Back in July I wrote about the TSA’s plans to open up registration directly in the Pre-Check program. For those of you not familiar with Pre-Check, it’s an expedited airport security screening process available at select airports in the US, where you don’t have to take off your shoes, take your laptop out of your bag, etc.

Up until now the two ways to enroll for TSA Pre-Check have been either directly through an airline’s frequent flyer program (typically limited to elite members) or to be enrolled in Global Entry, SENTRI, or NEXUS.

Well, the TSA finally opened up registration directly in the Pre-Check program today. You can enroll here, and there’s an $85 non-refundable fee for doing so, regardless of whether you get approved or not. You have to visit an enrollment center in order to process the application, and the first enrollment center is at Indianapolis Airport.

TSA-Enrollment

Here are all the details on how it works:

  • Applicants must be a U.S. citizen, U.S. national or Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) and cannot have been convicted of certain crimes. If an applicant has a record of any of the crimes identified in the eligibility requirements, they may choose not to apply, as the application fee is nonrefundable.
  • TSA Eligibility Requirements
  • Interested applicants must visit an application center to provide biographic information (name, date of birth, address, etc.), fingerprints and valid required identity and citizenship/immigration documentation. Applicants also have the option to pre-enroll online to provide basic information and make an appointment before visiting an enrollment center.
  • Nonrefundable application fee of $85.00.
  • After completing enrollment, successful applicants will receive a Known Traveler Number (KTN) via U.S. mail after approximately 2-3 weeks or may check online after five business days.
  • To participate in TSA Pre✓™ enter the KTN in the ‘Known Traveler Field’ when booking travel reservations or enter the KTN in airline frequent flyer profiles, where it will be stored for future reservations.

Sadly Pre-Check isn’t what it once was. When it was first introduced it was a huge time saver since not many people had access to it, and more importantly, the people that did have access to it seemed to know what they were doing. The number of people eligible for Pre-Check has gone up exponentially, which I’m not opposed to, but my issue is that they don’t know how to use the damn lane! So they still take everything out of their bags, take off their shoes, etc., and it ends up slowing down the Pre-Check lane to the point that it’s often longer than the general lane.

Anyway, I suppose it’s a nice option for people, but ultimately you’re better off paying $100 for Global Entry and picking up Pre-Check in the process. Or the absolute best option is to get NEXUS for $50, which gives you both Global Entry and Pre-Check as well.

  1. December 4th, 2013 at 3:42 pm

    Bgriff said,

    I was recently at a small airport that just added Precheck and the TSA agent at the front of the line had an iPad with what appeared to be some sort of random number generator (the screen said “TSA randomizer” or something like that) which was being used to let some people into the Precheck line who weren’t otherwise qualified. That kind of behavior certainly explains why many people in the Precheck line don’t seem to know what’s going on, and isn’t a great incentive for people to pay to have access to it.

  2. December 4th, 2013 at 3:52 pm

    jmd001 said,

    How will this process of “pay and your prove identity” to be part of PreCheck affect those of us who have been “accepted” for PreCheck on the basis of our elite status on an airline? For the time being, I am assuming that the “accepted based on elite status” will continue. Any conjecture as to will we eventually have to pay $85 every 5 years regardless of status to stay “accepted”?

  3. December 4th, 2013 at 3:58 pm

    lucky said,

    @ jmd001 — It shouldn’t impact those that already have access to Pre-Check, and I doubt that will change.

  4. December 4th, 2013 at 4:03 pm

    J said,

    meh to foreigners who don’t qualify for this :( we live here too!

  5. December 4th, 2013 at 4:07 pm

    Nathan said,

    I did Nexus for my family and I. Kids are free in that program too

  6. December 4th, 2013 at 4:09 pm

    NICK said,

    Lucky I get confused with all these different programs…I already have GOES, which provided me with the “Known Traveler Number.” So I’m done, right? I just enter my KTN on the airlines websites and it goes into PreCheck, correct? Thanks.

  7. December 4th, 2013 at 4:14 pm

    lucky said,

    @ Nick — Correct, if you have a KTN you’re good to go.

