Given long security lines at the airport, the Transportation Security Administration’s PreCheck program — which sends eligible fliers through an expedited screening process — is looking better than ever. Those who are approved do not need to remove their shoes, laptops or light jackets, for instance.
I’ll walk you through the simple process of applying in a minute. But first, a word of warning: There are private companies charging lots of money with the promise of easing TSA applications. The website of one says, “We provide a simplified printable application form without the government jargon, saving you time and hassle.”
There is no “jargon” in the PreCheck application, only words such as “Name,” “City of birth” and “Hair color.” I encountered no hassle and completed the form in 10 minutes. The cost is $85 for PreCheck and enrollment lasts five years. Here’s what you do.
1. At www.tsa.gov/tsa-precheck, click on “Apply” from a list of options on the left. On the application page, scroll down to check your eligibility. You may be ineligible if you have been convicted of certain crimes; there is a link to a list of those crimes.
If you’re eligible, click on the “Apply online” box. That brings you to an application form with basic questions in an easy-to-read type size.
2. Make an appointment to visit an application center online or by calling 1-855-347-8371 (7 a.m.-9 p.m. weekdays). You can also be a walk-in, though appointments take precedence.
3. Visit an application center within 120 days of filling out the online form. Bring a current U.S. passport or a birth certificate and a photo ID, such as a driver’s license. You’ll be interviewed — they will ask questions about you and your travels — and fingerprinted. You will also need to pay the nonrefundable $85 application fee with a credit card, money order, company check or certified/cashier’s check.
Once your application is approved, you will receive a notification letter with a KTN, a Known Traveler Number, to include in your flight reservations. A note on your boarding pass will give you access to the TSA PreCheck line at security checkpoints in U.S. airports.
TSA Customer Service answers questions at 1-866-289-9673 (7 a.m.-10 p.m. weekdays; 8 a.m.-7 p.m. weekends and holidays).
You may grumble about shelling out for an extra TSA service when you already help fund the administration with your taxes. It seems unfair that those who can pay (and qualify) get an easier ride at the airport.
You may worry that as more people obtain PreCheck clearance, those lines will grow, too. But given the current situation, you may also want to set those concerns aside.