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TSA Pre-Check, CLEAR and Global Entry: Navigating the Differences

Updated: Jan 11, 2020

For frequent flyers, the thought of constantly waiting in long security lines can be frustrating. Fortunately, there are options to expedite the process, which we will break down here.

Photo Credit: Nicole Geri/Unsplash

TSA Preè

The U.S. Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA’s) Pre-Check program costs $85.00 for a five-year membership. The first benefit is the ability to speed through designated security checkpoints and according to the TSA, 93% of members waited less than five minutes for security processing. Another benefit is that TSA Pre√® passengers don’t have to remove shoes, belts or light jackets and don’t have to remove laptops and 3-1-1 liquids from their carry-on luggage. The TSA 3-1-1 Rule means that passengers may carry a quart-sized sealable, clear plastic bag of liquid containers which cannot exceed 3.4 oz. each. Currently more than 200 nationwide airports and 73 airlines participate in the TSA Pre√® program. The application process is straightforward and involves the completion of a five-minute online application and the scheduling of an in-person interview. The background check can be completed at one of over 380 centers nationwide and takes about ten minutes, including fingerprinting. Once completed, members will receive a “Known Traveler Number” which is added to tickets for expedited security processing. Many travel-related credit cards include TSA Pre√® as a cardholder benefit. The TSA website maintains a list which is available here.


New York-based Alclear, LLC offers a biometric system called CLEAR which replaces a physical ID with an iris and fingertip scan. While TSA Pre√® speeds up the physical security screening process, CLEAR is designed to speed up the preceding document check process. In addition to select airports, CLEAR Plus members can enjoy expedited security processing at participating sports stadiums and venues. CLEAR members will look for the CLEAR Lane at participating airports, where they will be greeted by a CLEAR Ambassador who guide them to a CLEAR Pod for identity verification. Next, a CLEAR Ambassador will escort the passenger to physical security screening and those who also have TSA Pre√® will be escorted to the designated lane. A CLEAR membership costs $179.00/year and up to three additional adult members can be added for $50.00/year each. Children under 18 don’t need to enroll and can enjoy expedited processing with an adult CLEAR member. The enrollment process can be started online (about five minutes) but must be completed at a CLEAR location. There, the member will answer a few identity verification questions, provide a valid photo ID and submit their biometric data. If the process wasn’t initiated online, members will also have to provide a payment method at that time.

Global Entry

Like TSA Pre√®, Global Entry is a program which is part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Trusted Traveler Program. Global Entry is designed to expedite U.S. Customs and Border Control clearance for members while re-entering the United States, by utilization of self-service kiosks. The program costs $100.00 for five years and includes TSA Pre√®. The application process involves the creation of a Trusted Traveler Programs (TTP) account, which is required, regardless of age. Next, participants must complete the online application and pay the $100.00 non-refundable fee. Once Customs and Border Control (CBP) has reviewed and conditionally approved the application, the applicant will be instructed on how to schedule an in-person interview, which is required individually. Applicants are required to present a valid passport and a secondary government issued photo ID, such as a driver’s license. Lawful permanent residents must provide a machine-readable permanent resident card. Travelers can apply for TSA Pre√® or Global entry at the TTP website.

Source(s): TSA, TTP, CBP, CLEAR


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