Why do they require an interview, anyways?

Whether you’re embarking on an extended adventure abroad or a quick weekend getaway, you're probably dreading the long lines that can clog airport terminals. You can avoid the wait by applying for the Transportation Security Administration’s PreCheck system – but it won't happen overnight. Get the inside scoop on the application process of this perks-filled program, including tips for handling the in-person interview portion.

What is TSA PreCheck and how do I apply?

TSA PreCheck grants you access to expedited lines at an airport’s security screening checkpoint. Unlike most passengers who must remove their shoes, belts and light jackets, along with liquids and electronics from their carry-on, PreCheck travelers can bypass those steps at the checkpoint.

It's about a five minute process to apply for the program online. You’ll have to pay a non-refundable application fee and schedule an in-person interview at one of the more than 380 enrollment centers across the country, many of which are located inside airports. The interview typically lasts around 10 minutes. During this time, a TSA agent will take your fingerprints, initiate a background check and review basic information on your application.

Make sure you bring proof of citizenship, such as a passport, or at least a photo ID and a document that indicates citizenship status, such as a birth certificate.

How long is the TSA PreCheck application process?

Assuming the PreCheck system isn’t overwhelmed with applicants, you should receive the status of your application, in writing, about two to three weeks after your interview. Some applicants may find out in a matter of days. Try to schedule your interview as soon as possible though – bookings fill up quickly around peak travel seasons.

What is Global Entry and how do I apply?

Returning to the U.S. on an international flight usually means one thing: you'll have to endure long lines for an in-person interview with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Global Entry lets you skip that hassle. You can simply clear customs by answering questions and scanning your passport and fingerprints at an electronic kiosk.

The application process for Global Entry is similar to that of TSA Precheck. It takes just a few minutes to fill out the application online and pay the non-refundable application fee.

If you pass the initial screening, you’ll be asked to schedule an in-person interview at a U.S. Customs and Border Protection office. You’ll find offices in most airports, as well as some off-site locations. Interviews typically take around 15 minutes, because the agency has already pre-screened you for past criminal activity or potential terrorist ties. The interview consists of fairly basic questions, including information already listed on your application, such as your name and employment history.

Be honest and straightforward with your answers. If you feel you may need paperwork to clear up any issues from your past, such as dropped criminal charges, bring it with you. Make sure that you also bring your passport or resident card and another form of ID. The agency will check your driving record before taking your fingerprints and photograph. Although the interview is usually brief, it’s not uncommon for the office to be running behind schedule, so be prepared to wait. If approved, you’ll receive your card, which is valid for five years, in a few weeks by mail.