Traveling to international destinations, including Ireland, is an exciting prospect for most people, especially those who’ve never visited the Emerald Isle before.
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However, the actual traveling itself is quite the headache these days with all the airport security checks that are necessary before you even get to the boarding gate.
But there are ways of avoiding this or at least keeping it to the minimum.
Here are ways to get through airport security faster by enrolling in TSA Pre-Check and/or Global Entry, which are both part of the United States’ Trusted Traveler programs, in addition to other programs that help to streamline the process.
TSA PreCheck®, as the name implies, is offered by the United States Transportation Security Administration.
The initiative is available to eligible passengers who depart from a U.S. airport and are bound for a foreign destination and to passengers who connect to domestic flights after returning to the United States.
According to recent stats from the TSA, 94 percent of PreCheck passengers waited less than 5 minutes in the airport security area.
The advantages include a smoother screening process, which means that you won’t have to remove your shoes, belts, liquids (not bottles of water), laptops, or light jackets.
The TSA requires that liquids, which include aerosols, gels, creams, and pastes, are limited to 3.4 ounces/100 milliliters in weight and must be contained in quart-sized clear plastic bags.
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The TSA PreCheck Application Process
You can apply for TSA PreCheck online.
Once you’ve filled out the application, you’ll need to schedule an appointment at a TSA PreCheck enrollment center where a background check and fingerprinting will be necessary.
When you are approved, you will receive a Known Traveler Number. This is the number that will appear on your boarding pass and signifies that you are in the TSA PreCheck program.
You can also add that number to your airline loyalty accounts.
More than 200 U.S. airports and 81 airlines accommodate the TSA PreCheck program.
Unfortunately, Aer Lingus is not one of them.
This means that even if you are a member of the program, your boarding pass will not reflect that since the airline is not a participant.
However, American Airlines, Delta, and United Airlines all participate in the TSA PreCheck program, and all three of them fly to Ireland.
The cost to enroll in the TSA PreCheck program is $85, which is valid for five years.
Children 12 and under are included in a parent or guardian’s membership and can use the same PreCheck security line.
You might be able to waive the above cost if you hold a specific credit card or belong to a loyalty program that partners with the TSA.
The Global Entry Program
The Global Entry program is different from TSA PreCheck in that it focuses not on airport security measures per se but on providing a more streamlined experience for passengers entering the United States through its immigration channels.
It is especially useful for passengers who fly internationally four or more times a year.
If you join the program, which is run by the Department of Homeland Security, you will get automatic membership in the TSA’s PreCheck initiative anyway.
Who is Eligible?
U.S. citizens, U.S. lawful permanent residents, in addition to citizens of Argentina, Canada (through the NEXUS Program), Colombia, Germany, India, Mexico, the Netherlands (through the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Program Trusted Traveler Programs (TTP), Panama, Panama, Singapore, South Korea (through that country's SES Program), Switzerland, Taiwan, and the U.K. (through the British Home Office website).
British residents should register for Global Entry firstly through the UK government website and then pay the fee on the Homeland Security site.
As well as the benefits that you’ll get from being in TSA PreCheck, having a Global Entry pass will also save you a lot of hassle at U.S. Preclearance in either Dublin or Shannon, allowing you to pass through U.S. Customs and Border Protection in a matter of minutes without having to scan your passport.
The Global Entry Application Process
Like TSA PreCheck, you must complete an online application form to start the process of Global Entry membership. Once you receive conditional approval, you’ll be asked to schedule an interview.
Be sure to bring a print version of your conditional approval, a valid passport or your Green Card, and a driver's license, mortgage statement, or utility bill as proof of residence.
Expect basic questions about your application and why you want to join the Global Entry Program. You may also be asked to confirm some of the countries you’ve recently visited. Following that, you’ll be fingerprinted, and your photograph will be taken.
You’ll also get your Known Traveler Number (KTN) during the interview so that you can use TSA PreCheck.
Expect your Global Entry card within 7 to 10 days after the interview. Be sure to activate your card within 30 days of receiving it.
