If you’re traveling by air soon, here’s a heads up! Because of the government shutdown, TSA agents have been calling in sick at double the normal rates. This has led to longer lines in the security checkpoints.
That’s why now is an ideal time to beat airport delays by applying for TSA PreCheck (you must be a U.S. citizen or a foreign citizen registered as Lawful Permanent Resident to sign up).
TSA PreCheck: What to know before you sign up
The nation’s airports and airlines are strongly suggesting that travelers arrive at least three hours in advance to allow for longer security wait times. But with TSA PreCheck, you can cut your wait time considerably.
Entry into the program saves considerable time at security lines by enterng a separate designated and expedited PreCheck security line.
Perks include leaving on light outerwear and jackets and belts. You can also keep laptops and small liquids in your bag (although random checks can occur).
In November 2018, 93% of PreCheck passengers waited less than 5 minutes to clear the security lines.
How much does TSA PreCheck cost and how do I sign up?
The cost for TSA PreCheck is $85, nonrefundable (rejected applicants will not receive a refund), and your status is valid for five years.
After completing an online application applicants will be required to schedule a 10-minute, in-person appointment (includes a background check and fingerprinting) at any of 380+ enrollment centers. Click here to find one near you. Search results will show available appointment slots over the next 45 days.
The TSA runs applicant information through law enforcement, intelligence, and immigration records. Those denied will have popped up on government watch lists or found on a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention list.
Within two to three weeks after the in-person appointment (typical wait time is 10 days), an applicant will receive an acknowledgment letter with a tracking number and notes on whether additional information will be needed to process the request.
Once approved, the traveler must also be a member of the frequent flyer program of the airline they plan to fly with and the assigned Known Traveler Number (KTN) must be added to the flight reservation, along with the loyalty program credentials (you can call an airline to do this for you).
An important note: The name on the original application must be exactly the same on any flight reservation — that includes middle initials, additional last names, and dash (-) last names. Otherwise, TSA PreCheck will not appear on the travelers boarding pass. That is necessity to enter the expedited security lines.
Can minors use TSA PreCheck?
Children ages 12 and under are eligible to use the TSA PreCheck security lanes with a parent or guardian. Kids older than 12 will need their own membership.
If you travel internationally, consider paying $15 more ($100 total) for Global Entry. That program includes PreCheck. You may have a credit card in your wallet that will pay for the application cost of Global Entry.
Other security programs include SENTRI, and Nexus, all of which are programs of the Department of Homeland Security. Once approved for those, a traveler can participate in TSA PreCheck. For instance, if you frequently travel to/from Canada, you pay $50 for NEXUS and gain access to both TSA PreCheck and Global Entry.
Here are some more travel-related articles you might enjoy from Clark.com:
- Global Entry: 5 things to know before you sign up
- Remove the Twinkies from your carry-on: TSA’s new stance on screening snack foods
- Going through airport security? Here’s how to protect your belongings