Whether you travel frequently or only for an occasional vacation, getting from the airport door to your seat on the plane can be an exhausting experience. Between the physical ground to cover and the regulatory hoops to jump through, there is a lot to sweat. When traveling as a family, simply multiply everything by the number of children. Some new options are available and we are here to break them down for you and explain how to streamline your process.
While we can’t do anything for the trouble of walking all the way to the end of the terminal with a three year old, we can provide some guidance for the two worst offenders between you and your flight: customs and airport security.
Two new options are available that help travellers both international and domestic clear customs and security faster by skipping the lines and going through less invasive procedures. They are Global Entry and TSA Pre-Check.
Global Entry is run by U.S. Customs and Border Protection and is the program that allows for quicker clearing of immigration when reentering the country. Travellers are allowed to use special kiosks that scan passports, check fingerprints and read declaration forms without the need to wait in line or deal with a human agent. This program is available for “pre-approved, low risk” travellers meaning that you must be enrolled in the program prior to your trip. While a full list of requirements for the program are available here, the basics are that you must have a record free of criminal offenses or customs violations and be either a US Citizen, lawful permanent resident, Dutch citizen, South Korean citizen, or Mexican national. While Canadian citizens are not eligible for this specific program, there is a similar one available to them known as NEXUS.
Pre-Check a Faster Option for Airport Security
To enroll in the program you must first submit an online application. A $100 application fee is also required and is non-refundable, even if you are denied. After your application is reviewed and a very thorough background check performed, if still eligible you will be invited for an interview. These are conducted by border patrol agents at enrollment centers, which will most likely be an airport near you. Bring two forms of ID, and after a successful interview your photo and fingerprints will be taken as you are issued a Global Entry ID card. The program lasts for 5 years, after which point you may renew.
TSA Pre-Check is a similar “trusted traveller” program that applies to airport security as opposed to immigration and customs. With an active enrollment you can get on a shorter line and expedite the security screening process. This program is open to U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents, who are not on any watchlists, not been convicted of a criminal offense or currently under indictment.
NOTE: Global entry automatically qualifies you to use TSA Pre-Check, however the reverse is not true.
Enrollment is very similar. First comes an online application, as well as an application fee, this time $85. An interview follows a successful application, after which you will be enrolled in the program and issued a Trusted Traveller Number. Membership also lasts for 5 years.
HOW TO USE:
Global Traveller is as simple as bringing your ID card with you. You do not need to fill out the blue form on the plane for customs, but simply proceed to the Global Entry area upon deboarding the plane and use one of the designated kiosks. Not all airports have these areas, check for a full list here.
TSA Pre-Check requires that you use your Trusted Traveller Number when booking tickets. This ensures you receive a special stamp on your boarding pass which denotes you as a member of the program. Then you proceed to the designated lines when entering security. You will have to show your boarding pass and ID. You will not have to remove belts, shoes or electronic devices, and while you may still only carry a quart sized bag of liquids, you will not have to remove them from your bag for inspection. To be sure your preferred airport participates, check here.
Global Entry officially DOES NOT allow members to fast track others. You cannot expect a spouse and/or children to be able to skip customs as a part of your program status.
TSA Pre-Check DOES have specific guidelines and allowances for families. Children under 12 travelling with a parent or guardian who has a Pre-Check stamped boarding card should be able to use the expedited lines. Children 13 and older will have to use regular lines or apply themselves. Essentially, all family members 13 and older must be enrolled in the program if you wish for the whole family to skip security lines.
The bottom line is that either of these programs can save you time. You don’t need both as Global Entry includes TSA Pre-Check if you add your Trusted Traveller Number into your online reservation. Spend the extra 15 dollars to enroll unless you only travel domestically. You can get children under 12 through security but not through immigration. If all adults in your group are enrolled you will proceed through the lines much faster and have more time to think about your first activity!