Tired of waiting in security lines when you’d rather be getting a coffee or shopping the duty-free shops? Here’s how to speed up your trip through security with TSA PreCheck and similar services.
Long wait times are never pleasant, especially when you’re in a rush—but don’t despair. There are a variety of services available to passengers looking to speed through security, whether they’re traveling domestic or international. While they’re not free, the benefits are significant and certainly worth considering. Let’s take a look at the services that’ll help speed you through security.
Available at over 200 airports in the US for both domestic and international flights, TSA PreCheck lets you enjoy an expedited screening process by providing you with a separate line at security. With an average waiting time of about five minutes, TSA-approved travelers can go through the metal detector without having to take off their shoes, light jacket, or belt, and keep their laptops and liquids in their carry-ons. Given the amount of time that’s usually wasted during this process, it’s easy to see why this service is popular among travelers.
The application process entails a bit of paperwork, a brief interview to determine your status as a low-risk traveler, and an $85 fee for a five-year membership. To add to the enticement, some credit cards and a few loyalty programs offer sign-up credits to cover the cost of the application—if you have a card with air-miles benefits or other travel-related perks, definitely check to see if TSA PreCheck is one of the benefits. The only minor drawback is the fact that this service is only valid with participating airlines.
Before you jump right into getting TSA PreCheck, however, keep reading. Several of the related programs below include TSA PreCheck in their fees.
Particularly beneficial to frequent international travelers, Global Entry helps passengers go from the plane to baggage claim faster and with more autonomy. This U.S. Customs and Border Protection program allows travelers to fast-track their arrival into the country by providing designated kiosks. There, you can scan their passport and fingerprints to verify your identity and print a transaction receipt.
Unlike TSA PreCheck, Global Entry is not exclusive to US citizens and airports. This service is available at many airports around the globe that provide its members with the same benefits. Furthermore, it’s valid with any airline you decide to travel, and the membership includes TSA PreCheck.
The application process involves a brief interview, a background check, and a $100 fee for a five-year membership. Global Entry is the key to stress-free international travel.
Travelers regularly flying between the US and Canada can sign-up for the NEXUS travel program to streamline their airport experience. Citizens and permanent residents of both Canada and the US can benefit from expedited screenings upon arrival at either country, whether it’s by air, land, or sea. In addition, Nexus includes TSA PreCheck access as well as access to the Global Entry system.
Applicants must complete an interview, pass a background check, and be approved by both the US and Canada to be enrolled in the program. The application fee is $50, and membership is good for five years—even if you’re a US citizen who doesn’t intend to travel to Canada anytime soon, it’s a significant saving over just applying for TSA PreCheck.
A trusted traveler program available for frequent visitors of Mexico is the Secure Electronic Network for Travelers Rapid Inspection (SENTRI). It’s like NEXUS but for the US/Mexico border. Members re-entering the US benefit from expedited clearance by using the designated lanes at the airport and land border ports in the south.
As with most programs, applicants must undergo a background check and an interview. The five-year membership costs $122.50 and includes TSA PreCheck.
Working in conjunction with TSA PreCheck and Global Entry, this privately-run membership program lets its members skip the manual identity verification line and head straight to the screening section. Upon arrival at the airport, CLEAR travelers are redirected to a dedicated area with special scanners for their passport, fingerprints, and irises, and then escorted to the screening checkpoint where they wait either on the regular line or on the TSA PreCheck lane if already enrolled in the program.
The service alone might not take you from the entrance to your gate in the blink of an eye, but it certainly cuts down your waiting time at security. Clearly, you can make the most of it if you use it in conjunction with TSA PreCheck.
Opinions on the utility of the CLEAR service are pretty divided, however. Satisfied members not only praise CLEAR for saving them precious time but also for its simple enrolment process compared to other services—there’s no interview required, and the registration process can easily take five minutes to complete. Others are discouraged by the hefty price tag: at $179 for a yearly membership that doesn’t include TSA PreCheck or other services is a bit steep. Unless you’re always traveling for business and every single minute shaved off your time in security is precious, it’s probably not worth getting CLEAR on top of other expedited programs.
International Trusted Traveler Programs
Every year, immigration regulations change, expanding existing services, and adding new ones to facilitate passenger traffic at airports across the world. The more agreements countries set up with one another, the easier it is for their citizens to travel to and from those places. US citizens, for instance, have expedited clearance when traveling between home and Canada or Mexico. However, there are other traveler programs (other than Global Entry) that can benefit Americans when visiting different countries. Here are some examples of such Trusted Traveler programs.
- Ireland: US Preclearance Facility. This facility, located at Terminal 2 in Dublin Airport, lets passengers traveling to the US to go through immigration and all the necessary inspections before departure. Once at their destination, US citizens are welcomed as domestic travelers and can skip the long immigration line to go straight to baggage claim.
- Germany: EasyPASS. Holders of US electronic passports can take advantage of separate lanes at border control (eGates) that let travelers scan their document and go through to arrivals within a few minutes. No customs declaration, no immigration lines.
When traveling abroad, it pays to search for the country you’re traveling too to see if they have programs you can sign up for or specific airports with designated areas with fast entry zones for citizens from approved countries.
Airport security doesn’t have to be a burden. If you’re a frequent flyer or an eager globetrotter that would rather not waste any time waiting in never-ending lines, there are services to make your experience more efficient and less stressful. You just have to pick the right one for you.