The Complete Guide to TSA PreCheck

Recently, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has made headlines all over the country due to incredibly long lines at security checkpoints. Travelers at various airports have lamented waits of up to three hours.

Just a few days ago, 450 fliers were stranded overnight at Chicago O’Hare International Airport after missing flights due to long security lines. American Airlines was forced to set up cots for those spending the night at the airport. Several weeks ago, the Port Authority of New York wrote a letter criticizing TSA procedures and threatening to replace the agency with a private firm. The problem has steadily grown over the past few months, and with summer approaching, it seems the end is nowhere in sight.

According to the TSA, wait times are growing because budget cuts have forced the agency to cut its staff, and summer travel season is beginning to ramp up, increasing the number of travelers. This has left TSA checkpoints undermanned and caused lines to swell to increasingly unbearable levels.

In an effort to avoid these waits, many travelers are now using TSA PreCheck, which allows registered and pre-screened fliers to bypass the standard security line. Travelers with PreCheck have their own (usually much shorter) line and are even exempt from removing their shoes and taking laptops and liquids out of their bags.

Meeting planners with packed schedules and frequent trips can expedite their trips by getting PreCheck. But what exactly is it, and how do you apply for it? Here’s what you should know.

Fast Facts

TSA PreCheck offers an expedited security screening process to domestic travelers flying on participating airlines. For frequent international travelers, U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Global Entry program includes the benefits of PreCheck in addition to expedited screening for international flights with participating airlines.
PreCheck costs $85 for five years (Global Entry costs $15 more).
PreCheck is available at more than 160 airports in the United States.
Twelve airlines currently participate in PreCheck: Air Canada, Alaska Airlines, Allegiant Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Southwest Airlines, Sun Country, United Airlines, Virgin America and WestJet.

How to Apply

To be eligible for PreCheck, you must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident and have never violated any customs or immigration laws. Here are the steps you need to take.

1. The first step in the process is to fill out an online application on the TSA website. The application is straightforward but very detailed: You’ll have to list your employment history as well as every country you’ve visited over the past five years.

2. After completing the application, you can expect to receive a response within a week. If the application is approved, you will be eligible to schedule an in-person interview at one of more than 300 application centers around the country. Although walk-ins are welcome, it’s recommended that you make an appointment.

3. When you go to the interview, you will be required to bring identifying documents such as a U.S. passport or a driver’s license, and a birth certificate. You will be fingerprinted and asked questions that confirm the details on your application, as well as about your travel habits. You’ll also need to pay the nonrefundable $85 application fee.

4. The last step is simply to wait. If your application is approved, you’ll receive a notification letter with your known traveler number (KTN), which you can use when booking flights. Your boarding pass will say TSA PRECHK, making you eligible to enter the PreCheck line.

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