A Familiar Situation?
It’s not quite 6:00 a.m. and the heat is already rising at DFW Airport’s curbside passenger drop off. Though not fully awake, you did manage to coordinate the Uber ride. Love an app that can do most everything. As you walk through the sliding glass doors, you are hit with a blast of cold forced air – and the sight of a sea of people crowding around signs that read “Security” and “All Gates.” With summoned calm you look at the departure time on your pre-printed boarding pass: 6:58 a.m. The “Departing Flights” screen on the wall shows a current time of 6:02 a.m. and an “On Time” status for your flight to Miami. A new wave of fellow travelers is quickly falling into place at the end of what you can now see is a very long cue. You connect the dots, slowly, begrudgingly … there is a good chance you will not get through the security line with enough time to make your domestic flight. A bead of sweat trickles down your temple as a mild sensation of panic overtakes your usually calm demeanor.
A Pragmatic Solution
Most, if not all, U.S. flyers know the above-described situation. Besides arriving at the airport with more time to spare, however, there is one basic measure our tardy traveler could have taken to avoid this outcome altogether: enrollment in the Transportation Security Administration’s (“TSA”) Pre-Check Trusted Traveler Program. Open to U.S. citizens, nationals, and lawful permanent residents with no disqualifying offenses, violations, or incidents, this program provides low-risk domestic travelers with expedited screening at security checkpoints located across over 200 participating U.S. airports. Had our tardy traveler been enrolled in TSA’s Pre-Check program, she would have remained as cool as the air conditioning in the entry way. More specifically, she would have skipped past the long line using, instead, a lane reserved for TSA Pre-Check program members. Having advanced to the front of the screening area, she would then also have been spared the inconvenience of removing her shoes, belt, jacket, laptop, etc. for subsequent examination. To the contrary, she would, barring the trigger of some flag (a topic for a future blog), have breezed right through security with plenty of time to make her flight’s on time departure. And this would have been accomplished in a sweat- and stress-free way.
Sign Me Up!
If this sounds appealing – and how, in this day and age of increased security and harried travel, could it not – what exactly must one do to enroll in the TSA Pre-Check Trusted Traveler Program? Surprisingly, given its status as a U.S. government administered program, the process is as simple as it is straightforward. Would be TSA Pre-Check trusted travelers begin by pre-enrolling pursuant to the completion of an online application. This is followed by scheduling an appointment at a local Enrollment Center for the purpose of binding one’s identity, capturing biometric data, and paying a non-refundable enrollment fee. There are no long waits or probing personal interviews. It’s quick, reasonably priced, and there’s an approximately 95% chance of obtaining a positive determination of eligibility. In the event there is a problem with an application, the TSA communication notifying the preliminary determination of ineligibility will set forth both the reason for the denial and instructions (including a deadline) for responding. As such “appeals” tend to afford only one additional bite at the apple, applicants are well advised to secure the service of an experienced advocate – one who can correct inaccuracies in the preliminary determination, present evidence in support of the request for reconsideration, and persuasively make the case that an applicant is otherwise eligible for enrollment in the program. Assuming an eventually successful application, TSA Pre-Check members can, with few foreseeable exceptions (also the subject of a future blog), look forward to a significantly improved – and sweat-/stress-free – quality of domestic travel experience.
Robert Kossick is a board certified international lawyer who specializes in import compliance and enforcement, export control and economic sanction, and trusted traveler program issues. For additional information, please visit www.usctlaw.com.