The Cost of Global Entry
The cost of the Global Entry program is $100, and it is also valid for five years. If young children travel with you, they too must be members of the program.
You may be reimbursed for that if you use specific credit cards. They include the following:
American Express Platinum Card
Delta SkyMiles Platinum American Express Card
Delta SkyMiles Platinum Business American Express Card
Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card
Delta SkyMiles Reserve Business American Express Card
Marriot Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card
Bank of America
Bank of America Premium Rewards Card
Barclays MasterCard Black Card
Barclays MasterCard Gold Card
BB&T Spectrum Travel Rewards Credit Card
Capital One Spark Miles for Business Card
Capital One Venture Rewards Card
Chase Sapphire Reserve Card
Citi/AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard
Citi Prestige Card
Expedia Rewards Voyager Card
City National Bank
Crystal Visa Infinite Credit
HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard Credit Card
Navy Federal Credit Card
Navy Federal Credit Union Visa Signature Flagship Rewards Card
PenFed Credit Union
PenFed Pathfinder Rewards Visa Signature Card
Provident Credit Union
Provident World + Travel Visa Signature Card
SunTrust Travel Rewards Credit Card
UBS Visa Infinite Credit Card from UBS Bank
SkyPass Select Visa Signature Card
FlexPerks Gold American Express
Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite Card
Others include the Aeroplan Credit Card, the IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card, the Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card, the United Business Card, the United Club Infinite Card, and the United Explorer Card.
Using the Global Entry Kiosk at the Airport
While fingerprinting and the scanning of passports is the method that is used in most U.S. airports to identify passengers using Global Entry kiosks, the Homeland Security Department has recently been transitioning to facial recognition technology.
The new process has already been rolled out at 24 U.S. airports, including Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas/Fort Worth, Miami, New York, and San Francisco.
The CLEAR Program
The Clear Program is a privately-run biometric identity verification platform that scans passengers’ eyes and faces without them having to show traditional ID documents.
It is geared primarily to domestic passengers in the United States.
The touchless screening initiative is available only to U.S. citizens and Green Card holders 18 years of age and older who hold a valid government-issued photo ID such as a driver's license, a passport, or a military ID.
The technology enables passengers to skip the two-step security process at 39 U.S. airports as well as 16 stadiums throughout the country, allowing them to enter security lines much faster.
Clear alone will not allow you to bypass the actual security processes in place at U.S. airports. You will need TSA PreCheck for that.
Using Clear with TSA PreCheck
If you have Clear and TSA PreCheck, you will be escorted to the front of the PreCheck line for your security screening.
You can sign up for Clear online or at a Clear kiosk at the airport.
Once you’re in it, simply go to one of the Clear checkpoints at a participating airport and verify your identity by using your fingerprints or eyes.
The annual CLEAR fee is $179 per year. Children under 18 are free.
You will get reimbursement in the form of an annual statement credit of $179 when you use either a personal or business American Express Platinum Card.
Reimbursement is also available when using the Centurion Card from American Express.
My advice is to sign up for Global Entry/TSA PreCheck first, then apply for Clear.
There is no background check necessary if you are applying for Clear only.
The Clear program is particularly useful for frequent fliers and for anyone living near congested airports such as Atlanta, New York, or Washington, D.C.
The NEXUS Program
The NEXUS program is designed for travelers who frequently go between the United States and Canada either by land, sea, or air.
It is jointly run by the U.S. Trusted Traveler Program and the Canadian Border Services Agency.
If you are driving, you’ll have the choice of entering a special lane with shorter lines.
The questioning process is often faster since backgrounds checks have already been done.
NEXUS membership includes all TSA PreCheck and Global Entry benefits as well as access to NEXUS kiosks when you arrive in Canada (this is like Global Entry in the U.S.).
NEXUS is available at 17 US-Canada land border crossings, including those in New York, Michigan, and Washington State.
The fee is $50 and is valid for 5 years.
Have you thought about enrolling in any of the above programs? Or perhaps you are already enrolled. Either way, let me know in the comments below.