Thursday, January 14, 2016

Austin airport now screens applicants for TSA PreCheck program

If you travel by air several times a year—and you get impatient waiting in long security lines—there’s good news for Austin travelers.  On January 14, Austin-Bergstrom International Airport joined 38 other U.S. airports in offering the U. S. Transportation Security Administration’s PreCheck program.

Pay $85, and you can skip potentially long security lines for five years. Even better you won’t have to take off your shoes, jackets, or belts. You can leave your laptop and baggie with allowable liquids in your carryon bag.

Of course, since the federal agency recently announced that it has enrolled more than two million passengers in the expedited security screening program, those lines may start getting longer, too. But with the major growth currently being experienced at the Austin airport, participating in the program should still save passengers time.
U.S. citizens and permanent residents are eligible to apply for the program, which requires an in-person visit at an application center. Fingerprints and required documentation is required for the process. Approved PreCheck travelers receive a “known traveler number” as soon as five business days after their interview that can be used when booking travel.

The program began in Oct. 2011, and now has 356 application centers around the country, including 39 on-site offices at airports. Austin has had a downtown PreCheck enrollment center since 2014, but the airport site will be more convenient for many travelers.
The $85 application fee for PreCheck applicants covers an extensive background check as certain criminal convictions — such as federal crimes or certain state felonies — within the past seven years can disqualify applicants.

If you travel internationally, check out the Global Entry program, which is offered through U.S. Customs and Border Protection. I have been a member since 2014 ($100 for five years), and it greatly expedites passing through customs in countries that participate in the program and especially saves time when re-entering the U.S. after foreign travel.
Once you have signed up and been approved, fill in information with your “known traveler number” on airline websites so the designation will be noted on your boarding pass. On rare occasions it might be omitted, in which case you’ll have to join the masses in the regular (longer) lines.

Photos from free sources


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