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Skip the lines


There’s one thing everyone dreads when making their way to the airport: a long security line. Luckily, there are work-arounds to expedite the process and get you to your gate in time for a pre boarding treat. Programs like Global Entry, TSA PreCheck and CLEAR Plus can help members move through the line faster. While they all offer similar privileges, the three programs often get conflated together.

Understanding what each program provides and how to apply can help you select the right program for your traveling needs. Here’s everything you need to know about Global Entry, TSA PreCheck and CLEAR Plus.

What it is: Global Entry, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection program, allows preapproved, low-risk travelers expedited clearance upon arriving on U.S. soil. Members enter the country at Global Entry lanes where processing technology advances them with photo verification of membership. Once the photo has been captured, instructions pop up on the screen for members to proceed to a CBP officer to complete the process. With Global Entry, you’ll skip processing lines and paperwork, have access to expedited entry benefits in other countries and reduced wait times, and be TSA PreCheck eligible. “One thing that applicants should understand about CBP’s Global Entry program is that this is a contract based on trust,” said Steve Sapp, public affairs officer for U.S. Customs and Border Protection. “Members agree to comply with all U.S. laws, including truthfully declaring all items they are bringing back to the United States to a CBP officer, and in return, CBP grants them expedited arrivals privileges.”

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How to apply: If you are eligible for Global Entry, create a Trusted Traveler Programs account — all ages must have their own profile. Log in and complete the application with a $100 nonrefundable one-time fee for five-year membership (even if an application is denied). CBP will review your completed application, and if conditionally approved, you’ll be instructed to schedule an interview at a Global Entry enrollment center. Note: Global Entry is member-specific and cannot be extended to others in your traveling party.

What to bring to your Global Entry interview: All applicants must undergo a rigorous background check and in-person interview before enrollment. According to Sapp, demand for the Global Entry interview is “extraordinarily high due to the incredible popularity” for this Trusted Traveler program. Bring a valid passport and a second form of identification (driver’s license or ID card) to the interview. If you are a permanent resident, you must have a machine-readable permanent resident card. If you are unable to schedule an interview before traveling, there is an option for conditionally approved members upon arrival to the U.S. with Enrollment on Arrival at participating airports. You must have a valid passport, proof of residency including driver’s license or rental payment statement (this is not required for minors), and a permanent resident card (if applicable).

How long it takes: Processing time varies, but applicants may receive a conditional approval or a denial within a few weeks to a few months.

What it is: TSA PreCheck is an expedited screening program of the U.S. Transportation Security Administration that allows travelers to keep their shoes and light outerwear jacket on and keep small travel-sized liquids and electronics in carry-on bags. About 99% of folks wait in the TSA PreCheck checkpoint lane for 10 minutes or less, according to TSA regional spokesperson Lisa Farbstein.

How to get it: Visit tsa.gov/ precheck to enroll for the service online. Select an enrollment provider that fits your needs in a location near you. Make an appointment to complete the process in person, which includes fingerprinting, document and photo capture, and payment. Be sure to bring an original or certified copy of identity/citizenship status for the application process. Once enrolled, you’ll receive a “known traveler number” (KTN).

What it costs: Fees vary depending on TSA-selected enrollment partners. Choose a provider based on cost, locations and additional benefits. TSA lists providers like Telos at $85 and IDEMIA at $78 (these are one-time fees for the five years the service is active). It’s important to start on the TSA site, Farbstein advised because third-party vendors charge more. “Don’t pay anyone in advance — only pay when you have your in-person enrollment, or you are getting ripped off,” she said.

How long it takes: Accepted travelers typically wait about a week to get their KTN after their appointment. You’ll need the KTN to enter when purchasing a ticket or to give to your travel adviser for your frequent flyer profile.

How to use it: Enter your KTN into the online field when purchasing an airline ticket, or give it to your travel adviser for your frequent flyer profile. When you arrive at the travel document checking station at the TSA checkpoint, you’ll find the TSA PreCheck indicator on your boarding pass. TSA PreCheck is not valid when flying from another country into the U.S.

What it is: CLEAR Plus, a paid airport membership, uses facial, iris and fingerprint biometrics. Members get a quick identity-verification experience at the airport when they step up to a CLEAR pod and verify their identity with eye or fingerprint scans — no government-issued photo ID needed. CLEAR was founded by the TSA to meet baseline security and privacy controls and is certified as a Department of Homeland Security Qualified Anti-Terrorism Technology.

What it costs: CLEAR Plus is $189 a year. If prospective members have certain credit-card rewards with airlines like United Airlines or Delta Air Lines, they often receive discounts for membership enrollment. Additionally, military service members and government employees are eligible for CLEAR Plus at a discounted rate. Visit enroll. clearme.com/enroll to sign up with your government ID.

How it differs from TSA PreCheck and Global Entry: You don’t need all three programs, but many members enjoy CLEAR Plus with both government services, said Ricardo Quinto, senior director of public affairs and communications at CLEAR. CLEAR, co-founded by Caryn Seidman-Becker and Ken Cornick, is a paid membership program for expedited identity verification at the airport. TSA PreCheck is a U.S. government program for low-risk travelers to move through TSA with convenience. Global Entry is a U.S. Customs and Border Protection expedited clearance program for preapproved, low-risk travelers upon arrival in the United States. CLEAR Plus members do not need TSA PreCheck or Global Entry to reap the benefits of CLEAR. Quinto said members often find CLEAR Plus and TSA PreCheck complement each other for a quick route through the airport.



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