DEFINITION of 'TSA PreCheck'

TSA PreCheck is a U.S. government program that allows travelers deemed low-risk by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to pass through an expedited security screening at certain U.S. airports. Qualifying travelers don’t have to remove their belts, shoes or lightweight jackets. They may also leave a laptop in its case and a 3-1-1 compliant bag (which can contain items with small quantities of liquids and gels such as a travel-size bottle of mouthwash) in their carryon luggage.

BREAKING DOWN 'TSA PreCheck'

Some 200 airports and 42 airlines offer the use of this service. If you are enrolled in an airline’s frequent flyer program, you may receive TSA PreCheck status automatically. If not, you can apply directly to the TSA. You will have to visit one of the more than 300 application centers where you will be fingerprinted and asked for valid identity and citizenship information. There is an $85 non-refundable application fee.

Why TSA PreCheck Was Created

The program is intended to speed up the passage of verified travelers through security checkpoints, which may become crowded as passengers gather to board their flights. Typically passengers must remove articles of clothing and personal items that could be used to contain hazardous materials. Shoes, for example, were previously used in attempts to smuggle and detonate explosives on an airplane. Electronic equipment such as laptops are also usually subject to scrutiny at checkpoints because of attempts to hide materials inside by removing components. The TSA PreCheck program is a way to clear passengers who have been vetted and confirmed in advance, allowing for swifter passage through security checkpoints and shortening the lines other passengers must wait in.

The application process can be started online however an in-person background check must also be conducted. Travelers who are foreign citizens must meet certain residency requirements in order to qualify for the program. The Department of Homeland Security operates other federal programs such as Global Entry, NEXUS, and SENTRI for verifying the identities of trusted travelers. The NEXUS program covers prescreened travelers who are traveling between Canada and the U.S. The SENTRI program governs travel on land into the U.S. from Mexico. Global Entry lets trusted travelers who are traveling internationally quickly move through Customs and Border Protection

Once approved, you will receive a Known Traveler Number (KTN). Use that number any time you book a flight. The KTN is valid for five years. When you have your KTN, you can use a faster line at participating airports reserved for TSA Pre-Passengers.

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