It’s got to be the most frustrating part of air travel: Standing in the long, windy, stress-inducing security lines. But if you’re a savvy jet-setter like our very own Tom Monahan, senior manager of American Express Global Business Travel’s brand and visual identity, you know the solution to bypassing those snaking lines is simply to enroll in the U.S. Customs and Border Protections’ (CBP) Trusted Traveler programs. Monahan, who had joined Global Entry and TSA Pre✔® some time ago, recently enrolled in CLEAR™ as well.
Monahan says he had noticed the CLEAR signage at several airports but finally signed up when he received a special promotion through Delta™. He explains enrollment was quick and easy, and he can vouch for how swiftly he was able to move through to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) security checkpoint while recently using the CLEAR lanes at LaGuardia Airport and Miami International.
Monahan was impressed with the entire experience — what he says felt like “first-class access.” He and his travel companion literally were the only travelers in the CLEAR lane at both airports. At the kiosk, they scanned their boarding passes from their mobile phones along with placing two fingers on a pad for digital identification. Once the system verified them, a CLEAR ambassador personally escorted them straight to the TSA physical screening. They bypassed a line of about 50 people.
“A line that could have taken a half-hour, we got through in seconds,” Monahan said.
Want to be able to skip those long airport security lines, too? Read on to learn more about how to enroll in the three CBP Trusted Traveler programs.
How it works: CLEAR is a private program that is sanctioned by the TSA. Instead of waiting for an officer to review your ID and boarding pass, members whiz through CLEAR’s dedicated lane to have their identity verified by a fingerprint or iris scan, then move directly to the metal detectors and bag scanners for TSA’s physical screening.
As of July 2017, CLEAR has biometric ID machines in place at 23 airports nationwide as well as at a growing number of sports stadiums across the country.
Who can apply: U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents.
How to apply: You can begin by registering online but will need to complete the process at one of CLEAR’s enrollment centers, located at participating airports and other venues. No appointment is needed, and it takes all but five minutes of standing in front of a kiosk as your biometrics are scanned for identification. A CLEAR ambassador will be there to guide you through it. Once registration is complete, you can enjoy the benefits immediately, zipping through airport security the very same day.
Cost: A $100 application fee for a five-year membership. Several credit cards —including the Platinum Card® from American Express and the Business Platinum Card® from American Express OPEN — and some airline loyalty programs will reimburse the fee.
How it works: Global Entry allows preapproved travelers the ability to skip the paperwork and CBP inspection lines when returning from international trips. Members go straight to a kiosk to make any customs declarations and have their passport and fingerprint scanned before receiving a receipt and exiting to the baggage claim area. As an added benefit, Global Entry members are also eligible to participate in the TSA Pre✔ program.
Who can apply: U.S. citizens, U.S nationals and U.S. lawful permanent residents as well as citizens of: Argentina, Colombia, Germany, India, Mexico, the Netherlands, Panama, the Republic of Korea, Singapore, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. Canadian citizens and residents enrolled in NEXUS also can use the Global Entry kiosks.
How to apply: The first step is to create and log into a Global Online Enrollment System (GOES) account, where you will fill out an online application and pay the registration fee. Once you successfully pass a background check, you will schedule an interview at an enrollment center. (To find the nearest one, click here.)
To the interview, bring your passport(s), one other form of identification, such as a driver’s license, and your GOES conditional approval letter. During the interview, you’ll be asked about your prior addresses and foreign countries you’ve traveled to, so come prepared with those details, too.
As of July 2017, airports in Houston, Austin, San Francisco and Vancouver are allowing travelers who have been conditionally approved to enroll while passing through customs upon their arrival in the United States. For more information, click here.
Cost: $85 for a five-year membership. As with Global Entry, several credit cards — such as American Express’ Platinum and Business Platinum cards — as well as airline loyalty programs will reimburse the fee.
How it works: Available at more than 180 airports nationwide with more than 30 participating airlines, this program lets travelers who have a TSA Pre✔ indicator on their boarding pass use expedited lines for the TSA’s physical screening. In addition, these travelers do not need to remove their shoes, belt and a light jacket during the screening and can leave their laptop and clear, quart-size bag of liquids in their carry-on.
Who can apply: U.S. citizens, U.S. nationals and U.S. lawful permanent residents. Those who are enrolled in other CBP Trusted Traveler programs (i.e. Global Entry, NEXUS or SENTRI) are also eligible to participate.
How to apply: If you already are a Global Entry, NEXUS or SENTRI member, simply enter your membership number in the “known traveler number” (KTN) field when booking reservations.
For those who are not a part of those programs, you can apply online and make an appointment at one of more than 380 enrollment centers around the country for a background check and fingerprinting. No passport is required, but you will need other forms of identification, such as a driver’s license and birth certificate.
After your application has been approved, you will receive a KTN, which must be entered when booking your flight to ensure the TSA Pre✔ indicator shows up on your boarding pass.