What is TSA Precheck: Your Guide to Hassle-Free Airport Security

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TSA PreCheck is a trusted traveler program designed to streamline security at airports across the United States. Members of this program benefit from dedicated airport security lines, resulting in an expedited screening process.

Participating airports have TSA PreCheck lines that are typically faster than standard lines, making it increasingly popular among frequent flyers. With TSA PreCheck, travelers generally enjoy a more convenient experience, as they can keep their shoes, belts, and light outerwear on, and leave their laptops and liquids in their carry-on bags.

Key Takeaways

  • TSA PreCheck is an expedited airport security program for pre-approved travelers.
  • Application involves in-person appointment for documentation and fingerprinting.
  • Members use dedicated security lines, keeping laptops and liquids in carry-on bags.
Gates sign airport

Understanding TSA Precheck

TSA PreCheck is a membership program that helps travelers enjoy a more streamlined airport security experience. By being a member, you can access dedicated security lines and expedited screenings at several hundred airports in the United States.

Upon approval, you receive a Known Traveler Number (KTN), which you should include in your airline reservations. This number makes it easier for you to save time during the security screening process.

TSA PreCheck passengers benefit from shorter wait times and less hassle. For example, you won’t need to remove your shoes, belts, 3-1-1 liquids, laptops, or light jackets during the screening process.

Another beneficial program to consider is Global Entry, which offers expedited entry for pre-approved travelers entering the United States. Global Entry membership also includes TSA PreCheck, making it a valuable option for frequent international travelers.

To apply for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry, you must meet specific eligibility requirements and complete an application process, which may include an interview and a background check. Once approved, your membership can significantly improve your airport security experience, allowing for smoother and worry-free travel.

Eligibility Criteria

U.S. Citizens and U.S. Nationals

As a U.S. citizen or U.S. national, you are eligible to apply for TSA PreCheck®. Enrolling in the program allows you to experience faster security screening at airports across the country.

Lawful Permanent Residents

If you are a lawful permanent resident, you can also apply for TSA PreCheck®. It is open to individuals in this category, ensuring they too can benefit from expedited airport security procedures.

U.S. Armed Forces

Members of the U.S. Armed Forces, including reservists and National Guard members, are automatically enrolled in TSA PreCheck®. To use your TSA PreCheck benefits, simply provide your Department of Defense ID number as your Known Traveler Number when booking a flight.

aircraft at airport

How to Apply

Online Application

Visit the TSA PreCheck website to start your application process. Select an enrollment provider with locations near you and submit your online application in as little as 5 minutes.

In-Person Appointment

After completing your online application, schedule a 10-minute appointment at your chosen provider’s location. During this appointment, you’ll be required to provide your fingerprints, a document with your photo, and make a payment.

Once your application is approved, you’ll receive a Known Traveler Number (KTN) in 3-5 days, although in some cases it can take up to 60 days. Make sure to include your KTN in your flight reservations to take advantage of TSA PreCheck benefits.

Payment and Fees

Application Fee

The TSA PreCheck program has a non-refundable application fee of $85, which covers enrollment for a period of five years. You can pay this fee with a money order, credit card, or certified check.

Renewal Cost

When your TSA PreCheck membership is about to expire, you’ll need to renew it. The renewal cost is the same as the initial application fee, which is a non-refundable $85. Remember that your TSA PreCheck membership is valid for five years, so make sure to renew it on time to continue enjoying the benefits.

Understanding Security Screening Process

Expedited Screening

With TSA PreCheck, you can enjoy expedited screening at over 200 airports across the U.S. This means shorter waiting times and a smoother process when passing through security checkpoints.

As a TSA PreCheck member, you won’t need to remove your shoes, belts, or light jackets. This makes it more convenient for you, as you can keep your belongings organized and get through security with ease.

3-1-1 Liquids

When you’re a TSA PreCheck member, the 3-1-1 liquids rule is still in effect, but you can leave them in your carry-on bag during screening. This means that each passenger can bring liquids, gels, and aerosols in containers of 3.4 ounces (100 milliliters) or smaller, all packed within a single, clear, one-quart-sized zip-top bag.

