The government is steering travelers to TSA PreCheck because Global Entry has an 18-month delay post COVID

August 31, 2022, 8:32 PM UTC
Travelers in airport
Travel chaos goes way beyond flight delays and cancellations.
David Paul Morris—Bloomberg/Getty Images

With holiday travel planning in high gear, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security is urging those who mostly fly domestically to apply for TSA PreCheck instead of Global Entry, despite shared benefits.

Applications for Global Entry have been experiencing processing times of up to 18 months, according to an alert posted on the DHS’s Trusted Traveler Programs website. This is as a result of a surge in demand for memberships while U.S. Customs and Border Protection continues to clear the backlog from the pandemic lockdowns of 2020. The agency said Trusted Travelers Programs of which Global Entry comprises 80%, surpassed 10 million total members in March, and is expecting another 3.5 million in 2022—the most ever to be received in one year. 

By contrast most TSA PreCheck applicants can schedule an appointment in less than two weeks, and can receive approval in three to five days, the website says.

So, which should you use? Depends on what type of travel you foresee in both the near and long term. 

According to the alert, those who travel internationally less than two times are a year should consider TSA PreCheck.

The service eliminates the need to remove shoes, belts, liquids, laptops, and light jackets and provides dedicated lanes at more than 200 airports and 81 airlines across the U.S. Children 12 and under are not required to obtain their own Known Traveler Number (KTN) and can join a parent or guardian in speeding through the screening process without one. PreCheck costs $85 for five years and involves fingerprinting and verification of citizen documents.

Global Entry includes TSA PreCheck and is for travel by air, land, and sea into the U.S. from international destinations. It offers self-service kiosks or E-Gates with facial recognition and allows travelers to skip customs paperwork and long immigration lines. Membership costs $100 and lasts five years. However, unlike TSA PreCheck, children regardless of age, including newborns, need their own separate membership and must attend an interview appointment.

Alternatively, US Customs and Border Protection has their own Mobile Passport Control app. Simply fill out immigration forms while taxiing to the jet bridge, then enter a dedicated line when you get to customs. Some have reported it can be as fast as the Global Entry line—the app downloads in seconds and is free to use.

If you foresee more international travel in your future, you might consider combining the benefits of TSA PreCheck with the Mobile Passport Control app for now, while waiting for the Global Entry queue to shorten.

Outside of these two U.S. government programs, Clear is a private service which has a dedicated line in over 40 US airports to verify identify which it does through a biometric scan of eyes or fingerprints. It skips the need to show government-issued documents but outside of shorter lines, it does not expedite the actual physical screening process like TSA PreCheck. The price for the service is not listed on the Clear website, but according to NerdWallet costs $189. One nice benefit of the Clear app is that it offers expedited entry to some sports stadiums, like Madison Square Garden—and is free to download.

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