Many of us find going on a vacation to be some of the most joyous times. However, all the fun can come to a screeching halt when you arrive at the airport to find long lines at the security checkpoints.
If you are like my husband, your eyes roll into the back of your head as soon as you see the line, and steam starts blowing out his ears. With the rise of over 2 million people traveling by air these days, it is no surprise to encounter long lines at the airport. In addition, the itch to travel after two years of the pandemic has caused a surge in more passengers looking to return to their favorite destination.
While most travelers stand in the extended security check lines at the airport, there is another option to consider reducing your time in line. You may see lanes for TSA PreCheck, CLEAR, and Global Entry passengers only. As a result, the line may be shorter and move passengers more quickly through checkpoints. Your question may be, how do I qualify for this easy access at the airport?
TSA PreCheck is a membership program for those departing from U.S. airports.
The membership gives the passenger access to the different security lines at the airport with a less invasive screening process. This means you may not have to remove your shoes, belt, or take out your laptop. You may also be allowed to carry approved liquids inside your carry-on bag.
Some airports may not have a TSA PreCheck lane, so you would be required to go through security like everyone else. You can check the TSA website in advance to find out if this will be the case. Even so, you may be allowed advantages such as keeping liquids in a carry-on bag or not having to remove shoes.
How to Apply
To become a TSA PreCheck member, you must complete an online application and schedule an appointment at one of the enrollment centers across the country. The interview should last about 15 minutes and involve fingerprinting and a background check. To read more about the requirements, you can visit the website.
To be eligible for TSA PreCheck, you must be a U.S. citizen, U.S. national, or Lawful Permanent Resident. In addition, you must not have been convicted of certain crimes. There is no age requirement to apply. However, children 12 and younger must be with a parent or guardian when using this service.
Currently, the application fee is $85 and will cover your membership for five years. Once the membership has expired, you can renew the membership for $70 online.
The agency will notify you if you have been approved or denied a few weeks following the interview. When you are approved, you will receive a Known Traveler Number to input whenever you book a flight. This number will be reflected on your boarding pass as a TSA PreCheck member. However, you can still be randomly selected for additional screening by TSA staff.
Global Entry is another way to access speedy security screening while traveling. This program is especially effective for those that travel internationally. Members are eligible to have a more automated Customs and Border Protection process when they arrive in the U.S. after traveling abroad.
As a member, you can go to any Global Entry kiosks at the airport in the U.S. and scan your passport or U.S. permanent resident card and scan your fingerprints for verification. You may also find some airports have facial recognition technology to replace the passport and fingerprint scan.
Once you have been scanned and approved at the kiosk, a receipt will be printed that you must give to a CPB offers before heading to the baggage claim and exit areas. This eliminates waiting in the standard processing lines or filling out post-arrival paperwork.
Global Entry is a government-run program. Once you sign up for Global Entry, you are automatically enrolled in TSA PreCheck.
HOW TO APPLY
To apply for Global Entry, you must create a Trusted Traveler Programs account online. Along with the application, you must submit a nonrefundable $100 fee, covering your membership for five years once approved. Upon a successful background check, the CBP approves the application and will instruct you to schedule an interview at a Global Entry Enrollment Center.
- Note – Not every state has an enrollment center. In that case, you can opt for the “enrollment upon arrival” service, through which you do your interview as part of the immigration process the next time you travel to a major airport for an international trip.
For the interview, you must bring your valid passport and another form of identification, such as a driver’s license or ID card. In addition, if you are a lawful permanent resident, you must present your machine-readable permanent resident card.
The CBP Officer will ask you a few questions, fingerprint you, and take a photo of you. The interview process will only take about 20 minutes.
Getting your Global Entry card may take a couple of weeks, but you can start using the benefits immediately, even if you don’t have the card.
As a Global Entry member, you will receive a Known Traveler Number. When you book your flight, you will input this number to allow you access to the expedited line. They can still be randomly selected for further screening if they so choose.
Should You Enroll?
- If you are a frequent flyer and spend much of your time traveling by air, I highly recommend participating in one of these programs.
- If you are like my husband, hate to wait in line, and struggle with being patient with those unfamiliar with the process of going through a TSA check, it is worth being a Global Entry member!
- If you have a bad habit of being late to the airport, having a speedy process to get through security would benefit you versus missing your flight.
- If you travel internationally, you know that you must go through several security checkpoints before boarding your plane. These TSA-approved memberships will reduce your time waiting in line and allow you to visit the lounge for some refreshments before departing.
- You may think the fee is high, but several credit cards offer reimbursements by signing up with them or allow you to use rewards points to pay the fee.
My husband and I travel often and find that having Global Entry has saved us many headaches at the airport. On occasion, we have experienced tight connections, and by having Global Entry/TSA PreCheck, we have bypassed long lines to get checked in for a flight. Reducing the stress of traveling makes your vacation so much better!
Enjoy your travels! Please read my blogs about other exciting places around the world at Traveling Lens Photography.