Can You Bring Food on a Plane? TSA Says Bon Appétit [2023]

When it comes to airport security, it’s not always clear what you can and can’t bring on a plane.

This is especially the case for food.

There’s nothing worse than being both confused and hangry, so in this article, I will cover the TSA food rules and discuss which food items you can bring on a plane.

I’ll give you a lot of tips on how to best transport your grub and how to be ready for TSA in the event you get questioned on some items.

Can you bring food on a plane?

Yes, you can bring food on a plane but you could face some restrictions depending on whether or not TSA considers your food a “solid” or “non-solid.”

The distinction is not always as obvious as you think it is and some foods have special exceptions.

So keep reading below and I’ll break it all down and give you some clear examples of what is allowed and what might be tossed!

Tip: Use the free app WalletFlo to help you travel the world for free by finding the best travel credit cards and promotions!

food to go

Common solid foods allowed by TSA

TSA published a list that provides some guidance on what foods are allowed and what foods are not. Here is a non-exhaustive list list of common foods on that list (plus others) that are allowed through airport security.

  • Bread
  • Brisket
  • Burgers
  • Burritos
  • Candy
  • Cereal
  • Chicken wings
  • Solid cheese
  • Solid chocolate
  • Coffee beans or ground
  • Cooked meats, seafood and vegetables
  • Cookies
  • Crackers
  • Dried fruits
  • Fresh eggs
  • French fries
  • Fried chicken
  • Gum
  • Hot dogs
  • Nuts
  • Solid pet food
  • Pies and cakes
  • Pretzels
  • Pizza
  • Salt
  • Sandwiches
  • Snacks
  • Spices (dry)
  • Steaks
  • Tacos
  • Tea (dry tea bags or loose tea leaves)
  • Wraps

Because these are all solid food items, there is no limit on the amount of these that you can bring through TSA security.

You just need to make sure that the size of your carry-on and personal item doesn’t exceed what is allowed by the airline you’re flying with.

Keep in mind when you are bringing these items through security, you want to make sure that they are properly packaged but more on how to do that further below.

Sandwiches are allowed on airplanes.

Non-solid food items: it’s not all gravy

Things start to get a little bit mushy when we start talking about non-solid food items, because the TSA liquids rule may apply to your food.

TSA Liquids 3-1-1 rule

The TSA Liquids 3-1-1 Rule states that you can only bring liquids in containers no larger than 3.4 ounces (100 milliliters) and that all of your liquid containers must fit “comfortably” into one clear, quart-size bag.

Comfortably means that the bag will seal without busting at the seams.

During screening, you will have to remove this bag from your luggage unless you have TSA Pre-Check, which is a great program that allows you to get through airport security much quicker.

Many non-solid food items will fall into this liquid category and thus be subject to the 3.4 ounce limitations.

Foods that fall under the liquids rule

Here is a non-exhaustive list of food items that will fall under the liquids rule:

  • Liquid chocolate
  • Creamy dips and spreads
  • Mashed fruits such as applesauce
  • Gravy
  • Honey
  • Jam and jelly
  • Maple syrup
  • Oils and vinegars
  • Peanut butter
  • Wet pet food
  • Salad dressing
  • Salsa and sauces
  • Soups
  • Stews
  • Yogurt

Basically anything that is usually poured, pumped, scooped, smeared, squeezed, slurped, or mashed will be considered a liquid for TSA purposes.

So if you want to bring any of the above items you can, you just need to bring them in a 3.4 ounce container.

And remember, it’s the size of the container that needs to be 3.4 ounces — not the amount of food inside. So you can’t bring 3.4 ounces of honey in a 5 ounce jar, for example.

Peanut butter is a liquid for TSA purposes.

In-between foods (solids mixed with liquids)

Things get a little bit less clear when you are talking about solid foods that have liquid-like substances on or inside them.

For example, if you were trying to get through with a stack of pancakes drowning in maple syrup, would the pancakes be allowed but not the syrup?

Only a certain amount of syrup?

TSA agents have discretion at security checkpoints so you never really know how they might treat certain types of foods that are in between.

But TSA has provided us some guidance in the past to suggest that when it comes to food that mix solids and liquids, you can probably bring them through if they are predominantly solid.

Take a look at this tweet where they confirmed cupcakes would be allowed in unlimited quantities and sizes even though frosting is considered a liquid.

Interpretation: Foods that are predominantly solid may not be subject to the liquids rule.

This could include the following items:

  • Cakes with icing
  • Cinnamon rolls with icing
  • Jelly filled donuts
  • Bagels with spread
  • Lasagna
  • Pasta
  • Pies

Expect there to be inconsistencies when bringing items that fall into this in between category and consider saving the tweet above or taking a screenshot so that you can show it to a TSA agent if needed.

Special foods

Some foods may trigger additional screening or have certain restrictions you may want to think about before bringing them on the plane. These are what we call “special foods.”

