Guide to the TSA PreCheck Program

A TSA agent checks a traveler's identification at a special TSA Pre-check lane at Terminal C of the LaGuardia Airport

John Moore/Staff/Getty Images

The Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) offers an expedited PreCheck security line. PreCheck allows travelers to leave on their shoes, light outerwear and belt, keep their laptop in its case, and their 3-1-1 compliant liquids/gels bag in a carry-on, using special screening lanes.

Back in October 2011, the TSA announced plans to launch a pilot of the PreCheck screening program at four airports: Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International, Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County, Dallas/Fort Worth International, and Miami International. These airports partnered with eligible frequent flyers from American Airlines and Delta Air Lines as well as members of the Customs and Border Protection's (CBP's) Trusted Traveler programs, including Global Entry, SENTRI, and NEXUS, who are U.S. citizens and flew on participating airlines. It is now available in more than 200 airports and has 65 participating airlines.

PreCheck is available all eligible travelers, along with their children aged under 13 years old. After paying a fee for a card that lasts for five years, any traveler can go to an approved interview facility for screening. TSA accepts credit cards, money orders, company checks, or certified/cashier’s checks.​ The fee covers TSA's background checks, vetting analysis, associated technology, and enrollment center costs. Holders of a Global Entry card are automatically enrolled in PreCheck. 

Travelers go online to fill out an application. Once approved, they are directed to go to an application center to give personal information including name, date of birth, address, their fingerprints, payment, and required identity and citizenship/immigration documents. After receiving a card, travelers can insert their Known Traveler Number (KTN) whenever they book a flight online or when they make a reservation by phone.

For travelers not enrolled in PreCheck, there’s still an opportunity to use it. The TSA uses its Secure Flight system to identify those who may be eligible for expedited screening using information already collected and provided to the agency by the airlines. This effort is used only on a flight-by-flight basis, and a TSA PreCheck indicator will be embedded in the barcode of a boarding pass that allows a traveler to use a PreCheck line.

The TSA created PreCheck as part of an ongoing effort to move away what it calls “a one-size-fits-all approach to transportation security.” But the TSA emphasizes that it will continue to incorporate random and unpredictable security measures throughout the airport and no traveler will be guaranteed an expedited screening.

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