  8. December 4th, 2013 at 4:14 pm

    Justin said,

    I recently had an issue at PDX where every time I’d transit Pre-Check I was subject to a hand swab, and subsequent pat-down. I complained via e-mail to the TSA at PDX and received a call the next day from the Stakeholder & Customer Relations Manager. She told me they’re doing what’s called “Managed Inclusion”, which involves a real-time threat assessment of passengers so they can offer expedited screening to a larger number of travelers. Essentially, this means they’ve increased scrutiny through the Pre-Check line since it’s no longer just people who are pre-vetted by the TSA. I think this is what @Bgriff is describing, and it sounds like a devaluation of the Pre-Check benefits. On the plus side, she told me to give her a call next time I’m in PDX so I can get an escort through Pre-Check. Not too shabby.

  9. December 4th, 2013 at 4:36 pm

    Ivan Y said,

    Just got my Global Entry approved and received the card. Do I use my PASSID for KTN or is there some other number I need to use? Or do I leave KTN blank?

  10. December 4th, 2013 at 4:41 pm

    UAPremierGuy said,

    Ugh. Sorry, but this is BAD news. Pre-check already took a turn for the worse when they started randomly letting people into the pre-chek lane that otherwise weren’t pre-check eligible at select airports (HNL, DEN come to mind as examples). Pre-check was about the only thing that the TSA has actually done well, and now, by opening it up to every Tom, Dick, and Harry, they’ve reduced the value, and usefulness of an otherwise great program.

  11. December 4th, 2013 at 5:04 pm

    Vicente said,

    So this is PreCheck only with no customs inclusion? NO thanks, highly worth the extra $15 to have simpler customs entry IMO. I’m pretty sure they will ramp up PreCheck lanes if lots of people register, not worried about that part.

  12. December 4th, 2013 at 5:07 pm

    lucky said,

    @ Ivan Y — You put your KTN in the field.

  13. December 4th, 2013 at 5:07 pm

    lucky said,

    @ Vicente — Yep, totally agree.

  14. December 4th, 2013 at 5:12 pm

    FAN said,

    What is the difference in definition between us nationals and citizens?

  15. December 4th, 2013 at 5:21 pm

    Ivan Y said,

    @ Lucky – Global Entry doesn’t give you a “Known” travel number – GOES calls them “Trusted” travel numbers (for Global Entry, it’s PASS ID/Membership Number). And, I will answer my own question – according to this page (http://www.globalentry.gov/tsa.html), PASS ID is what goes into KTN field.

  16. December 4th, 2013 at 6:08 pm

    Kelly said,

    @Nick and @Lucky –
    I’m confused as well. I’ve been Pre-check under the elite invite method since inception and have enjoyed the benefits. I’ve established a GOES user ID and password toward applying for NEXUS, but am suspending my application (more on that another time).

    So, if I’m Pre-Check and have signed up for GOES – how in the world do I find my KTN/TTN/PASS ID? Ostensibly, I’d have to have one if they’re opening up Pre-Check to the world and providing those numbers to those folks, right?

    I’m also confused on the whole benefit of NEXUS/GE. From a conversation with a GE rep at PDX, these programs only offer expedited re-entry into the US and have no value/benefit when arriving in a foreign country. Typically, when we travel internationally, it’s on an F or J award and we’ve always been offered Fast Track, even when re-entering the US. Am I missing anything here?

  17. December 4th, 2013 at 6:45 pm

    Santastico said,

    Soon TSA Pre Check lines will be ore crowded than the regular ones. It is like having Delta status, when the agent calls Medallions the entire board area stands up and rushes to board the plane.

  18. December 4th, 2013 at 7:12 pm

    snic said,

    I was about to ask, “Why would anyone sign up for Global Entry or PreCheck when Nexus gives you the same benefits (and more) and is cheaper?” Then I found out that you have to go to a Canadian border station to enroll, so if you don’t live near one, you’re pretty much out of luck.

    But is Nexus really cheaper? Does the card expire after 5 years, like Global Entry, or less than that? Surprisingly, the CBP website has no information (that I could find) on this.

  19. December 4th, 2013 at 7:49 pm

    gobluetwo said,

    @Kelly – there are some countries with reciprocal benefits for Global Entry members. Some are automatic (like Australia’s Smart Gate) and some offer you the opportunity to sign up for their own trusted taveller programs (like S Korea’s SES).
    http://globalentry.gov/otherprograms.html

    @snic – Global Entry received through Nexus is the same GE you’d get on its own, good for 5 years. Plus, you get Nexus for travel into Canada. As to whether or not it’s “cheaper”, depends on factors like whether or not you are in a program that reimburses or pays for your GE fee (Platinum AmEx, United Plat or higher), and whether you’d have to make an extra trip to Canada (or that one place in Seattle) to interview for Nexus. For me, as a UA Plat, GE alone was the way to go. Also, no frequent travel to Canada recently or planned any time soon.

