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TSA Pre √ - Moving quickly through airport security

Learn more about TSA Pre √ at the TSA web site.
Learn more about TSA Pre √ at the TSA web site.

You’ve seen the signs at airport security 'TSA Pre √ Enter Here'. You see the smiling faces on the people in short lines there. What is it? TSA Pre √ is a breath of sanity in the insane world of air travel. Your laptop and liquids stays in your bag, and your shoes stay on your feet. How do you get in on this? Two methods: Random (free) and Always (fee).

The TSA and most US airlines invite frequent flyers to opt in. The more you fly, the more likely you’ll be selected on your boarding pass for Pre √. It’s a bit random though and you can’t request it or count on it for a particular trip.

If you want Pre √ every time you fly possible, you first need to apply at the TSA Pre √ website ($85 fee). The application involves a background check, proof of citizenship/immigration, and a quick in-person interview at the airport where they record your fingerprints. On approval you’ll get your own Known Traveler Number (KTN) which you then add to each of your airline profiles and voila!, you get Pre √ on your printed or electronic boarding pass at participating airports. You’re now a 'trusted traveler'!

If you want to take it a step further, skip the TSA web site and go to the US Customs and Border Protection website to get a Global Entry account. Global Entry gets you a KTN and plus expedited processing through Immigration & Customs when entering the US from another country. You can sometimes bypass hundreds of people in the arrivals hall. The application process is about the same but costs $100 instead. One trip will make you glad you spent the extra $15. You may also want one for your spouse/partner; nothing spells ‘dog house’ more than you waiting on the other side of security while he/she stands in a long line. If you travel to Canada frequently and want to expedite your entry there, add a service called Nexus to your Global Entry card for $50, though that involves another interview in Canada which can be tricky to schedule.

But don’t screw up. If you violate any Customs or Immigration laws, your trusted traveler status will be revoked, along with everyone in your household and the Feds will prosecute to the fullest extent of the law. After all, you were trusted and given special privileges. So tell your cigar-loving friend that you can’t get him any Cubans on your next trip to Mexico.