Baby food

Baby food is allowed through airport security when brought in “reasonable quantities.” You will likely be forced to remove these items from the rest of your carry-on items.

The big question here is what is considered a “reasonable quantity.” Obviously, that opens the door for subjective interpretation. It seems that the TSA agents will consider the length and duration of your trip when determining the reasonableness. So, for example, if you are on a two hour trip they will consider how much food your baby would need for two hours.

This has led to some issues in the past.

One reason why is that some parents are extra cautious when flying with their kids and will factor in potential delays and things of that nature so that they are well-prepared. This has led some couples to bring more baby food and formula than TSA believes as necessary.

My advice would be to bring as much as you think is necessary for your baby, but be prepared to justify yourself to a TSA agent on why your amount of baby food or formula is a reasonable amount.

The worst that could happen is they require you to throw some of it out and you can always file a complaint later if you think that they were being unreasonable.

Baby formula

Baby formula is allowed through airport security when brought in reasonable quantities. You will likely be forced to remove these items from the rest of your carry-on items.

Breast milk

Breast milk is allowed through airport security when brought in reasonable quantities. You will likely be forced to remove these items from the rest of your carry-on items.

Fresh fruits and vegetables

Fresh fruits and vegetables will be allowed but you need to be very mindful of your destination.

Passengers flying from Hawaii, Puerto Rico, or the U.S. Virgin Islands to the U.S. mainland cannot take most fresh fruits and vegetables due to the risk of spreading invasive plant pests.

You can visit the U.S. Department of Agriculture website for more information.

You also need to be very mindful about traveling to international destinations with fruits and vegetables and other perishable items. You will need to declare these items most likely and some items will be prohibited.

Related: How to (Legally) Bring Pineapples From Hawaii to the Mainland


Cheese can be a little bit tricky for a few reasons.

Solid cheeses like cheddar and swiss won’t be a problem but some of the soft cheeses like Brie cheese will be considered liquids.

Another problem with cheese is that cheese blocks can resemble explosives in the x-ray machine. So sometimes you might get pulled aside and your cheese (and maybe you too) will have to go through advanced screening.

Fresh meat and seafood

Fresh meat and seafood is allowed. However if you are bringing them frozen or with an ice pack then you need to make sure that the ice remains in a solid-state.

If the ice is partially melted, TSA will probably not allow you to bring the ice through. This means that you need to really time your trip to the airport so that these items are brought directly out of the freezer and you arrive at the airport shortly.

Frozen foods

The same rule as above applies to other frozen foods. If you are going to bring anything frozen through airport security that ice or ice pack must remain in a solid-state. If something turns into a slushy type of state, then that will likely be considered a liquid and be subject to the 3-1-1 rule.

Ice cream

Ice cream is allowed to security when it is brought through in its solid state.


If you plan on bringing edibles containing THC make sure you are well-versed in the rules on bringing marijuana on a plane.

Live lobster

A live lobster — yes, a live lobster — is allowed through security and must be transported in a clear, plastic, spill proof container. 

A TSA officer will visually inspect your lobster at the checkpoint and if they give you any pushback, just tell them it’s your “emotional support lobster.”

TSA recommends that you contact your airline to determine your airline’s policy on traveling with your lobster before arriving at the airport.

Protein or energy powders

Powder-like substances greater than 12 oz. / 350 mL must be placed in a separate bin for X-ray screening.

They may require additional screening and containers may need to be opened. TSA encourages you to place non-essential powders greater than 12 oz. in checked bags.

Read more about traveling with protein powder here.

Fresh fruits are allowed on planes but be mindful of your destinations which may now allow them.

Packing your food

Bringing food in your checked baggage

Bringing food in your checked baggage is allowed and may be the only way you can get certain foods on the plane.

Just make sure that you pack safely and with some common sense.

Ziploc bags can work great and consider double bagging to prevent leaks and spills.

Be really careful bringing foods that are in glass jars because your checked baggage can get banged around. We’ve written an entire guide on traveling with glass and it could definitely help you out on this.

The other consideration is that the cargo hold can subject your food items to more extreme conditions whether it be temperature or pressure.

A lot of planes do have temperature control and pressure control in the cargo hold so it’s not like an icy space tundra in there but your bags could be exposed to extreme heat during loading and unloading.

So if you have a delicate item, especially something that might melt, it’s probably better to put it in your carry-on.

Bringing food and liquids as a carry on through TSA security

When you bring your food through TSA security, you want it to be properly packaged and separated.

When I’m talking about packaging, I don’t mean the original packaging of your food items. That’s not needed (although it can sometimes be helpful).

I just mean that you want to place your food items inside something that makes sense such as travel tupperware, zip-loc bags, etc. You can even bring items like pizza wrapped in aluminum foil.

Next, you want to separate your food items from your luggage contents or at least be prepared to.

TSA recently announced that they were having issues with food items cluttering up their x-ray images. As a result, you may be asked to remove all of the food/snack items from your carry-on luggage.