  20. December 4th, 2013 at 8:20 pm

    Franklyn said,

    @Kelly

    If you obtain PreCheck through your airline, you don’t have a Known Traveler number (or one that you have access to). This means in order to get PreCheck, you MUST fly the airline you have status with. If you don’t, the TSA has no idea Kelly Smith who has elite on United is the same Kelly Smith who all of a sudden is flying Delta.

    By applying for any of the Trusted Traveler programs, you get a Known Traveler number (or at least one that you know) that you can put on ANY airline reservation and get PreCheck (including the airline you have elite status on). There are rumors that those who have paid for a Trusted Traveler program get PreCheck way more often than those who only get it through elite status.

    As for Global Entry, There are some countries where Global Entry will allow you to enroll in their own Trusted Traveler program for an additional fee (Schiphol’s Privium and Seoul’s Smart Entry Service) or as a part of your Global Entry membership (like Australia can use your Global Entry card at their SmartEntry Gates and dedicated Global Entry lanes at Auckland).

    @snic
    NEXUS is cheaper and expires after 5 years just like Global Entry. Only problem is getting an appointment in Canada. Most of the airports are booked 3 months in advance.

  21. December 4th, 2013 at 8:33 pm

    Nick said,

    @ Kelly

    Global Entry program Membership# = GOES PASS ID = Trusted Traveler Number = Known Traveler Number, it seems.

    Your Global Entry program Membership # is on your final approval letter. It is the 9-digit number.

  22. December 5th, 2013 at 3:27 am

    Paul said,

    If you want to see how much Pre-check has gone downhill just visit IAD for an afternoon flight. Often the line stretches down the concourse and is longer than the actual screening line. By the time you get to the actual pre-check scanner, half the people have been redirected since they are not eligible or were just curious as to what it was. Others are not familiar with how it works, and as previously mentioned, take off shoes, etc. Pre-check is great for that early morning flight but I have to add an extra 90 minutes in the afternoon just for this expedited screening.

  23. December 5th, 2013 at 8:42 am

    Brian said,

    We just got sent through the pre-check line at LAS and it was much much slower than the normal line. We were just sent over there along with a bunch of other people

  24. December 5th, 2013 at 8:43 am

    Andrew B said,

    I think TSA could do a better job with education about Pre-Check. Signage isn’t clear about how you have to be invted to Pre-Check, and what it entitles you to. Even when I went for my Global Entry interview and I asked what Pre-Check entails, they said “you get through airport security faster.” I obviously already knew that, but wanted to know the details (i.e. do I have to remove my shoes, take laptop/liquids out, etc.). Also, one time I saw a man yelling at a TSA agent because he “usually gets Pre-Check” but wasn’t selected this time — he didn’t seem to know that sometimes they don’t give it to you.

    I’m totally fine with more people having access if they increase the program’s capacity accordingly and educate people about its benefits.

  25. December 5th, 2013 at 9:24 pm

    myelopath said,

    My wife applied for and got approved for Global Entry – which we have used many times successfully.

    I automatically got TSA pre-check, however, she never did. She is a permanent resident with green card for many years. Do you think its worth a telephone call to see what’s up or just a lost cause?

  26. December 5th, 2013 at 10:56 pm

    lucky said,

    @ myelopath — Have you been filling out the Known Traveler Number on her reservations? That should do the trick.

  27. December 7th, 2013 at 1:49 am

    Alan said,

    So annoying that despite having GE I still can’t get TSAPre as a non-US citizen – surely having been through all the screening it should be provided? :(

  28. February 7th, 2014 at 6:07 am

    Jim B said,

    I am on my way to racking up a ton of mikes with a new job, so I do not have elite flight status. I live in Dallas and every thing I read says The closest center to go for an interview is OKC? You would think there has to be a way to apply in Dallas, right? Am I missing something?

  29. February 7th, 2014 at 5:10 pm

    lucky said,

    @ Jim B — That is indeed correct as of now. You’d be better off getting Global Entry which comes with Pre-Check, as you can complete your interview for that at Dallas Airport.

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