Newbies & Non-U.S. Citizens: TSA Pre-Check, Global Entry, CLEAR, NEXUS, Sentri: What’s The Best For You?

With more and more people traveling, depending on where in the U.S. you’re flying/driving/floating into or out of, the lines at TSA checkpoint and/or customs/immigration can be ridiculously long sometimes (I’m looking at you, Orlando International Airport, but there are others, too). Fortunately, there are ways to bypass the queues. Fortunately or unfortunately, there are several options of programs nowadays, some government-run, one not, and unless you sit down and read each one, it’s hard to decide if, or which one, you should consider. Hopefully, this will help.

TSA PreCheck

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PC: Flickr, https://www.easysentri.com/

Used for: Departures from U.S. airports
Cost: $85 for 5 years (or $15 in conjunction with Global Entry)
Discounts: Some credit cards will pay the fee (you can also use reward points to pay for it, but we don’t recommend that)
Available to: U.S. citizens, U.S. lawful permanent residents &, in conjunction with getting Global Entry, citizens of select non-U.S. countries

Of the four options we’re covering, TSA Precheck is probably the one most well-known. Personally, we’ve sung its praises for the 5+ years we’ve now had it.

With TSA PreCheck, you get to go on a special line that allows you to skip the regular queue. You also can keep your shoes and belt on, don’t have to remove your bag o’liquids, computer and electronics from your bags, etc.

This article explains the process of what to expect if you apply for TSA Pre-Check (or Global Entry. Pre-Check is the 2nd half of the post). It also has links to start your application.

TSA Pre-Check is available to citizens of select non-U.S. countries. The process varies depending on what country you’re in and you may need to pay more in total, depending on the pre-application process your home country requires before applying for Global Entry/TSA Pre-Check in the U.S.

Global Entry

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PC: Flickr / James Tourtellotte

Used for: Entry into the U.S. via air, land and sea, from international destinations
Cost: $100 for 5 years (Also includes 5 years of TSA Pre-Check)
Discounts: Some credit cards will pay the fee (you can also use reward points to pay for it, but we don’t recommend that)
Available to: U.S. citizens, U.S. lawful permanent residents & citizens of select non-U.S. countries

Global Entry allows you to skip the long immigration/customs queue when you’re entering the United States. From U.S. Customs & Border Protection: “…At airports, program members proceed to Global Entry kiosks, present their machine-readable passport or U.S. permanent resident card, place their fingerprints on the scanner for fingerprint verification and complete a customs declaration. The kiosk issues the traveler a transaction receipt and directs the traveler to baggage claim and the exit.”

The top half of this article explains the process of what to expect if you apply for Global Entry. It also has links to start your application.

Global Entry is available to citizens of select non-U.S. countries. The process varies depending on what country you’re in and you may need to pay more in total, depending on the pre-application process your home country requires before applying for Global Entry in the U.S.

CLEAR

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Used for: Departures from U.S. airports (also car rental companies, stadiums, concert arenas and other venues)
Cost: $179 for 1 year
Discounts: Discounts (including some free trials) are available for Delta Silver, Gold & Platinum Medallion members, most Delta credit card holders, SkyMiles members, people with TripIt Pro subscriptions, etc.
Available to: U.S. citizens, U.S. lawful permanent residents

Unlike the other programs in the post, CLEAR is not run by the U.S. government. It also, by itself, doesn’t help you bypass the long X-ray queue. However it allows you to skip the lines for the TSA officer who compares your boarding pass to your ID, and it allows you to not have to deal with the TSA officers at that first checkpoint ;-). Instead, you deal with pleasant people who talk you through scanning either your eyes or your fingers via a biometrics system, followed by escorting you to the regular queue or, if you have TSA Pre-Check, the PreCheck queue. It’s kind of a Lexus Lane for airports, stadiums, etc ;-).  Here’s more information about our first experience in using CLEAR.

NEXUS

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Used for: Entry into the U.S. from Canada
Cost: $50 for 5 years
Discounts: None that we know of
Available to: U.S. citizens, U.S. lawful permanent residents, Canadian citizens, Canadian permanent residents, and Mexican nationals

NEXUS is jointly run by the Canadian and U.S. border agencies. Homeland Security lists these benefits to having NEXUS:

  • Expedited vehicle/pedestrian entrance into U.S. or Canada.
  • Expedited marine entry into U.S. from Canada.
  • Access to TSA Pre✓® expedited security lanes at airports within the U.S. and U.S territories for U.S. Citizens, U.S. lawful permanent residents and Canadian citizens.

Although somewhat limited in scope (by car or sea, it’s only good for entering the U.S. from Canada), NEXUS can be a nice time saver for not a whole lot of money. The fact that it includes TSA PreCheck is the icing on the cake ;-).

Sentri

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Used for: Entry into the U.S. from Canada and Mexico
Cost: $122.50 for 5 years
Discounts: None that we know of
Available to: U.S. citizens, U.S. lawful permanent residents and all foreign nationals.

Homeland Security lists these benefits to having Sentri:

  • Expedited vehicle/pedestrian entrance into U.S. from Canada and Mexico.
  • Access to TSA Pre✓® expedited security lanes at airports within the U.S. and U.S territories for U.S. Citizens and U.S. lawful permanent residents.

It’s great to help speed things up for people who travel between the U.S. and Mexico or Canada, and having TSA Pre-Check is a great benefit as well.

For more information about each of the government programs, and/or to compare or enroll any of them, this page of the Department of Homeland Security is a great place to go. You can also get more information about CLEAR if you go to their website.

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary

6 thoughts on “Newbies & Non-U.S. Citizens: TSA Pre-Check, Global Entry, CLEAR, NEXUS, Sentri: What’s The Best For You?”

    1. Global Entry machines are only in airports – you’d have to be flying into the country to use them. It’s my understanding that if you’re driving in from Mexico, having Global Entry won’t help you. But having Sentri will get you onto the shorter, faster Sentri-only line.

  1. Slight error. NEXUS is good for Canada when entering from the US by land or air (unknown about sea). Land borders between the US and Canada can be long so NEXUS can provide time savings.

    Also, NEXUS can be as little as $46 (if paying by credit card by mail, not online) and Canadian $50 if your address is Canada (which is about $38). It can be good for as long as 5 years, 11 months (almost 6 years) if you get it the month after your birthday.

    NEXUS is the cheapest way to get Global Entry and Pre-Check. You don’t actually get a Global Entry card but the NEXUS card will work in the machines.

    The biggest drawback is that when you first apply, you have to pick up your card in person, NEXUS offices are only near the border and in Canadian cities. When you pick the card up, you have to pass the interview but the interview is more of a short lecture where they tell you not to cheat or you will be punished.

    Bottom line, if you can get NEXUS, it’s the best with the possible exception of CLEAR. Some people too far from the border or who never fly to Buffalo, NY or Detroit or Canadian cities will find it too hard to get NEXUS. Seattle closed its NEXUS office last year.

    1. Thank you. I’m admittedly less familiar with NEXUS and Sentri. I did know about having to get NEXUS either in or near Canada, but in the interest of space, I purposely didn’t go into much detail on any of the programs, instead opting to give links to the US gov’t pages. “Here’s what’s out there and the basics of each; check the links for more details.” Again, thanks for your input.

  2. NEXUS is actually a program for entry into Canada from anywhere in the world, similar to Global Entry. NEXUS card holders also receive Global Entry privileges for entry into the U.S.

    1. Thank you. I am admittedly less familiar with NEXUS and Sentri and got most of my info from the US gov’t pages 🙂

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