This means that you should take an extra effort to properly package and store your food items so that they are easily retrievable from your luggage.

How can you do this? 

Place food in a separate compartment in your bag or try to wrap it up in a bag or store it in a container that can be taken out quickly. 

When passing food through the x-ray machine, set your food in its own bin or bowl. But be careful. Take extra effort to keep your food from being exposed since airport security trays carry more germs than toilets.

Also, don’t worry about the effects of the X-ray scanners because supposedly they don’t affect your food quality.

One last thing, be aware that if you bring certain items like salt or pepper (that can resemble explosives), it could cause you to get additional screening and slow you down a little bit.

Be ready to pull out your food items when going through airport security.

Bringing food and liquids purchased post-security

We’ve all been there. Strolling through the airport, stopping to pick up a sandwich, when all of a sudden you hear your plane is boarding…. Your immediate reaction might be to panic and start stuffing your pie hole — but you don’t have to! 

That’s because you can bring food and drinks onto the plane that you purchased after going through airport security so long as there is room for you to store them. 

I always try to make sure that I have room inside my carry on bag for the food I am bringing on a plane just in case they consider it as an additional carry-on item/personal item. 

Many airlines won’t consider a small amount or “reasonable amount” of food to be a carry on.

In fact, here is what Delta states

The following items do NOT count as personal items (they’re freebies):

  • A jacket and/or umbrella
  • Food or drink purchased after clearing the security checkpoint
  • Duty-free merchandise
  • Special items like strollers, child restraint seats or assistive devices such as wheelchairs or crutches

So as you can see, food and drink purchased in the airport after security is not considered a personal item (or carry-on). 

This means that you could board a plane with a carry-on bag, a personal item like a backpack, and a bag of food from the airport food court.

But don’t push it because if you look like you’re personally catering the flight, airlines might find that to be “unreasonable.” 

When flying, it’s best to hold your food in your lap or store it in your personal item or carry-on. Placing an item like a to go box on the floor (under thee seat in front) may not be the most sanitary option — plus your food could slide around.

to go food on plane

Bringing your own food or already opened food

The same solid and liquid rules talked about above apply to food that you make on your own and bring from home.

So if you make yourself a grilled cheese sandwich at home and want to bring that on the plane with you then don’t let anybody stop you.

Also, it doesn’t matter if you have already opened up the packaging on your food before heading through security. You could stuff an already opened bag of chips, unwrapped protein bar, etc. in your carry-on and be fine.

Eating food on a plane

There are no rules against bringing your own food on the plane and eating it during the flight.

The main consideration when doing this is how it might affect other passengers.

There are some foods like tuna, cooked broccoli, and hard-boiled eggs that are known for strong odors. Those can become a smelly nuisance as soon as you pop the lid on your tupperware.

So if you want to enjoy items like tuna, be sure to do this in the lavatory.

Okay, I’m kidding — definitely don’t do that.

When eating, be mindful that certain food items might be too messy or crumbly for a plane. This may not be a good time to bust out the Nature Valley granola bars….

Alcoholic beverages

Alcoholic beverages are allowed through airport security but it depends on the size of the beverage. If you are bringing alcoholic beverages through security then they will be subject to the 3-1-1 rule.

This means that you can bring in mini bottles of alcohol but they must fit in the quart-sized bag (mini bottles of liquor are 1.7 ounces).

Any amount of alcohol greater than 3.4 ounces must be packed in checked baggage.

There is also an additional restriction based on the alcohol content of the beverage for checked bags. 

Alcoholic beverages with more than 24% but not more than 70% alcohol are limited in checked bags to 5 liters (1.3 gallons) per passenger and must be in unopened retail packaging. Alcoholic beverages with 24% alcohol or less are not subject to limitations in checked bags. 

Here are some ranges for the alcoholic content of some common beverages:

Alcohol Percentage Content

  • Vodka | ABV: 40-95%
  • Gin | ABV: 36-50%
  • Rum | ABV: 36-50%
  • Whiskey | ABV: 36-50%
  • Tequila | ABV: 50-51%
  • Liqueurs | ABV: 15%
  • Fortified Wine | ABV: 16-24%
  • Unfortified Wine | ABV: 14-16%
  • Beer | ABV: 4-8%
  • Malt Beverage | ABV: 15%

Alcoholic beverages with more than 70% alcohol (over 140 proof), including grain alcohol and 151 proof rum are not allowed on the plane.

Keep in mind one very important FAA regulation, §135.121 Alcoholic beverages:

(a) No person may drink any alcoholic beverage aboard an aircraft unless the certificate holder operating the aircraft has served that beverage.

You are technically not allowed to drink your own alcoholic beverages aboard the aircraft unless the “certificate holder operating the aircraft has served that beverage.”

This means that you could request a flight attendant to serve you your alcohol and be compliant with this regulation. There is no guarantee that they will say yes, but at least you would be drinking it legally if you did it this way.

