If you have had to g through the security line at a mid- to large-sized airport in the United States any time in the past few years, you have likely seen a TSA PreCheck line.
But what is TSA PreCheck and, more importantly, how does it work?
What Is PreCheck?
TSA PreCheck™ (sometimes called “TSA Pre✓™”) is a program that allows low-risk travelers to have an expedited security line during both domestic and International flights originating in the United States.
The official website of the TSA PreCheck program is here, on TSA.gov, the official government website of the Transportation Security Administration. (For the record, this website, TSA.report, is an non-governmental resource that is designed to help travelers but has no connection to the TSA or PreCheck program.)
PreCheck only exists at airports the United States and your PreCheck status will not be helpful on flights that only leave from the US.
How Does PreCheck Work?
- To apply for PreCheck you might either be a full United States citizen or a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR). If you have been convicted of certain crimes (felonious and otherwise) in the past you might be ineligible. These include, but aren’t limited, to murder, espionage, and Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) violations.
- You pay a non-refundable application fee and do an online application. The application will include basic information, like name, date of birth, and current address. You will so need to be able to provide a valid identification. This part of the process is done online.
- You will have to do an in-person meeting where you will show your identification and give your fingerprints to a TSA agent. There are over 500 PreCheck enrollment locations where you can do this.
- Once the initial application phase is complete, you will receive a KTN, a Known Traveler Number. This can be given to airlines prior to your flight so that your boarding pass will have a TSA PreCheck check on it, allow you to use the expedited security lines, if they are available at your airport.
How Long Does It Take To Get PreCheck?
Getting PreCheck application is a quick process.
- The online application takes just a few minutes
- You an normally find an in-person appointment within just a few days, depending on your location and schedule
- The appointment will have to be within 45 days of your online application
- The in-person appointment will take about 10 minutes, during which a background check is conducted and your fingerprints are scanned
- You will get your Known Traveler Number (KTN) approximately 2 to 3 weeks later
- The KTN (PreCheck) will be good for 5 years after the application date
How Do You Use PreCheck?
PreCheck works in a very straightforward manner. While you are booking a flight, or after you book the flight but before the flight itself, you must give your Known Traveler Number to the airline.
Most airlines will allow you to provide your Known Traveler Number while buying your ticket. If you forget or the ticket is purchased for you, you can add your KTN later on. This is normally done on the airline’s website or through the airlines mobile app.
With the KTN input you should become eligible fo PreCheck on that flight. This mean you will be able to use expedited security lines at the airport. You will have to be flying out of an airport that has PreCheck and those lanes will have to be open in the terminal you are using. PreCheck hours can be checked here on TSA.report — they are generally open during peak hours but won’t cover all hours that the airport is open.
You will know you have PreCheck because there will be a green PreCheck symbol printed on your boarding pass or on the boarding pass page of your phone’s app. This is presented to a TSA agent in order to get in the PreCheck line.
Thanks to PreCheck you will get an average security time of under 5 minutes and you won’t need to remove your shoes, belt, or light jackets when going through security.