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Trusted Traveler Programs – Explained!

In an effort to strike a balance between national security and a smoother travel experience for passengers, the United States has implemented a range of Trusted Traveler Programs. While the programs are all closely related, choosing the best one for you really depends on how and where you travel. To help you decide, check out the highlights (and limitations) of the various programs:

What is the difference between TSA Pre-Check and Global Entry?

These are the most common programs used by Travel Beyond clients. Both are offered by the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) through the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

TSA Pre-Check is for departures from US airports only. Members get to wait in shorter lines for expedited security screening. In most cases you do not need to remove belts or shoes, laptops can remain in cases, and so forth.  Cost is $78.00 for 5 years.

Global Entry is for re-entry into the US from international destinations, whether traveling by air, land or sea. Members receive expedited clearance through US Customs and Immigration. Members also receive full TSA Pre-Check privileges when departing from US airports. Cost is $100.00 for 5 years.

What about these other programs: Nexus, Sentri, and FAST?

These programs are also offered by the US Department of Homeland Security through the Transportation Security Administration.

Nexus is for travel between the US and Canada onlySentri is for travel between the US and Mexico only.  Either can include TSA Pre-Check privileges.  In general, these programs are more useful for people who live near the northern and southern US borders who do not otherwise travel internationally.

FAST (Free and Secure Trade) is available only to commercial truck drivers traveling frequently between the US, Canada, and Mexico.  It does not include TSA Pre-check privileges.

For more information about all of these TSA Trusted Traveler programs, please visit their website. Here, you will find eligibility rules, expected processing times and even a worksheet to help you determine which program is best for you.

What is Clear?

Unlike the TSA Trusted Traveler programs, Clear is owned by a private company. Clear allows you to skip the security line completely.  Instead of waiting in line, you approach a Clear kiosk where your ID and boarding pass are verified through biometric technology. Once that quick process is complete, an agent escorts you past all the lines right up to the checkpoint for screening.  Cost is $189 per year.

Having Clear as a complement to either TSA Pre-Check or Global Entry improves your odds of having fast and smooth airport experiences. For more information, visit their website.

In summary, the capabilities of these programs may vary, but all of them foster a smooth travel experience while maintaining robust security protocols. Hopefully, this will point you in the direction of what’s best for you. Here’s to short security lines and safe travels!

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