Recently, I got approved for enrollment in both TSA PreCheck and Global Entry. If you’re not sure what these programs are, they relate to airport security. Frequent fliers often register for them so if you fall into this category, consider getting which one applies to you. Or both.
Mainly, they are expedited security screening programs for traveling within or out of the U.S. I’m sure you’re familiar with waiting your turn to go through the security detectors, taking off your shoes, belt, and coat, pulling out your laptop and your clear bag of 3-1-1 compliant toiletries, and putting them all through the scanner. TSA PreCheck and Global Entry changes this scenario. If you’re considered to be a low risk flier – i.e., no questionable background or history – and fit with certain citizenship requirements, being a member in these programs eliminates these necessities. And, in most cases, you avoid a lengthy wait. You still have to go through security, but usually in a different line, and you don’t need to do all the required clothing/luggage removals.
Here’s what each program is about:
TSA PreCheck is for fliers that meet certain citizenship requirements and departing from the U.S. and is valid for five years. To apply for the program, you can either do so on online or through scheduling an in-person appointment. There’s also a third option of going straight to an application center, but your chances of that happening depend on how busy the day is. I lucked out at JFK with a walk-in appointment, but that’s probably because the TSA security checkpoint was surprisingly quiet. Plus I tend to go to the airport early. Screening appointments can run behind, so you want to make sure you allow enough time to avoid stressing out about making your flight. Mine lasted maybe 30 minutes or so. Also, at your appointment, you need to have certain paperwork on you like your driver’s license or passport and other requirements. There is an $85 non-refundable processing fee as well.
Upon approval, you’re assigned what’s called a Known Traveler Number (KTN) that you give when buying a plane ticket. (Currently, most major carriers and airports participate in TSA PreCheck. Check online for confirmation). Your KTN will appear on your boarding pass. Although you can save your KTN to your frequent flier account, it’s best to type it in every time to be certain it’s correctly placed in the system. Plus, be sure your name is exactly listed on your ticket as it is for your TSAPrecheck (for example if you go by your full name, it has to match), as a slight difference can cause a slight problem.
Global Entry involves admittance into the U.S. and extends to other different citizenship requirements. When coming back in and going through customs, you often would head to what’s called a Global Entry kiosk, to process your passport and have your fingerprints scanned for identification. Plus, at the kiosk, you fill out a customs declaration.
Applying is done online only. You have to create an account through what’s called the Global Online Enrollment System or GOES. Through your account, your application will require certain personal information, so be thorough when filling out the requirements. You also pay a $100 non-returnable application fee.
Once officials approve your application, you’ll get an email about scheduling an interview. To set one up, you have to go back into your GOES account and select a date, time, and location (there is a list of processing centers, depending on the state you live in, to click on and choose from). On your interview day, bring certain documents like your passport or resident card, a second form of ID and a print out of an email saying that you’ve been approved. And don’t be late! You’ll have an interview with a DHS official, who will ask you certain background questions. Your photo and fingerprints will be also taken. With your approval, a Global Entry card will be sent to you in the mail. (I also got a paper copy with my number on it before leaving.)
Another Global Entry member bonus is that you will be eligible for getting TSA PreCheck. (Editor’s note: I didn’t know this information beforehand. If I did, I would have applied for Global Entry first. Oh well). Like its counterpart, Global Entry approval lasts five years.
Either way, having membership in both programs helps if you’re a serious traveler. But the choice is up to you. Learn more about them plus other options here.