We’re all subject to different levels of bureaucracy when it comes to moving through airports. Just as airlines have adapted to passengers’ needs by allowing early check-in and mobile boarding passes, customs and the Transportation Security Administration have a few options making it easier to bypass the lines and reach your destination on time.
“Haven’t seen security lines this long since the UK” by Karl Baron
The idea behind Pre-Check is simple: five years of not removing your shoes, notebook computers, liquids, belts, and jackets pre-security at the airport. TSA reports that most passengers under this system wait less than five minutes to go through security. All that’s involved is an $85 fee, an online application, and an in-person visit to an enrollment center. If all goes well, you’ll be good speed through the lines at over 180 airports in the US.
In the words of the US Customs and Border Protection, “Global Entry is a program that allows expedited clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travelers upon arrival in the United States. Members enter the United States through automatic kiosks at select airports.”
Whereas TSA Pre-Check ensures a speedy departure from or across the US, Global Entry makes it that much easier to return. The requirements are similar: an online application precipitating a background check, a $100 fee for a five-year membership, and an in-person interview at a Global Entry Enrollment Center. Some non-US citizens are eligible as well.
What’s the difference?
Global Entry focuses on international travelers and includes TSA Pre-Check; a passport is required. Citizens of certain countries can apply because they need to focus on making their travel time to the US as efficient as possible.
TSA Pre-Check is only available to US citizens and permanent residents. No passport or international travel is necessary.
Which is best for you?
If you’re already a passport holder and plan on at least one international trip in the next five years, it’s only $15 more to qualify for Global Entry and TSA Pre-Check. The time saved certainly offsets the low cost: only $20/year on average. Neither service is available at every airport across the US, but most major hubs are served, making the decision an easy one for frequent travelers.