Flying often signals an exciting time for travelers, especially to those taking a well-earned vacation. However, this also means the occasional inevitability of long lines for airport security. Thankfully, there are several ways to fast track screening and avoid hassle at the start of our trip.
In this post, we'll talk about how TSA PreCheck, Global Entry, and CLEAR can help shorten your stay at the airport security lines. These are value services that can come in handy if you frequently fly domestically as well as in selected overseas destinations.
What is TSA PreCheck?
TSA PreCheck is a domestic membership program that can expedite the security screening process. As a member, you'll be able to keep your shoes, electronics (like laptops), belt, and light jacket on while passing through security in over 200+ participating airports and 85 airlines across the United States.
TSA PreCheck is part of the Trusted Traveler Programs (TPP) offered by the Transportation Security Administration. The membership costs $78 and will last for five (5) years. Being listed as a pre-approved passenger will drastically reduce the time you spend in the screening process.
On top of keeping your valuables and gadgets with you, a TSA PreCheck membership allows you to keep liquids inside your luggage. This expedited airport security screening will be accomplished through a dedicated PreCheck security line in as little as five minutes after your membership has been confirmed upon check-in.
Members of TSA PreCheck will be assigned a Known Traveler Number (KTN) for identification.
Where Can I Use TSA PreCheck?
You can use TSA PreCheck in over 200+ participating airports and 85 airlines across the United States. This program is also available when you depart from a U.S. airport to a foreign destination, and for domestic, connecting flights once you return.
How to Apply for TSA PreCheck by the Transportation Security Administration?
Good news! The first step of your registration will only need to be done online. Afterward, you will be scheduled for an interview to complete the other half of your registration. You can get your application started on the official TSA website.
Processing times vary per applicant according to the TSA, so it's best to submit and start your application process way ahead of your next trip so that you can take advantage of this service as soon as your next visit to the airport.
It's important to note that your name must appear exactly as it does on your government identification. In addition, you'll also need the following information during application: date of birth, preferred language, gender, and preferred method of contact (email or phone).
After completing the online application process, you'll be invited for fingerprinting and background checks. You will be able to choose from a list of enrollment centers within close proximity to your location, as well as set the time and date of your interview.
What is Global Entry Membership?
Global Entry is another membership program offered by the government under the Trusted Traveler Programs (TPP) scheme. Global Entry membership also includes TSA PreCheck membership but is geared toward frequent international travelers.
Global Entry benefits include TSA PreCheck membership and access to automated Global Entry kiosks where you can verify your identity and complete the customs form. This can help you skip long lines for customs upon arrival at your foreign destination.
Unfortunately, traveling in a group or with family requires everyone to have their own Global Entry Membership. In contrast, TSA PreCheck allows children traveling with an enrolled parent access to the TSA security line under the same membership.
Where Global Entry Members Use This Program?
The Global Entry program will allow you to expedite the screening process not only in domestic airports but also in international airports like Abu Dhabi International Airport in the United Arab Emirates and Dublin Airport in Ireland. You can refer to the full list of airports with Global Entry via the official U.S. Customs and Border Protection website.
How to Apply for Global Entry?
Global Entry is open to all U.S. citizens and U.S. lawful permanent residents. Furthermore, select foreign citizens are able to become Global Entry members if the following conditions are met:
- South Korea's Smart Entry Service members.
- Citizens of Argentina, Colombia, Germany, India, Mexico, Panama, Singapore, South Korea, Switzerland, Taiwan, and the United Kingdom may apply.
- Netherlands citizens who are enrolled in FLUX.
- Canada's NEXUS members may not apply but can use Global Entry benefits.
If you're signing up for Global Entry membership for the first time, you'll need to create your Trusted Traveler Programs account. You will then have to complete an online application and wait for conditional approval for your in-person interview.
During the appointment, you will need your passport and other documentation and have your fingerprints taken to complete your registration. Global Entry memberships cost $100 and are valid for five (5) years.
What is CLEAR Plus?
CLEAR Plus is a more encompassing expedited security program available at 53 U.S. airports, as well as stadiums and other large recreational venues. Unlike TSA PreCheck and Global Entry, CLEAR Plus is a privately-operated service.
The service uses member data and biometrics, such as iris scans and fingerprints, to verify its members. CLEAR Plus members are assigned a separate security lane with dedicated CLEAR pods instead of waiting in line for a TSA agent to review their license or passport. Clear memberships cost $189 annually.
