Here's Exactly How to Apply For TSA PreCheck

Cut down on travel time with this security guide that details everything you need to know about TSA PreCheck, Global Entry and CLEAR.

Historically, TSA PreCheck is something I’ve only remembered when I’m stuck in the regular security line and slugging my laptop out into a tray. You know the feeling of watching the lady in front of you react with genuine trepidation and surprise after being told that she needs to take her shoes off? There’s also the moment of getting stuck behind someone who can’t figure out why they keep ringing when they go through the metal detector. In those moments, I’m positive that if someone asked if I wanted to find out if I qualify for TSA PreCheck, I would be fully on board. But after you make it to the gate, it’s easy to forget the trouble you just endured until you’re back in the same stressful travel situation.

Fortunately, it’s so easy to qualify for TSA PreCheck that you’ll question one million times over why you haven’t done it before.

If you’re not familiar with TSA PreCheck, its website defines it as “an expedited security screening program connecting travelers departing from the United States with smarter security and a better air travel experience.” Basically, it’s a government program through the Transportation Security Administration that allows plane passengers to pass through a faster, less invasive security checkpoint before flying.

The process is similar to renewing your license, however I found it much more speedy. You fill out a short online application that asks about your general information, as well as any arrest reports, incarcerations or prior offenses. After you’re finished with that, you schedule an appointment at a nearby airport or another certified office, where they’ll take your fingerprints and conduct a background check. (Pro tip: Schedule your background check appointment a couple of hours before your next flight, so you can avoid an unnecessary trip to the airport.)

After you’ve completed all of the necessary steps, you’ll be officially pre-checked in 2-3 weeks. There is a fee of $85, however that covers your eligibility for five years. The next time you go to the airport, you’ll be treated to a much shorter security line that typically doesn’t require you to remove your shoes or place your electronics into bins. Honestly, it’s such a time-saver—especially around the holidays or busy travel times.

More Travel Time-Savers:

Global entry is yet another travel program that'll save you time during your next trip. Available at participating airports, global entry is a U.S. Customs and Border Protection program that's similar to TSA PreCheck in that it requires an interview, background check, and fingerprints. It's convenient, yes, but with a processing fee of $170 and a membership fee of $100, it's slightly more expensive than TSA PreCheck.

Another option is CLEAR, which identifies you through your fingertips and irises to get you through security gates in minimal time. While it’s only located at roughly 40 airports nationwide, it’s also available in some professional sports stadiums around the country. While TSA PreCheck addresses security checkpoint lines, CLEAR addresses the initial line that comes with waiting to get your ID checked by an agent. CLEAR also comes with a membership fee of $179 a year.

Of course, you should consider how often you typically travel in any given year before applying to the above security-clearance services. Honestly, I’d recommend TSA PreCheck even for those who only fly once or twice per year—especially for those that travel home during the busy holiday season.

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