Now that travel has started to increase again and airports are busy, saving every possible minute is becoming more and more important. Like many, we had been wondering what TSA PreCheck and Global Entry are, the differences between the two, and whether they are worth it.
I did some research and decided to become the family guinea pig. Here’s what I found.
A Little Information About the Two Programs
In short, TSA PreCheck is for travel within the US. It allows you to take the fast-track through security, and family members 12 years old and under can join you through the PreCheck lanes. Those 13 to 16 years old may or may not be able to travel through the fast-track lane with you and from what I can gather, it’s at the discretion of the airline. It will show on their boarding pass which lane they will need to go through. Obviously, if they need to go through the regular line then you, as a parent, can go with them. Those 17 years old and above will need their own PreCheck traveler number. If you only travel within the US, then this is the best option for you.
Global Entry, on the other hand, allows expedited clearance through immigration upon re-entering the US. Everyone in the party must have Global Entry clearance to be able to use it, but if you regularly travel outside of the US, then this is probably the better option for you. Global Entry also includes TSA PreCheck, so there is no need to apply for it separately.
My Personal Experience Applying for Global Entry
As I regularly travel outside of the US, I opted for Global Entry. The application process was completed online, including paying the $100 fee, and I was given an initial decision within a couple of days. From here on, I needed to make an appointment for an in-person interview. I was initially trying to avoid traveling to any airport, but the first appointment I could find was almost five months away. By including nearby airports, I was able to get an appointment time that suited me within a couple of weeks.
I can honestly say that the interview process was probably one of the most efficient processes I’ve ever completed. There was a sign outside the Global Entry office at Newark airport that said to wait by the waiting area. I wasn’t filled with high hopes that someone would come out in a timely fashion, even though that’s exactly what happened. At 5.58 PM an agent came out to check who had a 6 PM appointment.
After being directed to enter the office I was shocked to see no one else there and was ushered straight to the window to speak with an agent.
A few questions, a photo, and a few fingerprints later I was heading back to my car. The whole thing took less than 10 minutes! The agent informed me that I should receive an email within a couple of days with the confirmation and that the card would arrive in the mail in a few weeks. By the time I got home, the email was already in my inbox.
I don’t know if this is the standard time for the interview or if I was just lucky. As a naturalized American, I’ve had my fingerprints taken by TSA several times, so I’m sure my information was in their system outside of this application.
All-in-all, it was a fast and painless transaction. Now that I know how easy the whole process is, I’ll be applying for the rest of the family. If you’re thinking about applying for any of these programs, I truly hope the information I shared here today was useful to help you make a decision!