How the past can affect plans for speedy security clearance

TSA PreCheck has made travel easier for millions of people by helping them get through security more efficiently. The transportation security administration program allows “trusted travelers” to pass through TSA checkpoints without being parted from their laptops or having to open their bags or remove their shoes. How trustworthy do you need to be to make it into the PreCheck program? A background check determines who is worthy of the privilege.

DUI arrest and PreCheck

What about a DUI conviction? Even an otherwise law-abiding citizen can make a youthful mistake and end up with a DUI charge, misdemeanor, or DWI. Does a conviction for a drunk driving mistake made in the past mean you will be forever fated to endure rigorous TSA screening by border protection? Unfortunately, the answer is not very clear in the application process.

Driving under the influence is not listed among TSA’s “Disqualifying Offenses.”‌ for tsa precheck status. That said, eligibility for the program is at the discretion of the TSA, and the agency reserves the right to reject an application based on domestic criminal convictions or an imprisonment longer than 365 days or other serious crimes. Further, the Global Entry program doesn’t accept those with any criminal convictions or criminal charges. Because the Global Entry and PreCheck background screenings are similar, it's reasonable that the same standards apply for both programs.

What does TSA look for in a background check?

The point of a TSA background check is to establish the risk a traveler poses to u.s. customs and airport security.‌ To that end, passengers are required to submit fingerprints so an FBI security screening can be conducted. There’s also an in-person interview. During this background check, TSA looks into local, state and federal databases, checking applicants against the no-fly list, criminal records, and other potentially relevant sources of information.

On the TSA website, you'll see reference to methods “seen and unseen” of protecting national security. Ultimately, it’s at the discretion of the TSA that applicants are listed as low-risk travelers and make it into the PreCheck program. That expedited screening is afforded to some passengers. TSA agents make judgment calls on what constitutes a threat, and anecdotal evidence exists indicating that a DUI less than 10 years old can disqualify an applicant from acceptance into the PreCheck program.

Other reasons for rejection

Find the list of disqualifying offenses on the TSA website, for the tsa precheck program.‌ These offenses include permanent disqualifying reasons such as treason, murder and espionage, as well as offenses like identity fraud, arson, robbery or immigration violations, which are considered interim disqualifying criminal offenses. If an applicant is under suspicion of any of the offenses in either category, that's grounds for disqualification as well.

Applicants can also be disqualified for providing false or incomplete information on the application. It’s very important, then, when applying for TSA PreCheck, that you answer all questions fully and honestly and be a lawful permanent resident or u.s. citizen.


Because the TSA website leaves questions open as to how an applicant qualifies for the PreCheck program, it’s best to ask questions about any concerns before applying. Consumers can reach the TSA customer service line by calling (866) 289-9673.