Carrying laptops is also more convenient with TSA PreCheck. You won’t have to remove it from your carry-on, which saves you time and keeps your belongings secure. Remember, this smoother and expedited screening experience is available to you only if you become a member of the TSA PreCheck program.

A passenger jet aircraft shot at the Stuttgart airport (EDDS, STR), Baden-Wuerttemberg, Germany

Identification Documents

U.S. Passport

A U.S. Passport is an essential identification document for TSA PreCheck. It must be unexpired and can be either a passport book or card.

Driver’s License

Another acceptable form of identification is a Driver’s License or other state-issued photo identity card. Ensure that it’s unexpired and issued by the Department of Motor Vehicles (or equivalent).

Birth Certificate

While a Birth Certificate isn’t accepted as a standalone identification document for TSA PreCheck, it can be helpful in combination with other documents. For example, if you have a foreign passport, you may need to provide your Birth Certificate to establish proof of citizenship.

Remember to carry the necessary identification documents when applying for or using your TSA PreCheck benefits. This ensures a hassle-free experience during airport security screenings.

Additional Trusted Traveler Programs

Global Entry

Global Entry is a trusted traveler program that provides expedited customs clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travelers upon arrival in the United States. You can enjoy shorter wait times at designated kiosks, and this membership includes TSA PreCheck benefits for faster airport security screening.


NEXUS is a program designed for frequent travelers between the United States and Canada. As a NEXUS member, you can expedite your travel process when crossing the US-Canada border at designated air, land, and marine ports of entry. Additionally, you may be eligible for TSA PreCheck and Global Entry benefits, depending on your nationality.


SENTRI is a trusted traveler program that offers expedited processing for pre-approved, low-risk travelers entering the United States from Mexico. This program provides dedicated vehicle lanes at select land border crossings and faster entry with approved vehicles. SENTRI members can also take advantage of TSA PreCheck and Global Entry benefits when meeting eligibility requirements.

By participating in any of these trusted traveler programs, you can streamline your travel experience while maintaining security and efficiency. Evaluate your travel needs and choose the program that best fits your requirements for travel between countries.

Airlines and Airports

Participating Airlines

TSA PreCheck is a valuable program for frequent flyers, offering expedited airport security lines and streamlined screening. It involves over 90+ participating airlines to enhance your travel experience. Some major airlines include American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, and Southwest Airlines.

Participating Airports

TSA PreCheck is not only limited to select airlines but also extends to more than 200 airports across the United States. When traveling domestically, you’ll enjoy quick access through security checkpoints at airports such as Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL), and Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD).

Utilizing the dedicated TSA PreCheck lanes, you can expect shorter wait times and a more comfortable travel experience. Additionally, TSA PreCheck members are not required to remove shoes, belts, or light jackets, making your airport security experience even more efficient and streamlined.

jet2 aircraft cabin
Me onboard a Jet2 flight

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I apply for TSA PreCheck?

To apply for TSA PreCheck, visit the TSA’s PreCheck website and select the enrollment provider that meets your needs. You can pre-enroll online and schedule an appointment for the in-person process.

What is the turnaround time for approval?

The turnaround time for TSA PreCheck approval varies, but many applicants receive their Known Traveler Number (KTN) within 2-3 weeks of submitting their application.

Can I use TSA PreCheck for international flights?

Yes, TSA PreCheck can be used for outbound international flights departing from the United States. However, it doesn’t exempt you from customs and immigration procedures upon arrival in other countries.

How do I schedule a TSA PreCheck appointment?

Schedule a TSA PreCheck appointment by first completing the online pre-enrollment process on the TSA’s PreCheck website. After that, choose your preferred enrollment center and schedule an in-person appointment.

What’s the difference between Global Entry and TSA PreCheck?

TSA PreCheck focuses on expedited security checks for domestic and outbound international flights, while Global Entry includes expedited customs and immigration clearance for travelers entering the United States. Global Entry enrollees also receive TSA PreCheck benefits.

Where can I find nearby TSA PreCheck locations?

Find nearby TSA PreCheck enrollment centers by visiting the TSA’s PreCheck website and using the “Find an Enrollment Center” tool. This will help you locate the nearest centers based on your location.

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