Still unsure?

If you have gone through all of the rules, and you are still unsure about whether or not your food item is prohibited through airport security, you can simply contact TSA.

For items not listed here, snap a picture or send a question to AskTSA on Facebook Messenger or Twitter. They state that they are available from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. ET weekdays; 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekends/holidays.

TSA Food Rules FAQ

What foods are considered liquids?

Liquid chocolate
Creamy dips and spreads
Mashed fruits such as applesauce
Jam and jelly
Maple syrup
Oils and vinegars
Peanut butter
Wet pet food
Salad dressing
Salsa and sauces

Can I bring baby food through security?

Baby food is allowed through airport security when brought in “reasonable quantities.”

Can I bring baby formula through security?

Baby formula is allowed through airport security when brought in reasonable quantities.

Can I bring fruits and vegetables through security?

Yes, fruits and vegetables are allowed. Just be mindful that some destinations may have regulations on fruits and vegetables.

Can I bring seafood on a plane?

Yes, you can bring seafood through security and onto a plane.

Can I bring ice cream on a plane?

Yes, as long as your ice cream is in a solid state.

Can I bring protein powder on a plane?

Yes, but powder-like substances greater than 12 oz. / 350 mL must be placed in a separate bin for X-ray screening.

Does food count as a carry-on?

Many airlines do not count food as a carry-on. This means you could bring a carry-on bag, personal item (such as a backpack), and a container of food on the plane.

Final word

It is somewhat surprising that TSA allows you to bring it in so much food through airport security. But for those people who are on a budget or like to trim expenses, bringing food through airport security can be a great way to save money. Just make sure that you are aware of the restrictions on certain foods and you should have a smooth experience.

TSA Body Scanners: Images & Machines Explained [2023]

If you have ever gone through a TSA body scanner there’s a good chance that you’ve wondered if your naked body is on display for someone in a mysterious back room.

It’s a valid worry but I think you’ll be happy to realize that you don’t have that much to worry about in today’s screening world.

Below, I will go into detail about TSA body scanners, the images that they display, and what it all means for your privacy, security, and health.

TSA body scanners used today

There are multiple different types of full body scan machines used by various security checkpoints but the two most relevant to TSA are Backscatter X-rays and Millimeter Wave AIT scanners.

Backscatter machines are the original body scanners used by TSA and those machines utilized X-rays which contained ionizing radiation.

However, the Millimeter Wave AIT scanners utilize microwaves which contain non-ionizing electromagnetic radiation.

Sounds scary, right?

But it’s not too far from that utilized by cellular data transmitters.

Check out the diagram below that shows off the electromagnetic spectrum with mircowaves on the left and X-rays on the right.

TSA currently uses Millimeter Wave AIT scanners exclusively, which are designed to peer through clothing to look for both metal and non-metal objects.

electromagnetic spectrum
Image via CDC.

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Brief history of TSA body scanners

TSA began deploying body scanners in 2010 and by the end of the year, the TSA had introduced 500 whole-body scanners at airports all across the US. 

Why exactly were these “nudie scanners” added?

It had a lot to do with the 2009 underwear bomber attempt by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.

He was a Nigerian citizen who tried to blow up a Detroit-bound Northwest Airlines flight (on Christmas Day) by setting off explosives hidden in his underwear.

(It did not end well for him and he is currently serving four life sentences in a super max).

After this attempt, it became apparent to TSA that threats could be concealed beneath clothing and so they decided to introduce full body X-ray scanners.

These scans would presumably be more capable of detecting concealed metal, plastics, ceramics, chemical materials, and importantly, explosives.

The initial body scanners were very invasive and basically showed passengers near nude.

TSA tried to make up for this fact by allowing the agent who was doing the viewing to be seated about 50 to 100 feet away from the scanner.

That officer would then radio to another TSA officer who would actually do the follow up search if needed.

The thinking was that the officer who essentially saw you nude would never have any interaction with you.

TSA also stressed that the images were not saved or printed (although some images were saved and leaked in 2010).

You can see just how much detail they revealed in the images below. I edited one of the photos because they do show quite a bit of full frontal detail and my blog is (mostly) PG-13.

TSA body scan image man
The old body scanners showed near naked images of travelers.

You can see the unedited image here (partial male nudity).

Here is another image of a man and a woman and you can really see how something like a firearm and a knife would stand out.

This type of scanner did have some major concerns about its ability to detect objects but more on that below.

TSA full body scan image female and male gun

The images above may freak you out but you will be happy to know that TSA no longer uses the Backscatter X-ray scanners that produced these detailed images.

That is because in 2012 Section 739 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act required that all full-body scanners operated in airports by the TSA use “Automated Target Recognition” software.

This replaced the picture of a near-nude body with a funny looking, avatar-like image.

The vendor of these machines initially was going to implement a software update on the Backscatter machines but they failed to do so.

