Now that travel has returned (with a vengeance) everyone is asking how to bypass the long lines at the airport. Experienced travelers know the secret to keeping your shoes on and speeding through airport security: TSA PreCheck, Global Entry, NEXUS and CLEAR® Plus.
TSA PreCheck provides expedited, less intrusive screening at domestic airports in the United States. Global Entry allows expedited entry via air, land and sea into the United States and includes TSA PreCheck. NEXUS provides expedited entry into Canada via air, land and sea, while also offering full TSA PreCheck and Global Entry benefits. CLEAR Plus provides rapid identity verification and a shortcut through airport security.
What is the difference between each of these and how do you obtain them?
TSA PreCheck is a membership program run by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), that allows travelers to use an expedited airport security line. In these dedicated lines, travelers undergo a less-intrusive airport security screening than other passengers. TSA PreCheck members have been pre-screened through a background check and assessed to be low risk.
At airport security, TSA PreCheck members are allowed to keep their shoes on, belt and light jackets on. They can also leave their laptops and 3-1-1 liquids in their suitcase or carry-on bag. Children 12 and under may use the TSA PreCheck lane when traveling with a parent or guardian who has TSA PreCheck membership without registering. Teens 13 to 17 can also accompany their parent or guardian without enrolling but may still be subject to regular screening..TSA PreCheck is available at more than 200 airports throughout the U.S. with over 80 participating airlines. This program is intended for domestic use only, so there are no international airport locations.
Global Entry is a membership program run by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, a federal agency. This program provides expedited immigration screening upon entering the U.S., via air, land, or sea. Travelers with Global Entry membership have been preapproved and assessed as low-risk based on a rigorous background check and in-person interview.
Global Entry membership also includes TSA PreCheck, so you do not have to get both. Unlike TSA PreCheck, Global Entry membership is necessary for each person that wants to use Global Entry benefits, including infants and children. That means families cannot use Global Entry unless every individual is a member.
Members can use Global Entry kiosks at ports of entry in the U.S. and at select U.S. pre-clearance locations around the world. U.S. pre-clearance locations at international airports allow travelers to the U.S. to clear immigration and customs prior to departure instead of on arrival to the U.S.
NEXUS is designed for travelers who frequently travel between the U.S. and Canada in addition to other international locations. A NEXUS membership includes expedited entry into the U.S. and Canada at land, marine and air borders. When flying, NEXUS includes all TSA PreCheck and Global Entry benefits, as well as access to NEXUS kiosks when arriving in Canada. By land, NEXUS members have access to the dedicated NEXUS and SENTRI lanes at land border crossings that typically have shorter lines than the regular lanes available to the general public.
CLEAR Plus is a privately-owned company that provides biometric identification services. This membership program accelerates traveler identification by using biometrics instead of traditional identification methods. Dedicated CLEAR Plus lanes at airports have kiosks that perform iris or fingerprint scans to confirm your identity, bypassing the regular TSA document check queue. CLEAR Plus doesn’t include TSA PreCheck, so you’ll still be subject to standard screening requirements such as taking off your shoes or removing your laptop and liquids from your bags at security. If you want the benefits of TSA PreCheck’s reduced screening requirements, you’ll need to enroll in TSA PreCheck in addition to CLEAR Plus.
Many airports offer a separate CLEAR Plus checkpoint for those with TSA PreCheck or will funnel those with TSA PreCheck through to the correct security line. While CLEAR Plus registration is limited to adults 18 and older, children can use the service when traveling with a registered adult. Note that children do not have to be related to the accompanying adult to use CLEAR Plus.
CLEAR Plus is available at over 50 airports in the U.S. If you frequently attend sporting events and concerts, CLEAR Plus may also help you skip the line there as well, since many stadiums have begun using CLEAR services as an alternative to traditional ID checks. A free app-based version of CLEAR is available for event entry.
Currently, application fees are $100 or less each for TSA PreCheck, Global Entry and NEXUS and covers benefits for five years. CLEAR Plus membership is significantly more expensive at $189 per year, which is why it isn’t ideal for occasional travelers. You must begin the process of applying for TSA and Global Entry months in advance by filling out forms online, then making an appointment for an interview.
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