Make Air Travel Easier: Apply for TSA Pre-Check Status
Having “TSA Pre-Check” printed on your boarding pass makes air travel so much easier, allowing low-risk travelers to speed through airport security with fewer hassles. Here’s what you need to know so you and your family can benefit.
What Does TSA Pre-Check Provide?
With this special status, you’re eligible to go through expedited security lanes, eliminating many of the inconveniences that have become typical of air travel.
Generally, you don’t need to take off your shoes, belt, or light jacket to walk through the metal detector. However, you will need to remove these items if any have significant metal parts—you still need to make sure the metal detector doesn’t beep.
Depending on the airport, you can usually keep your laptop and liquids inside your bag when you send them through the x-ray machine.
Keep in mind that random security checks still apply, so you might be asked to comply with the usual security measures.
How To Apply for TSA Pre-Check
Initially restricted to frequent flyers of certain airlines, the general population has been able to apply since December 2013. You must be a law-abiding U.S. citizen, a U.S. national or a Lawful Permanent Resident to be eligible.
In order to apply, you need to provide the kind of information that allows the TSA to perform a background check on you. The required information includes your name, address, gender, date of birth and social security number. The TSA's website provides a list of valid identification documents, such as an unexpired passport or unexpired enhanced US driver's licence.
You’ll also need to visit a TSA enrollment center to provide fingerprints and have your identification verified. The website also has an enrollment center locator tool so that you can find the closest location to you by entering your zip code, your city, or your airport.
To speed things up, submit your information via the online form available on TSA's website. You’ll also save time by making an appointment at an enrollment center because walk-ins are processed on a first-come first-served basis.
There is a nonrefundable $85 charge to apply, and the TSA Pre-Check status is valid for a five-year period. You may pay the fee with a credit card, money order, company check or certified check.
The TSA's website provides links to credit cards and loyalty programs that reimburse cardholders for all or part of the application fee or that allow you to use reward points to pay the fee. These programs change frequently, but cards that have offered this service include the Citi Executive Mastercard with AAdvantage Elite Travel Benefits, and the Chase Sapphire Reserve card.
After you’ve provided the TSA with all the necessary information, it should take less than four weeks for your application to be processed and for you to receive your Known Traveler Number. Add that number to your frequent flyer accounts and provide it to the airline when you buy your ticket. This helps ensure that your boarding passes indicate you are eligible to use the expedited TSA Pre-Check line.
Kids and the TSA Pre-Check
You don’t need to get your kids under 12 their own TSA Precheck status; they’re allowed to enter the fast-track lane with their parent/guardian who has the status. If they’re traveling with someone else, however, your benefits don’t extend to them. There is no age restriction on applying, so your kids can get their own status if you prefer. In any case, they will need their own status once they're 13 to join you in the special security lanes.
Johanna Read is a Canadian freelance writer and photographer specializing in travel, food, and responsible tourism. Writing for a variety of Canadian and international publications, she likes to encourage travel that is culturally, economically, and environmentally sustainable. Links to all her travel stories are at www.TravelEater.net. Follow her on Twitter @TravelEater and on Instagram @TravelEaterJohanna.