Thus, the TSA removed Backscatter X-ray machines by May 2013.

That is pretty much the summary although there are new scanners that use passive terahertz technology which are being tested.

These can view travelers from far away as much is 25 feet. For now, we will just focus on the Millimeter Wave AIT scanners.

How the body scan process works

If you are in the standard security checkpoint line you will first be asked to remove some clothing items including your shoes, belt, jackets, and also accessories like watches, phones, etc.

You want to make sure your pockets are completely empty because the scanners can pick up even the smallest items, including small drugs.

You will then be waived through so that you are standing inside of what feels like an oversized phone booth.

Your legs should be spread apart a bit and then you will lift both of your arms and slightly bend your elbows.

Basically, you’ll look like you’ve been frozen mid jumping jack.

The antennas will then scan you within a couple of seconds and depending on the type of message that the TSA agent sees you will then be directed to proceed through security or undergo more screening.

If you have TSA Pre-Check, you can usually avoid the full body scanners.

In addition to offering you access to an expedited security line, TSA Pre-Check also provides you with the following perks:

  • Shoes can stay on
  • Belt can stay on
  • Light jackets can stay on
  • Laptops allowed to stay in bag
  • Liquids (3-1-1 Rule) can stay in bag

What does a TSA agent see from the body scanners?

Unlike back in the day where a TSA agent might see a near-nude image of your body, now a TSA agent will see one of two things after you are scanned.

If the scanner does not detect anything suspicious the screen will display the word “OK” with no image.

However, if the scanner detects something out of the ordinary there will be an avatar like outline of a human body (not your actual body) and wherever the suspicious item is detected, a yellow box will appear.

This is presumably where a TSA agent will want to search you to verify that the item is not a threat.

Image via LA Times.

Declining the body image scanner

More than 99% of passengers choose to be screened by the full body scanners over alternative screening procedures.

If you are part of the one percent that would prefer not to go through the body image scanner you can avoid it but you will likely be subject to a type of physical screening such as a pat down.

This could be similar to a special SSSS search or a search you’d get if you didn’t have your ID.

There reportedly are some passengers who are not allowed to get by with just a pat down and have to go through the body image scanner but it seems like this is rare.

It could be random or in some cases you might be subject to secondary screening and need to consider a redress number.

Privacy issues

The big privacy issue that most people think about is the nakedness factor. Most people don’t like the thought of being gawked at by mysterious TSA workers behind a curtain.

But with the new software that TSA uses which doesn’t actually show bodily details that is not really a major concern for most.

I think a bigger issue is that the scanners could be tripped when they detect sensitive things like colostomy appliances, penile implants, and catheter tubes.

Related: TSA Medication Rules for Flying on Planes

Another issue with these scanners is that I have heard they can pick up scar tissue very well.

So for example if you had had a mastectomy or some other type of major surgery it’s possible that your scar tissue could trigger the scanner and force you to undergo an additional search in a sensitive region.

There’s also the issue of gender identity.

At least at one point the scanners were set to trip if they detected certain body parts that did not align with the gender they were programmed to be reviewing.

You could imagine how that could cause major issues for a lot of transgender people and inexperienced TSA agents who may not know how to properly handle the situation.

As more state IDs allow for non-binary people to select gender neutral or “X,” I would think these problems would decrease, but I’m not exactly sure how the gender selection process works with TSA’s software.

The good side of TSA scanning technology is that some believe that some of the scanners could be used as a potential to be a skin cancer diagnostic tool for finding early signs of malignant melanoma — a very serious type of skin cancer.

Safety & health concerns

Anytime you are dealing with waves being sent to or through your body there are always going to be questions about the safety of it all.

The Backscatter machines used X-rays which are ionizing radiation, and “more energetic than millimeter waves by more than five orders of magnitude.”

In short, the old machines were much more dangerous than the new ones.

But what about the radiation potential of the Millimeter Wave AIT scanners?

One major authority on this topic, Thomas S. Tenforde, president of the National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements, said in 2010 that the scanners were probably within bounds [of standards for safe operation].

But he also emphasized that there should be an effort to verify that they are safe for frequent use.

A more recent study allegedly called the safety of these AIT scanners into question but other fact checkers have refuted/de-bunked these claims and clarified that there is no risk of DNA damage.

(The main study relied upon to call the safety of these scanners into question did not even focus on airport scanners.)

The reason why these millimeter waves are not viewed as very dangerous is that they are much larger than x-rays and do not involve ionizing radiation.

Ionizing radiation is the type of radiation that can alter the structure of molecules but this scanner does not emit that type.

Instead, it emits a type of microwave that is “thousands of times less than that of a cell phone transmission.”


Many people question whether or not these full body scanners are actually effective.

Actually, the backscatter scanners were shown to be at least somewhat suspect at detecting weapons. They also were potentially subject to getting hacked with malware.

