If you are like most travelers, you consider waiting in airport security lines a waste of time. And when you struggle to be on time for appointments consistently, a long line can be the difference between making that business deal, sitting on the beach with a beverage, or visiting friends and family, at least without coughing up more money for a new ticket. And if you do make it barely on time by running at breakneck speeds to your gate only to find there is no room for your carry on suitcase and you end up having to check it instead.
For people like that, or people that want the convenience of a quicker check-in, the US government has provided 2 similar ways of speeding up the process, with a minimal cost. The first, TSA Precheck, allows travelers to go through security lines designated “TSA precheck” at US airports.
One of the best benefits is that you don’t have to take off your shoes, belt, and even keep your light jacket on! Your laptops or 3-1-1 liquids can stay in your personal or carry-on bag, making the security screening smoother and faster.
Some smaller airports however are not TSA pre-check capable (yet).
TSA Pre-check costs $85 and lasts five years. It is quick and simple online application done on the TSA website, and an appointment is scheduled at an enrollment center near you. The appointment doesn't usually take long, usually about 15 minutes, however a background check and fingerprinting are done at that time, along with a few questions. (Nothing invasive, just general questions).
Global Entry works for both domestic and international flights.
The second option is Global Entry, a program that is administered by US Customs and Border Protection. With it, a screening is done that designates the individual as a "low risk, pre-approved” traveler when returning to the US after traveling internationally.
When returning from an international trip to a major US airport, all you do is check in at a designated Global Entry kiosk, put your passport and hand on the scanner, with no need to fill out paperwork, it prints a slip which you take to the customs agent ahead of the rest of the travelers in line. No muss, no fuss.
An additional benefit of Global Entry is that by being approved for Global Entry, you also receive TSA Precheck.
As of this writing, Global Entry costs $100, only $15 more than Precheck. Just like TSA Precheck, it lasts five years, and you will need to submit an online application and set up an appointment. The Global Entry appointment is through a US Customs and Border Protection office easily found by doing a google search for your area. The appointment also lasts approximately 15 minutes with an interview and fingerprinting.
Making an appointment for the interview can sometimes take days or even weeks, so if you are planning on doing it, don’t wait, start the process as soon as you can so you will have it for your next air travel whether it’s in the states or abroad.
So, which one is best for you?
In a nutshell, TSA Precheck is only for domestic air travel and Global Entry is for both domestic and international. If your home airport does not have Global Entry kiosks then Precheck will probably be all that you need. However, a call to the airport to see if they plan on installing them in the future may be good as Global Entry does have the added benefits of the return flights from abroad. Both programs expedite your security screenings at domestic airports on the departing flights. Only Global Entry expedites your entry back into the US after international flights.
For only $15 more, you get both TSA Pre-check and Global Entry. If you plan on traveling out of the country anytime within the five-year period, and your home airport supports it, it's probably worth having Global Entry to shorten your wait time.
To learn click here for the US State Department website.
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Sharon Pearson & AJ! Clonts
Sharon Pearson and AJ! Clonts, are Travel Information Consultants and co-owners of As You Wish Travel Agency. This husband and wife team love to travel and have been working in the travel industry for 4 years. AJ! & Sharon do not charge fees for their services. They focus on premium brands that provide luxury travel Worldwide; including River & Ocean Cruises, Hawaii, and all-inclusive resorts around the world with a specialty in the Caribbean and Mexico.