Global Entry vs. TSA PreCheck: Which One Is Right for You?
Find out which travel program best suits your airport screening needs.
When planning a trip, you will have to make many decisions—from what items to pack to where to stay to building your itinerary. But out of all these choices, choosing between Global Entry vs. TSA PreCheck will arguably be one of your toughest calls. At first glance, these Trusted Travel Programs may seem like they're just special lanes that expedite your airport screening experience, but there are actually several factors that set them apart, and that should be considered when deciding between the two.
So, if you're wondering which one is worth it, read on to learn what each program offers and whether it's right for you.
What is TSA PreCheck?
TSA PreCheck allows you to move through airport security quickly and is available at more than 200 airports. Rather than joining the never-ending lines for security screening at the airport, TSA PreCheck members stand in a different line that doesn't require travelers to remove their belts and shoes, or take out their laptops or liquids.
Not only does this cut down your waiting time, but PreCheck is also ideal for parents or people who travel with children under the age of 12. Younger kids can join their guardians with TSA PreCheck membership in the fast lane.
What's the application process?
There are three steps to applying for TSA PreCheck. First, choose an enrollment location that is convenient for you and complete the online application. Then, go to the enrollment location to be fingerprinted, take a photo, and submit all the required identification documents and payment.
Once you're approved, you'll receive your Known Traveler Number, which you'll be able to add to your airline reservation information moving forward. It is important to note that TSA PreCheck is only available to U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents, and U.S. nationals.
How long does it take to get a TSA PreCheck pass?
The time it takes to get TSA PreCheck approval varies according to TSA.gov. It can range from the same week of your interview to about 60 days. Members can also renew their application up to six months before their membership expires.
How much does a TSA PreCheck pass cost per year?
The cost of TSA PreCheck depends on who you choose to enroll with. If you sign up using Idemia, you can apply at one of their 630 enrollment centers for $78. For members looking to renew online, it will cost $70, and renewing in person is $78. Travelers looking to apply with Telos can enroll for $85 at one of their 26 locations and renew online or in person for $70. TSA PreCheck membership lasts for five years.
What is Global Entry?
Global Entry is a travel program run by U.S. Customs and Border Protection and is designed to speed up the reentry process into the U.S. and customs screenings for international travelers.
So, instead of travelers dealing with loads of paperwork and super long lines, Global Entry provides automated kiosks at more than 75 U.S. airports where members can scan their passports or U.S. permanent resident cards, provide fingerprint verification, and fill out a customs declaration form.
It's important to keep in mind that having Global Entry doesn't mean you'll always be allowed to skip the interview part of the customs process. Some travelers may be pulled for further screening.
How is Global Entry different from TSA PreCheck?
Fun fact: Global Entry membership also includes TSA PreCheck and all the perks that come with it. The numbers associated with each account can also be used interchangeably when booking flights. But those with TSA PreCheck shouldn't assume they can access the same perks as those with a Global Entry membership. In short, Global Entry pertains to expedited customs and security screenings, while TSA PreCheck pertains to expedited security screenings only.
What's the application process?
Global Entry is eligible to U.S. citizens, U.S. lawful permanent residents, service members of South Korea's Smart Entry, and Netherlands citizens who are members of FLUX. Citizens from Argentina, Colombia, Germany, India, Mexico, Panama, the United Kingdom, Singapore, South Korea, Switzerland, and Taiwan are also allowed to apply.
How to sign up for Global Entry:
- Make a Trusted Traveler Programs account and fill out the online application.
- Submit your payment.
- If approved, make an appointment for an interview at a Global Entry Enrollment Center so you can get fingerprinted and present your passport, along with another form of identification.
How long does it take to get a Global Entry pass?
According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the entire application process can take up to a year. But once approved, you'll receive a Known Traveler Number (KTN) and a Global Entry ID card. Your KTN will give you access to Global Entry and TSA PreCheck lanes.
How much does Global Entry cost per year?
If you opt for Global Entry, be prepared to pay $100, which gets you a five-year membership.
Keep in mind that your payment will not be refunded even if you aren't approved. This travel program also comes with TSA PreCheck, so if you're more of an international jet-setter, this could be a better option for you.
Is it faster to get Global Entry if you already have TSA PreCheck?
Having TSA PreCheck does not speed up your Global Entry application process or result in an automatic upgrade to the program. Unfortunately, it just doesn't work like that. If you already have TSA PreCheck, you'll still have to go through an application process if you want Global Entry because it has its own specific requirements and benefits.
The good news is that applying for Global Entry isn't much different from signing up for TSA PreCheck.
What causes TSA PreCheck or Global Entry to be denied?
TSA PreCheck and Global Entry come with some serious perks, so it's only fair that to get approved, an applicant must have all their ducks in a row. You can get denied for several reasons, like incorrectly filling out the application or leaving parts of it blank. If the background check reveals any criminal offenses, warrants, or criminal charges, especially ones specific to customs or immigration, your application could be denied.