I also read that there were some tests done that showed the scanners did not detect a handgun hidden under an undercover agents undergarments.

However, this could be say more about the people monitoring the images than the machines.

I know from my personal experience that even the slightest object can trigger the scans. I once left a small painkiller tablet in my pocket and the agent was instantly notified and asked me to empty the pocket.

If anything the scanners might be overly sensitive.

One issue with the scanners is that there are some types of materials that make false positives more common such as folds in clothing and buttons.

Also, beads of sweat can trigger false positives on the scanners.

Just how common are false positives? Some countries, such as Germany, have reported a false-positive rate of 54%.

I don’t believe that the TSA body scanners can penetrate through your skin like other X-ray machines do.

So for example they would not detect things like tampons or menstrual cups inside your body from what I can tell.

However, please don’t try to sneak through TSA by sticking items in your bodily cavities.

If you are trying to smuggle drugs that way there are dogs that are trained to sniff drugs including those located in your bum or elsewhere.

Also, I’m pretty sure that if authorities suspect that you might be holding something inside your body they can order you to take a type of X-ray that will reveal items in your body cavities.

TSA Body Scan FAQ

What type of body scanner does TSA use?

TSA currently uses Millimeter Wave AIT scanners which use a form of electromagnetic radiation known as microwaves. These type of body scanners do not use X-rays.

Are the TSA body scanners harmful to pregnant women?

Millimeter Wave AIT scanners emit a type of microwave which is non-ionizing radiation. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “common exposures to non-ionizing radiation are not considered hazardous to you or your unborn baby.” 

Do the TSA full body scanners emit harmful radiation?

Millimeter wavelength radiation is used in the TSA full body scanners but it is non-ionizing and therefore incapable of causing cancers by radiolytic DNA bond cleavage. To date, there is not any evidence of harmful effects other than those caused by localised heating.

Can TSA seen you naked?

No, TSA cannot see you naked when they view the display screen from the full body scanner. Instead, they see a cartoon like representation of a human with highlighted sections if a suspicious item is detected.

Why does TSA use the body scanners?

After the underwear bomber’s attempt in 2009, it became more apparent that threats could be hidden beneath clothing, so TSA wanted a way wait to view potential explosives hidden under cloth.

Can I avoid the TSA full body scanners?

Yes, most passengers can opt to avoid the full body scanner but they will likely be subject to a pat down. Also, those with TSA Pre-Check can avoid the body scanner.

Does TSA save the body scan images?

No, in fact the scanning devices are not supposed to allow TSA to store any of the images. However, in the past some images (35,000) were being saved and some even got leaked.

Final word

Hopefully after reading this article you are a little bit relieved and you learned something about the evolution of the TSA full body scanner.

If you are at all bothered by the scanner I would highly recommend getting TSA Pre-Check so that you can avoid the scanner for the most part.

And just remember the privacy concerns are not nearly as bad as they once were and there is no evidence that you are subject to dangerous radiation.

TSA Rules for Vapes and e-Cigarettes [2023]

As people return to traveling, a lot of passengers will be asking about the TSA rules for vapes, mods, and e-cigarettes.

The rules are relatively straightforward but there are some specific requirements that you need to be aware of when it comes to things like cartridges and batteries.

In this article, I’ll break down everything you need to know about bringing your vape pens or e-cigarettes through airport security.

What are the TSA rules for vapes and e-cigarettes?

TSA allows passengers to bring electronic cigarettes and similar devices (vaporizers, vape pens, mods, atomizers, and electronic nicotine delivery systems) through airport security as a carry-on.

However, these devices are prohibited in checked baggage.

The FAA banned e-cigarettes in checked luggage in 2016 after there were reports of small fires that broke out in the cargo holds. So this restriction is for the safety of all passengers and crew.

Please do not attempt to get around this restriction as it will put everybody at risk.

Tip: Use the free app WalletFlo to help you travel the world for free by finding the best travel credit cards and promotions!

Bringing vapes and e-cigarettes through airport security

When taking your vapes and e-cigarettes through the airport, you can bring them inside your carry-on or inside a personal item (such as a backpack) no problem.

(I don’t recommend putting them in your pocket while in the airport because you might forget as you go through airport security scanners.)

Some airlines, such as American Airlines and Delta, recommended that you store them in a designated carry case that may have come with the original vape packaging.

If your mod/vaping device has multiple parts then it is recommended that you disassemble your vaporizer prior to entering the security line.

Even better is if you have all of the parts (atomizer, tank, mouth piece, batteries, etc.) neatly placed within a carrier for easy inspection.

When you are actually going through security, it’s recommended to remove your e-cigarette/vape, place it in a tray/bin, and put it through the x-ray scanner separately from your carry-on bag.

If you keep it in your bag, it could look suspicious and cause you to undergo additional screening.

Generally speaking, the larger your device the greater your chances of a TSA agent wanting to take a closer look.

