A Minor Inconvenience With Major Payoffs
No one wants to think about what kind of filth is on the airport floor. If you're a member of the TSA's PreCheck program, you'll never have to think about it again. That's because members of the program are allowed to keep their shoes on at the screening checkpoint. It's just one of the perks of joining PreCheck. Members get to bypass the long line at security and join an expedited line instead, and they're allowed to keep their laptops and liquids in their bags and keep belts and light jackets on during screening. Gaining entry to the program requires you to fill out an application and go to a quick PreCheck interview, which is more of an inconvenience than anything to be nervous about.
Can I Join PreCheck?
If you have a clean criminal record, you'll probably be approved for the PreCheck program. The first step is to apply online, through the TSA's website. The online application takes just a few minutes to complete and asks for basic biographical information like your place of birth, recent addresses and country of citizenship.
The online application also addresses your criminal history, asking whether you've ever been found guilty of one of the crimes that the TSA considers "disqualifying offenses" and including a link to the list of such offenses. If you can truthfully answer "no" to all these questions, you should be eligible to join the program.
The last step of the application process requires you to set up an appointment for your PreCheck interview. The site will help you locate the nearest enrollment center. There are hundreds around the country, so you should be able to find one close by. Enrollment centers are often located in airports or in offices that specialize in identity services.
What Do I Need to Take to My Interview?
The program is open to U.S. citizens, U.S. nationals and Lawful Permanent Residents. You must show proof of your identity and citizenship status at your PreCheck interview, and a valid passport proves both. If you don't have that, you can take a valid driver's license and a birth certificate with an official seal, or a certified copy of your birth certificate. The application system asks questions about what identification you have and will help you determine what combination of documents you can use if you don't have a passport.
You should also receive an acceptance email after you complete the online application. Take a printout of that to your appointment.
What Happens at the Interview?
There's no reason to stress out about your PreCheck interview. It's a pretty straightforward affair, and the person you meet with will most likely just ask versions of the questions you answered during the online application. If you do have any criminal history, you'll probably be asked more questions about that. You may also be asked about your employment status, how often you travel, why you want to join PreCheck and other fairly innocuous questions.
Expect to be fingerprinted and have your photo taken. You'll also have to pay the PreCheck enrollment fee of $85, which entitles you to five years of membership. Credit cards, money orders, company checks and certified/cashier’s checks are the accepted forms of payment.
Although an appointment is necessary and the interview is brief, plan to spend 30 minutes or more at the enrollment center. On busy days, you may have to wait a little while for your interview to start.
What Happens Next?
If you're approved, you'll receive a Known Traveler Number (KTN) by email or by mail, depending on your preference. It may take anywhere from a day to a few weeks to receive this number. When you book flights with airlines that use PreCheck (most airlines do), supply your KTN in the box that asks for this number. That's how the airline will know you're a member of the program.
Can My Kids Join PreCheck?
Yes! The program has no minimum age requirements. However, young kids really don't need to join because those 12 and under can go with their PreCheck member parents through the expedited security line anyway. And PreCheck wouldn't offer them benefits they don't have since they're already allowed to keep their shoes and jackets on during screening.
A child 13 years of age or older may, however, join PreCheck.