Keep in mind that your membership can also be suspended if you fail to meet the eligibility requirements. And depending on the severity of the issue, your membership could be permanently revoked.
What can I do if my TSA PreCheck or Global Entry is revoked or denied?
Don't panic! If your application or membership is ever revoked or denied by a Trusted Traveler Program, you can submit a reconsideration request depending on the situation. Make sure to include the date of your denial, the reason you were denied, any information needed to explain any arrests or issues, court documentation for all arrests or convictions in PDF format, and any other additional information.
If your TSA PreCheck application is denied, you can also contact the case manager on the ineligibility letter you received or submit a form through TSA.gov's contact forms. Denied applicants can also give the TSA Contact Center a call at 866-289-9673.
Should I sign up for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry?
Trusted Traveler Programs like TSA PreCheck or Global Entry have many benefits, but certain programs might be more useful depending on your specific needs. It's important to note how your experience can be affected when traveling with someone without a membership. If your partner, family member, or favorite travel buddy doesn't have Global Entry or TSA PreCheck, the extra time you save could be spent waiting for them to get out of line, which can seem counterproductive. Below, we've outlined some additional pros and cons associated with each program. Read on to determine which program is right for you.
TSA PreCheck Advantages
- Benefits extend to children 13-17 (if listed on their boarding pass)
- 600+ enrollment centers
- Cheaper renewal costs
TSA PreCheck Disadvantages
- Access to TSA PreCheck lines is not guaranteed
- Increased popularity means longer lines
- Long wait times for enrollment appointments
Global Entry Advantages
- Free TSA PreCheck included in membership
- Passengers can skip all paperwork upon entry
- Available to select foreign nationals
Global Entry Disadvantages
- Benefits do not extend to children 13-17
- Limited to 100+ enrollment centers
- More expensive to renew
What are other Trusted Traveler Programs I should know?
Global Entry and TSA PreCheck aren't the only programs out there. If you're still looking to expand your options, here are a few more to consider.
NEXUS membership provides quicker entry into the United States and Canada at air, sea, and land borders, which can be ideal for travelers who visit either country often. Part of the application process for NEXUS includes an interview with Canadian and U.S. border patrol officials.
This program has all the benefits of TSA PreCheck and Global Entry, and members can use their membership at U.S. and Canadian land borders, NEXUS kiosks in nine Canadian airports, and Global Entry Kiosks in the U.S. NEXUS members traveling by sea can also inform patrol about their travel by phone.
Keep in mind that unlike TSA PreCheck, Nexus doesn't extend any of its benefits to nonmembers, including infants and young children.
CLEAR Plus speeds up travelers' journeys by allowing you to verify your identity quickly at participating U.S. airports. This program is privately owned and uses a biometric identification process, which includes a fingerprint and iris scan to confirm your identity. This program does not include TSA PreCheck, so members will still have to go through basic screening, like removing liquid, gels, and laptops from their bags and taking off their shoes and jackets. Adults 18 and older can apply for CLEAR Plus, and children traveling with members can also use the service. CLEAR Plus is located at airports in the U.S. and can also be used to skip lines at concerts and games.
A Secure Electronic Network for Travelers Rapid Inspection Pass, aka a SENTRI Pass, is meant to speed up travel and clearance for members reentering the U.S. from Mexico by vehicle or on foot. It also gives members a speedy passage through its SENTRI lanes into the U.S. from Canada through NEXUS lanes. SENTRI, however, does not offer accelerated entry into Canada or Mexico from the U.S.
You can apply for a SENTRI Pass through the Trusted Traveler Program website, where you can submit an online application and make the $122.25 payment. The process usually takes about 10 months to a year, and if approved, the next step is an interview at a SENTRI Enrollment Center, where you will present identification or a permanent resident card, and vehicle registration and insurance.
Before considering the traveler program you want, consider the type of traveler you are and the places you visit. Global Entry or TSA PreCheck offer more than just fast screening and reentry processes, but also unique solutions for your needs. Your priorities make all the difference, so if applying for Global Entry seems like a great deal or TSA PreCheck is all you need, understanding each of its offerings is crucial to making an informed decision that works for you and can improve the journey to your next getaway.
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- Source: U.S. Customs and Border Protection: Trusted Traveler Programs
- Source: TSA PreCheck® Enrollment Centers
- Source: TSA PreCheck® Application - Required Identification Documentation
- Source: U.S. Customs and Border Protection: Global Entry Enrollment Centers
- Source: U.S. Customs and Border Protection: How Long Does it Take to Apply for Global Entry, SENTRI, NEXUS or FAST?
- Source: TSA: If I am TSA PreCheck® eligible, am I guaranteed expedited screening?
- Source: U.S. Customs and Border Protection: NEXUS
- Source: U.S. Customs and Border Protection: How to Apply for SENTRI