A Brief Guide to TSA PreCheck


Under the TSA Pre✓ brand, TSA PreCheck is what is known 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. Launched in December 2013 to reduce wait times at airports, the program also allows members of special loyalty programs and the US military to benefit from expedited screening.

Administered by the United States Transportation Security Administration (TSA), in 2019, TSA PreCheck was available at over 200 airports in the United States. After the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, in which al-Qaeda terrorists hijacked planes and then deliberately crashed them into buildings, screening of passengers at US airports became stricter .

TSA PreCheck saves you time at the airport

Unlike the days when you just had to run your hand luggage through an x-ray machine, now you have to remove all 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 everyone.

What are the benefits of TSA PreCheck?

When you are enrolled in the TSA PreCheck program, your boarding pass will automatically be marked with TSA Pre to indicate that you have PreCheck status. With this boarding pass, you can use specially designated lines that are only available to those enrolled in the program. Even passengers traveling in first class 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 remove 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 no longer have to search for liquids that you might be carrying.

Often, you may have limited time to wait at the airport, especially if you’re trying to catch a flight for a Friday night weekend getaway right after work. Being enrolled in the TSA PreCheck program reduces the chances of you missing your flight. According to the TSA, the wait 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 clear security at Boston Logan International Airport ( BOS).

How to enroll in the TSA PreCheck program

Enrolling in the TSA program is very simple and begins 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 for a background check and fingerprinting. The whole process takes about ten minutes. There are over 400 TSA enrollment centers in the United States, some of which are located 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 to your appointment, be sure to take one of the following as proof of your identity:

  • Unexpired US Passport
  • Unexpired Enhanced Tribal Map (ETC)
  • Non-expired FAST (Free and Secure Trade) card
  • Unexpired U.S. Enhanced Driver’s License (EDL) or unexpired Enhanced Identification Card (EID)
  • A permanent resident card (I-551) often referred to as a “green card”
  • Foreign passport AND unexpired immigrant visa with I-551 annotation “After approval serves as a temporary I-551 evidencing permanent residence for one year”
  • Unexpired re-entry permit (I-327)

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

Before applying for TSA PreCheck, the TSA recommends reviewing other frequent flyer programs such as Global Entry, NEXUS, and SENTRI to see if they are a better fit for your travel habits.

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