The opportunity to leave home and fly out to a novel location in the world is an experience that everyone yearns for. However, if you have already flown, you may be familiar with the tedious nature of airport security checks and looked into ways to expedite this drawn-out process. Luckily, there are some established programs like TSA PreCheck, Global Entry and Clear that are already in place to ensure that your travel experience runs smoothly and without issue.
In short, both TSA PreCheck and Clear are domestic-based programs that allow you to pass-through Transport Security Administration (TSA) checkpoints more speedily whereas Global Entry facilitates international entry (i.e., customs and border protection) for international arrivals. On the surface, this seems rather simple, but each program possesses smaller details and perks that are worthy of attention and may become a defining factor for someone who has to pick between the three. As such, in this article, we will discuss the difference between TSA PreCheck, Global Entry and Clear as well as provide a general overview on how to register for their benefits.
TSA PreCheck is a government-led program allowing passengers to pass through an expedited screening process from domestic (U.S.) airports. If you have already traveled in the U.S., you will have already experienced extremely long lines, and instances of frustration from passengers and officials. This is normal due to the drawn-out nature of this process. In May 2016, this issue was even mentioned in Congress which cited that airport screening lines would often take 3 hours at times with many passengers being stranded overnight and missing their flights due to the wait. As such, TSA PreCheck was established for the very purpose of avoiding such issues.
What Are The Perks?
If you register for this program, you will observe a few simple but rewarding perks. Firstly, when going through the screening process, a PreCheck registered traveler will go through a rapid airport security line. In this line, a traveler will observe a less intrusive screening process and go through metal detectors whilst keeping their shoes and jackets whereas their non-registered counterparts will need to go through a full-body scanning machine requiring them to remove their shoes and jackets. Moreover, electronics such as laptops as well as 3-1-1 liquids do not need to be removed and can remain in suitcases. In January 2022, TSA PreCheck travelers took on average 5 minutes to complete the security screening process.
How Do I Sign Up For TSA PreCheck?
TSA PreCheck is for domestic use only, so to begin you must be a U.S. national or resident to apply for the program. Moreover, you can only be approved once you have been deemed ‘Low-Risk’ by TSA which will be done after they have completed a background check and confirmed your status.
To apply, you can use TSA’s website to begin your registration. However, the application has to be finalized in person via one of the many 380 application centers where you will have to provide proof of identity and scan your fingerprints for the record. The overall process costs $85 and gives you five years of membership which can be renewed online costing only $70.
As its name suggests, Global Entry is a program geared toward expediting the travel process for international travelers. Due to the international aspect of Global Entry, it is run by the Federal Government and facilitates entry to the U.S. from a foreign country allowing travelers to pass through customs and immigration much faster.
What Are The Perks
Upon arrival into the U.S., Global Entry travelers do not need to go through manual customs but instead pass through automatic kiosks where they are only required to scan their passports and fingerprints. Global Entry travelers also have the opportunity to clear immigration and custom from their respective locations of departure using this program. The current international airports that allow this benefit include: Montreal, Vancouver, Winnipeg, Victoria, Halifax, Calgary, Toronto and Edmonton in Canada; Dublin and Shannon in Ireland; Nassau, Aruba and Freeport in the Bahamas; United Arab Emirates; Abu Dhabi; and Bermuda.
Moreover, a surprising perk for Global Entry travelers is that once approved, their package automatically includes TSA PreCheck privileges without any additional charge. This means that you immediately possess both programs and will not need to apply for them separately.
How Do I Sign Up for Global Entry
Global Entry requires a more thorough screening process than TSA PreCheck. To gain approval for the program, prospective travelers much undergo a background check and also attend an in-person interview. The interview can be easily booked online, but due to high demand, individuals may have to wait a few months for a meeting. However, there is an “Enrollment on Arrival” scheme that helps expedite the process where a walk-in appointment can be made upon arrival in an international airport which takes part in the Global Entry Program.
It is important to note that there are strict rules surrounding Global Entry applications and not everybody will gain approval. For one, any individual possessing a criminal record will immediately be disqualified from the program. Furthermore, whilst being enrolled in the program, a Global Entry traveler has to follow all regulations of international travel where even one minor infraction can lead to losing Global Entry status. In total, Global Entry costs $100 for a five-year membership and can be renewed online beginning from one year before the expiration date.
As opposed to TSA PreCheck and Global Entry, Clear is a privately-run program that also aids in expediting the airport screening process. The program uses biometrics (i.e., face, eyes or fingerprints) to verify your identity and allow you to bypass customs and immigration. It must be noted, however, that Clear is a program that is only valid domestically, so within U.S. airports only.
What Are The Perks
Due to the biometric scanning, with Clear, you won’t need to show any identification, however, it is still recommended to bring some as a backup. Clear travelers have access to a dedicated kiosk that will scan biometrics to verify their identity. Once this is done, a Clear agent will guide them to the front of the security line where they will complete regular security protocols. If they also possess TSA PreCheck they can use those privileges (i.e., keeping shoes and jacket on) to pass through security with ease but they will need to purchase TSA PreCheck separately to do so.
In addition, Clear privileges are not exclusive to airport travel, they can also be used for skipping lines in venues such as football stadiums and concert halls.
How Do I Sign Up For Clear?
Clear has a rather simple application method. First, you will need to scan and register your fingerprints and iris for biometrics. Following this, you need to provide valid government-issued identification to complete the application. Applications can be done online or at enrollments centers that can be found in airports and once your biometrics are registered in the system, you can begin to use to program. As for costs, Clear is more expensive than Global Entry and TSA PreCheck, costing $179 per year.
The Bottom Line
TSA PreCheck, Global Entry and Clear provide the opportunity for travelers to speed through the oftentimes cumbersome airport screening process. TSA PreCheck offers a range of benefits including a dedicated security lane, the ability to keep shoes and jackets on when passing through scanners as well as 3-1-1 liquids which you can keep in your suitcase as you pass through security.
Global Entry includes all of TSA PreCheck’s benefits (as TSA PreCheck is included as part of the membership) and expedites the customs and immigration screening process for international flights. In addition, Global Entry’s benefits also extend to customs and immigrations centers in participating foreign airports where membership will allow you to bypass immigrations in the respective country before flying back to the U.S.
Clear allows you to skip past ID verification lines via access to their dedicated automatic kiosks which scan your biometrics to verify your identity. It does not, however, expedite security screening processes like TSA PreCheck does. On the other hand, since Clear is a privately led program, many venues and stadiums are beginning to integrate Clear for ID verification for their events, allowing you to pass through queues faster.
Moreover, many travel cards offer partial reimbursement for these programs. Depending on which card you choose, you can oftentimes be covered up to $100 for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck memberships. For example, American Express will offer either full or partial yearly reimbursements of Clear fees. However, if your card company does not offer reimbursements don’t fear! On average, Global Entry and TSA PreCheck prices average out to approximately $20 or less per year, whereas Clear averages out to only $15 per month.
The time spent navigating airport security lines can be greatly reduced using either TSA PreCheck, Global Entry or Clear. Now that you are familiar with these programs and their different perks, you can make the right decision on which one will suit you best for ease of travel!