Not sure if you should apply for TSA Precheck or Global Entry? Here is a description of both programs and the differences between them.
What is TSA Precheck?
TSA Precheck allows you to go through airport security without removing your shoes, belt, light outerwear, laptop and bag with liquids. There is often a separate TSA Precheck line, which is usually shorter and faster than regular lines.
The TSA always incorporates random security measures so TSA Precheck is not guaranteed on every flight. You will know if you are eligible for TSA Pre✓ as it will be printed on your boarding pass near your name.
TSA Precheck is only available when flying on certain airlines – the current list of airlines can be found on the TSA’s website. TSA Precheck does not include Global Entry benefits.
What is Global Entry?
Global Entry allows travelers to enter the United States more quickly. Instead of waiting in a long line to see a border control agent, you answer a few questions at a kiosk, scan your fingerprints, show your receipt to an agent and exit the passport control area.
Although TSA Precheck is completely different than Global Entry, one of the benefits of obtaining Global Entry is being able to qualify for TSA Pre-Check on domestic and international flights. In addition to having TSA Precheck, Global Entry allows expedited processing through CBP (U.S. Customs and Border Protection) at airports and land borders upon arrival to the U.S.
Global Entry Includes TSA Precheck (But TSA Precheck Does Not Include Global Entry)
If you sign up for Global Entry you have TSA Precheck benefits, but if you apply for TSA Precheck only you do not have Global Entry.
Global Entry vs. TSA Precheck- Deciding Factors
Following are some differences between Global Entry versus TSA Precheck to help you decide which program is right for you.
The fee to apply for TSA Precheck is $85 and the fee to apply for Global Entry is $100. Since Global Entry includes TSA Precheck you will be paying an extra $15 for expedited entry into the US at immigration and border control.
(There are a couple of ways to get TSA Precheck or Global Entry for free if you have certain credit cards or elite status – see related post: How to Get TSA PreCheck or Global Entry For Free.)
Eligibility and Required Documents
TSA Precheck program membership is open to U.S. citizens, U.S. nationals and lawful permanent residents only. Here is a link to the current TSA Precheck eligibility requirements. You do not need a passport to apply for TSA Precheck. This link will tell you which documents you need to apply for TSA Precheck.
U.S. citizens, U.S. lawful permanent residents and citizens of a few other countries (citizens of Colombia, United Kingdom, Germany, Panama, Singapore, South Korea and Mexican nationals) are eligible for Global Entry membership. Here is a link to the current Global Entry eligibility requirements. You will need to bring your valid passport(s) and one other form of identification, such as a driver’s license or ID card to the Global Entry interview. If you are a lawful permanent resident, you must present your permanent resident card.
TSA Precheck applicants have the option to pre-enroll online to provide initial biographic information and make an appointment before visiting an enrollment center. Walk-in enrollments are accepted at most TSA Precheck enrollment locations, but the TSA recommends you schedule an appointment.
If you apply for Global Entry, you must complete an online application first and then visit a Global Entry enrollment center for an interview. Some Global Entry enrollment centers do not have appointments for months, but you might be able to find last minute openings due to cancellations if you keep checking.
The list of enrollment centers is different for TSA Precheck vs Global Entry.
Global Entry enrollment centers are mostly located in major airports. Some states do not have a Global Entry enrollment center and some states only have one enrollment center.
There are many more TSA Precheck enrollment centers throughout the United States and many of them are conveniently located in city centers and residential areas.
We recommend consulting the list of enrollment centers for the specific program you are interested in before applying to ensure an enrollment center is easily accessible to you. Here are links to the TSA Precheck enrollment center finder and a link to the list of Global Entry enrollment centers.
Global Entry vs. NEXUS vs. SENTRI
If you have decided to apply for Global Entry versus TSA Precheck, consider if either NEXUS or SENTRI are an even better choice for you.
Global Entry and TSA Precheck benefits are also part of NEXUS and SENTRI, two other trusted traveler programs similar to Global Entry.
NEXUS is the Canadian version of Global Entry and includes TSA Precheck benefits and Global Entry, in addition to expedited processing upon entry to Canada. The application fee for NEXUS ($50) is lower than the application fee for TSA Pre-Check or Global Entry. SENTRI is the most expensive trusted traveller program but could be better for anyone who frequently drives between the US and Mexico. To compare all 4 trusted traveler programs see related post: How to Get TSA PreCheck: A Guide on How Best to Apply.
While NEXUS and SENTRI are useful to some, for the majority of Americans the decision will come down to Global Entry vs TSA Precheck.
Global Entry vs. TSA Precheck: Which One is Right For You?
TSA Precheck is the only option for US citizens who do not have a passport (which is required for Global Entry). US citizens and lawful permanent residents who primarily fly within the US but do not travel internationally might also find it cheaper and easier to apply just for TSA Precheck.
For anyone who plans to travel internationally in the next 5 years, it makes sense to apply for Global Entry rather than TSA Precheck. The application fee for Global Entry is only $15 more than the fee for TSA Precheck alone.
We both have Global Entry and would recommend Global Entry for anyone that travels internationally even once a year. For more information on how to apply for Global Entry see Guide to Global Entry: Application and Interview Process.
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