If they want to take a closer inspection, just let them do their thing. If you don’t have any illegal substances, you don’t have anything to worry about.

Note that if you are bringing special pods or packs that contain liquid vape you need to comply with the liquids rule which I will talk about below.

Related: Bringing a lighter through airport security

Remove your vaping device from your carry-on when going through security for a smooth experience.

Liquid vape cartridges

Liquid cartridges such as JUULpods that click into the top of the JUUL devices and other similar containers that contain e “juices” are considered a liquid and, therefore, they will be subject to the TSA liquids 3-1-1 rule.

The liquids 3-1-1 rule requires all liquid containers to be 3.4 ounces (100ml) or smaller and for them to be stored in a quart sized bag (preferably a clear Ziploc bag).

This means that if you are transporting JUULpods or other juice packs, you need to transport them in a very specific way.

First, the vape cartridges need to be smaller than 100ml.

Many vape juice cartridges are much smaller than 100ml so it should not be difficult for you to find TSA compliant vape cartridges.

In some cases you may need to remove your vape cartridge from your device so that the device has no attachments containing liquid.

Second, you need to place these cartridges in a quart sized Ziploc bag.

The key thing here is that the cartridges must fit “comfortably” inside the bag which means the bag cannot be overstuffed or almost bursting at the seams.

If you do not have TSA Pre-Check, you will need to remove your liquids bag from your carry-on as you make your way through the airport screening process.

Because of this screening process you might be better off just transporting your pods in your checked baggage where you can transport unlimited quantities.

There are reports of the pods leaking at high altitudes so having them in a sealed bag is highly recommended. It is also better to transport a partially used cartridge that has room for the liquid to expand to avoid leakage.

Related: TSA Checklist (Tips & PDF)

Checking your bag at the gate

Sometimes your plane may not have room for your carry-on, especially if you are towards the back of the boarding process.

If this happens to you and you are traveling with your vape, be sure that you remove your vape and batteries from your carry-on bag that they are checking because they will not be allowed as a checked item.

Related: Can You Take Cigarettes on a Plane?

Vape pen chargers

If you are bringing a power charger or power bank that contains a lithium ion battery it must also be packed in your carry-on bag.

This is because such battery packs can cause risks of explosions and fires in the cargo hold. So to be on the safe side, bring your spare batteries with you on your carry-on.

Keep in mind that TSA can apply extra scrutiny when traveling with multiple spare batteries because the batteries can pose a risk. This is especially true if your lithium batteries have more than 100 watt hours.

For that reason, you may want to only travel with one spare battery or pack your multiple batteries delicately so that they cannot come in to contact with each other.

Related: Bringing Batteries on a Plane: TSA’s Rules for Staying Charged Up

Flying with marijuana/THC vapes

With the growing legalization of marijuana in different states, a lot of travelers are now curious as to how they can legally fly when carrying marijuana on them.

The first thing to note is that marijuana is still illegal on the federal level which makes it illegal to fly with.

Reportedly, regardless of what airport you are departing, TSA’s response to finding marijuana will be the same.

“It is important for me to note that TSA’s response to the discovery of marijuana is the same in every state and at every airport – regardless of whether marijuana has been or is going to be legalized,” TSA spokesperson Lorie Dankers explained. 

“This also covers medical marijuana.”

But in practice it’s not clear that this is the case.

If you are flying from a state that has legal marijuana, such as Colorado, and you were caught with marijuana at the airport, it is possible that they will simply request for you to dispose of the cannabis.

But if you were traveling from an area where marijuana is not legalized, the response could be much different.

The bottom line is that this is still a bit of a gray area that is still developing and so there are basically no guarantees as to how TSA will react upon finding marijuana in your possession during the security screening process.

The second thing to note is that TSA is not actively looking to discover marijuana or other illegal drugs that might be in your possession. The TSA website states:

TSA’s screening procedures are focused on security and are designed to detect potential threats to aviation and passengers. Accordingly, TSA security officers do not search for marijuana or other illegal drugs

However, they do note that if illegal substances are discovered during the security screening process the TSA will refer the matter to a law-enforcement officer.

Many vapes containing THC are pretty discreet so they may not always be easily detected.

So if you are traveling with (small amounts) of marijuana/THC vape pens you may not encounter any problems but you should be prepared to have to dispose of your marijuana if it is detected by TSA and in a worst-case scenario, be prepared to explain why you have it in your possession to a law-enforcement officer.

Related: Can You Smoke Weed in a Hotel Room?

Related: Can You Bring Food on a Plane?

The back up plan

Some travelers who are weary about losing items when going through security will bring a self-addressed envelope with postage so that they can mail off any item that would be confiscated.

I’ve personally never tried this before but I have seen reports online of people doing it successfully. While a rare occurrence, it could come in handy when a TSA agent uses discretion to confiscate your vape due to some unknown reason or suspicion (TSA agents have discretion to prevent you from bringing items through security).