Where Can I Use CLEAR Plus?
You can use CLEAR Plus to bypass the traditional identification process employed in airports and stadiums. The service uses biometric scanning technology to quickly confirm your identity and proceed to the next step of the venue's security procedure. The full list of locations that support CLEAR Plus is listed here.
How to Apply for CLEAR Plus?
Individuals 18 years of age and older can enroll in CLEAR Plus as long as they can furnish one of the following identification documents:
- U.S. Driver's License
- U.S. Passport or US Passport Card
- U.S.-Issued Permanent Resident Card
- U.S. State Issued I.D.
- Global Entry Card
The identification must be valid, unexpired, not amended, and include a photo. Like TSA PreCheck, Children under 18 can use the CLEAR Lane for free when accompanied by a CLEAR Plus Member, with no separate enrollment needed.
You can start your CLEAR Plus enrollment online and complete it during your next stop at any airport that supports CLEAR Plus facilities. You will only be required to verify the government-issued ID that you've submitted during the online application.
What is the Difference Between TSA PreCheck, CLEAR and Global Entry?
Both TSA PreCheck and Global Entry are under the government-run Trusted Traveler Program. Meanwhile, CLEAR is privately operated.
It's important to note that CLEAR also functions differently, such that it only allows members to fast-track ID verification and boarding pass at the security checkpoint. On the other hand, TSA PreCheck grants access to faster lanes for airport security. Finally, Global Entry kiosks are used to verify your identity and customs form much quicker.
Is Clear, TSA PreCheck or Global Entry Better When Traveling with Kids?
Whenever traveling with kids, TSA PreCheck is the way to go as TSA PreCheck allows children to follow parents with access to the TSA security line under the same membership. Global Entry on the other hand requires every traveling party to have their own membership. Clear is open to individuals over the age of 18 years old.
Which is Better Global Entry or Clear?
Better is extremely subjective since both programs aim to improve two different stages of your travels. Frequent travelers abroad will benefit more from Global Entry, but their experience can also significantly improve whenever arriving at CLEAR Plus airport. Ultimately, it will depend on how much you want to spend on expediting parts of your boarding and screening process.
Does Global Entry Include TSA PreCheck?
Yes! Global Entry includes TSA PreCheck benefits and registration so you don't need to sign up for both.
Global Entry is highly recommended for air travelers who frequently go in and out of the U.S. Please note, however, that travelers cannot upgrade their TSA PreCheck to Global Entry and that both memberships are non-refundable.
Important Considerations for CLEAR Plus and Global Entry
Aside from the upfront costs and varying purposes of CLEAR Plus and Global Entry, there are also other things worth considering if you are pressed to only get one of two memberships.
Traveling with others
Family members under 18 years old can always join the CLEAR Plus member in the CLEAR lane for free. In addition, you can add up to three (3) family members or friends to your account for just $70 each.
Meanwhile, Global Entry benefits are simply reserved for the paying member. Therefore, you will need a separate enrollment for each family member in order for everyone to enjoy the Global Entry benefits.
Global Entry membership costs less and has longer validity. However, the application fee is non-refundable. On the other hand, main account holders can cancel their CLEAR Plus membership at any time and receive a prorated refund of the remaining months left on the subscription.
Global Entry requires you to visit a local enrollment center to complete the application process. Alternatively, if you're flying into the U.S. after being conditionally approved, you may conduct the interview through the Enrollment on Arrival program.
CLEAR Plus members are not subject to any background check since they are not receiving any expedited screening process from airport security by being a CLEAR Plus member.
Fast Tracking Your Travels with CLEAR Vs TSA PreCheck Vs Global Entry
The CLEAR vs TSA PreCheck vs Global Entry discussion is a good entry point in learning how you can expedite your screening and immigration time at the airport, and in determining how much you are willing to invest to make it happen.
If you're crossing borders or traveling in a group with Global Entry members, then you definitely would love to have the same membership so that nobody misses a beat. On the contrary, if you're flying domestically with kids, then you'll get more value from a TSA PreCheck membership. CLEAR Plus membership is a little more flexible, albeit optional as it aims to expedite a different stage of your travel experience.
Ultimately, frequent travelers should get a lot of value in any of the three memberships, especially if they're able to make the most of their choices by aligning them with the typical purpose of their travels. For more tips, don't forget to save our blog or bookmark this post for future updates!