If you listen to frequent flyers, you’ll hear them say the same thing over and over again – “Get Global Entry,” and “Get TSA PreCheck!”
As relatively frequent (6-8ish times a year?) flyers, we definitely agree with both pieces of advice. TSA PreCheck has saved us literally hours of standing on line at airports, all across the country, over the years. And although we only use our Global Entry every year or two, we certainly appreciate having it when we get back home from whatever country and get to go on the “short” line.
Both TSA PreCheck and Global Entry are good for 5 years. TSA PreCheck’s fee is $85 (but now just $70 to renew), while Global Entry’s is $100 – but if you’re approved for Global Entry, you also get TSA PreCheck for “free.” So if you don’t have either, but are considering applying, if there is ANY chance you may travel outside the U.S. in the next 5 years, you may want to consider getting Global Entry.
However, if you decide to go the way of “Buy one (Global Entry) get one (PreCheck) free,” there’s one problem: it takes FOREVER to get clearance.
TSA PreCheck is a relatively simple process:
- Fill out the application online and pay the $85 application fee
- Schedule your appointment for in-person enrollment
- Do said enrollment (it’s mainly just fingerprinting for a background check)
- Get your Known Traveler Number (KTN)
And BOOM, you have TSA PreCheck! According to the TSA, most applicants receive their KTN in 3-5 days after their fingerprinting (TSA admits some applications can take up to 60 days but that appears to be the exception, not the rule).
Global Entry is a more complicated process:
- Create a Trusted Traveler Programs (TTP) account online
- Log in to your TTP account, complete the application and pay the $100
- Wait for your application to be conditionally approved
- Once conditionally approved, set up an interview
- Find out if you’ve been approved or not
Global Entry takes more time (much, much more time), because it can be difficult to find an appointment time (although here are all sorts of ways to expedite that). If you’re set on doing your interview in the town where you live and there aren’t any interview openings for months, that will play a role in how long until you get your Global Entry status.
And therein lies the problem (which I knew about but never really put much thought into, but then a reader of ours wrote to us with the exact situation) – if you’re planning on getting your PreCheck via your Global Entry application, you won’t get your TSA PreCheck KTN until you’ve gotten your Global Entry approval. Which…kinda stinks.
SO…even though you were probably looking forward for that “get 2 for the price of 1,” if you’re in a hurry and have the extra money to spend, you may want to get your TSA PreCheck separately. Applications for that are sent out to private companies and take much less time to process. So you can theoretically get that in a much shorter period of time, instead of waiting for your Global Entry to be approved.
***Many thanks to Greg S., who was the catalyst for this post. I hope you find a nearby interview slot in the less-distant future!
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