Let’s face it, airport security is a huge hassle. If you fly frequently in the United States, you’re probably quite familiar with the routine. Take off your shoes, belt, jacket, and anything else that could possibly set off an alarm. Dig all of your liquids and electronics out of your bag. Stand in line barefoot, waiting for your turn to go through the scanner. Frantically try to shove everything back in your bag, while the TSA agents glare at you for holding up the line.
Fortunately, you can skip this major inconvenience with the TSA PreCheck program. If you’re approved for TSA PreCheck, you can breeze through security checkpoints without having to remove half of your clothes and unpack your bag. Any U.S. citizen or legal resident can apply for TSA PreCheck, regardless of how often you fly. So let’s take a look at what documents you need to enroll in TSA PreCheck and how to apply.
What is TSA PreCheck?
The TSA PreCheck program allows flyers to get through security checkpoints quickly and easily. If approved, you will receive a Known Traveler Number (KTN) that you will need to provide when booking a flight. Your KTN gives you access to the designated TSA PreCheck security lines, where you don’t have to remove your shoes, belt, or jacket, and you can also leave your electronics and liquids in your carry-on bag.
Who qualifies for TSA PreCheck?
To apply for TSA PreCheck, you must be a U.S. citizen, U.S. national, or legal permanent resident. Minors can apply as well, but any children under the age of 12 can join their parents or guardians in the TSA PreCheck line, without being enrolled themselves.
However, TSA does run extensive background checks on all applicants, and having a felony or warrant on your record will likely disqualify you. You can also have your enrollment revoked if you are convicted of a felony after applying.
What documents do you need to apply for TSA PreCheck?
When applying for TSA PreCheck, you will need to show proof of your identity and U.S. citizenship or immigration status. This can be a single document that does both, or separate documents for each. The following documents serve as proof of both citizenship and identity and you can apply for TSA PreCheck with just one document from this list:
- U.S. Passport book or card
- U.S. Enhanced Driver’s License or Enhanced Identification Card
- Permanent Resident Card (Green Card)
- Enhanced Tribal Card
- Foreign Passport AND immigrant visa with I-551 annotation of “Upon Endorsement Serves as Temporary I-551 Evidencing Permanent Residence of 1 Year”
- Re-entry Permit (I-327)
If you don’t have any of the documents listed above, you’ll need at least one document from each of the following lists:
Valid Photo ID
- Driver’s license
- State or federally-issued photo ID
- U.S. military ID card (active or retired)
- U.S. military dependent’s card
- Native American tribal document with photo
Valid Proof of Citizenship
- U.S. Birth Certificate
- U.S. passport that expired within the last 12 months
- U.S. Certificate of Citizenship (N-560 or N-561)
- U.S. Certificate of Naturalization (N-550 or N-570)
- U.S. Citizen Identification Card (I-179 or I-197)
- Consular Report of Birth Abroad (FS-240)
- Certification of Report of Birth Abroad (DS-1350 or FS-545)
All documents must be valid and unexpired and either originals or certified copies. If you’ve legally changed your name, you’ll also need to provide an original or certified copy of your marriage certificate, divorce decree, or court order for a legal name change.
If you are a U.S.-born citizen, the easiest way to apply is with a current driver’s license and a certified copy of your birth certificate. If you don’t have a birth certificate copy on hand, you can apply for one online here.
How to apply for TSA PreCheck
Once you have the required documents, you can start the TSA PreCheck application process. While most applications are processed quickly, some can take up to two months. So it’s recommended that you apply well before your travel date.
Step 1: Start your application online
First, you’ll need to visit the TSA PreCheck website and complete the online application. It will ask for basic information like your name, address, date of birth, and contact information, as well as your employment status and travel history.
When you submit your application, you’ll need to pay the $78 processing fee. If approved, your enrollment will be good for five years. Renewal fees are $70 if you apply online and $78 if you apply in person at an enrollment center. However, many credit cards with travel perks will reimburse your application fees.
Step 2: Schedule an appointment
After you’ve submitted your application, you’ll need to schedule an in-person appointment at a TSA PreCheck enrollment center. You can set up your appointment online, and there are enrollment centers at most major airports and other locations throughout the U.S.
Step 3: Attend your appointment
At your in-person appointment, you’ll need to show your documents that prove your identity and citizenship, and the agent will review them and conduct a short interview. They will also take your fingerprints to complete the background check.
Step 4: Wait for approval
After the interview, TSA will conduct a background check and review your application. Most of the time, you’ll receive a confirmation or denial within 3-5 business days. However, some applications can take up to 60 days to process. If you are approved, you will receive a Known Traveler Number (KTN) that you will need to provide when booking flights.
TSA PreCheck can take a lot of the frustration out of flying and let you skip the long lines and inconvenience of normal security screenings. It’s easy to apply, but you will need to show documents verifying your identity and U.S. citizenship or legal residency, such as a U.S. passport or driver’s license and U.S. birth certificate.
If approved, you’ll get a KTN that gives you access to the TSA PreCheck lines at the airport — where you get to keep all your clothes on and your bag packed as you go through security.