheck program does offer expedited security screening to pre-approved travelers, it is in no way a guarantee. The Transportation Security Administration may conduct a more thorough search of any passenger at random, regardless of whether or not they are part of the TSA PreCheck program. Additionally, the Transportation Security Administration reserves the right to revoke or suspend any passenger from the TSA PreCheck program if they have committed a crime since their application or if they have ever had any security issues while traveling.

Is the TSA PreCheck program worth it?

While enrolling in the TSA PreCheck program seems like a lot of effort, it will be worth the time for anyone who travels frequently. The program will not only allow you to go in an expedited line, but it will give low-risk travelers an easier time by allowing them to leave their shoes on and keep their carry-on bags packed while going through security. 

While there’s always a chance that you may be selected for further security screening, participating in the TSA PreCheck program definitely increases the chances that your airport security experience will be as quick and painless as possible. Considering the TSA PreCheck program is set to continue expanding, the $85 fee for a five-year membership seems more than worth it. Find out more at TSA's website.


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