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TSA Precheck Now Open to All Applicants

In this undated photo provided by the Transportation Security Administration, a backscatter operator views a scan from a backscatter machine. Once I have my Known Traveler Number and can breeze through the Precheck line, standing still and holding my hands above my head will be a thing of the past! At least in most major airports.
Photo Courtesy: Transportation Security Administration

The day would inevitably come sooner or later. It appears today is finally that day that so many travelers have anticipated for quite a while. 

I've used this space previously to write about the Transportation Security Administration Pre✓™ (or Precheck, if you prefer) program, and how it will change the way we travel. For those unfamiliar with the Precheck program: select trusted travelers would be allowed access to faster security lanes at select airports across the United States. This privileged lane allows travelers to keep on belts, shoes, and keep select items (like laptops and 3-1-1 compliant liquids) in their carry-on bags,  and walk through a metal detector instead of the backscatter machines. This creates a faster and easier experience for the trusted traveler. 

Previously, Precheck was only guaranteed to accepted applicants in Custom and Border Protection's Trusted Traveler Programs (Global Entry, NEXUS, or SENTRI), active duty military, and select frequent flyers in the major airlines' frequent flyer programs. On Monday, the TSA announced that this select benefit would be open for new applications into the program on a stand-alone basis. 

So how does the new Precheck program work? For $85 (estimated price), you can apply for guaranteed Precheck status with the TSA. The application will be a two-step process, starting with the application. Second, once the application is submitted, applicants will have to travel to a Precheck enrollment center (currently planned for Washington Dulles and Indianapolis Airports) to prove their identity with a photo ID, and provide fingerprints. Once complete, the clearing process is anticipated to take less than a month, and approved travelers will receive a letter in the mail with their approval information and Known Traveler Number. 

In many ways, this is very good news for travelers. First off, this opens up the Precheck and Trusted Traveler program to many previously unqualified travelers, or travelers who will not be leaving the United States. Because travelers aren't required to provide a passport from a participating country to enroll (as they are for Global Entry or the North American trusted traveler programs), it appears that there is potential for many U.S. residents and business travelers to join the program. Plus, once approved, the status is good for five years - breaking down the price to only $17 per year. When you consider how Precheck makes getting through the security checkpoint a much easier (and faster) process, it's a rather low price to pay for convenience. 

That being said, is it the best value for the traveler? NEXUS costs only $50 each, and each provides expedited entry into and from Canada for nationals of the United States and Canada. For $50 more, Global Entry provides expedited processing into the United States at any supporting port of entry. Global Entry is open to citizens and permanent residents, as well as citizens of several countries, including South Korea and Mexico. For a little more, SENTRI provides expedited entry from several ports along the United States/Mexico border. In addition to expedited entry benefits, entry in each program is valid for five years, and each provide a Known Traveler Number - thus opening the Precheck program to these travelers. Additionally, Precheck is still available to select frequent flyers through participating frequent flyer programs for free. But the problem with that is that unlike the programs mentioned above, Precheck is not necessarily ensured for all applying travelers.

For the casual traveler who has no interest in traveling abroad, this new TSA program offers a relatively fast, convenient, and easy way to obtain trusted traveler status. For the value, the new Precheck application allows for the regular traveler the opportunity to breeze through security. But for those travelers who have grandeurs of seeing the globe, or visiting our North American neighbors on a regular basis (like me), my opinion remains that applying for one of the three international programs is a better value and offers more. 

How do you feel about the TSA opening up Precheck for application? Do you plan on applying for Precheck? Leave me a comment below with your thoughts!

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