I don’t see any reason why the self-addressed envelope route could not work in many instances but if you are trying to mail off illegal substances such as marijuana then it could obviously be very problematic (and illegal).

TSA rules for vapes FAQ

Can you vape in an airplane?

No, you are not allowed to vape inside an aircraft. This is to protect people from the devices’ second-hand vapor and to reduce the risk of a device malfunctioning. If you are caught vaping on a plane you could be subject to a large fine up to $4,000.

Do I need to turn my vape off during flight?

Many airlines require your vape to be turned off or to be placed in safety mode during flight.

Can you vape in an airplane lavatory?

No, you are not allowed to vape anywhere inside an aircraft.

Can I bring an e-cigarette as a carry-on?

Yes, e-cigarettes are allowed to be brought on a plane as a carry-on.

Why are vape pens not allowed and checked baggage?

Vape pens are not allowed in checked baggage because they present a hazardous risk. The batteries could be prone to exploding and catching fire in the cargo compartment.

Can you charge an e-cigarette in an airplane?

Many airlines will not allow you to charge an e-cigarette during flight and may require it to be powered off.

Can I bring an e-cigarette on an international flight?

Some countries have banned e-cigarettes from flights and from importation so before attempting to travel with an e-cigarette on an international flight you should first verify that possession of the e-cigarette in the country is legal.

Can I travel with a vape containing THC?

While TSA does not actively seek out vapes containing THC, it is possible that if it is detected they will request for you to throw it out or refer you to airport authorities. This can even occur when departing from a state with legalized marijuana.

Do I have to declare my electronic cigarette?

No, you do not have to declare your electronic cigarette or vape. However, you should remove it from your carry-on and comply with the liquids rule if needed.

Do vapes leak on airplanes?

Cartridges containing liquids tend to leak at high altitudes as the liquid expands under the decreased air pressure. So it is recommended to not carry cartridges that are full with e-liquid.

Can vapes set off the smoke alarm in a plane?

Yes, vapor can set off the smoke alarm on a plane which is another reason why you do not want to vape on a plane.

Final word

Traveling with an e-cigarette or vape through airport security is permitted so long as you comply with the liquid rules.

You want to pay extra attention to make sure you do not leave your cigarettes in your checked baggage because that could present major risks to the flight and also get you into legal trouble.

REAL ID Act: Explained with Detailed Timeline [2023]

You’ve probably seen the term REAL ID quite a few times over the past few years. It’s been in the news, on the blogs, and even at airports and other ports of entry.

Some people are surprised to find out that the REAL ID has been a thing for over 15 years!

But now, we seem to be closer than ever to the point when the REAL ID will be officially implemented so it definitely pays to know what it is all about.

Below, I’ll give you a breakdown of what the REAL ID is and talk about the background of how it came about. I’ll tell you everything you need to know about it including giving you a detailed recap of its timeline.

What is the REAL ID Act?

The REAL ID Act is an act of Congress intended to make state-issued drivers licenses and IDs more secure by helping to reduce fraud.

Specifically, the Real ID Act prohibits federal agencies from accepting drivers licenses and other ID cards issued by states and territories that do not comply with the REAL ID Act’s minimum standards.

The result is that people without compliant state IDs cannot access certain federal government facilities, nuclear power plants, and cannot board flights, unless they provide some type of alternative ID (such as a passport).

For your average traveler who is not visiting government facilities or nuclear power plants, the biggest and most notable change will be that you will not be able to rely on your drivers license to get you through TSA unless it is REAL ID compliant.

How to know if you have a REAL ID compliant ID

REAL ID-compliant licenses are marked by a star on the top of the card. It’s usually very easy to spot but if you aren’t 100% sure just contact your state driver’s licensing agency or local DMV.

Keep in mind that there are some IDs that do not have stars on top of the card that can still be accepted. For example, these may include enhanced driver’s licenses (EDLs) and enhanced IDs.

Only five U.S. states (Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Vermont, and Washington) offer EDLs.

Related: Can You Get Through TSA and Fly with No ID?


How to get a REAL ID compliant ID

If you need to get a REAL ID compliant ID, check out this official website from the DHS. You can then click on your state or territory and then you will be able to set up an appointment. You can also just contact your local DMV.

Be aware that you will need certain documents when you head to the DMV.

At a minimum, you must provide documentation showing:

  • 1) Full Legal Name
  • 2) Date of Birth
  • 3) Social Security Number
  • 4) Two Proofs of Address of Principal Residence and
  • 5) Lawful Status

Some locations may require you to submit even more documents which is why you want to contact the office nearest you.

REAL ID Act background

After the attacks of September 11, the US established the 9/11 commission to help find out ways to reduce future terrorist attacks.

One of the recommendations that came out of the report was a recommendation to establish federal standards for IDs.

“The federal government should set standards for the issuance of birth certificates and sources of identification, such as drivers licenses.”

Before 9/11, every state had its own set of rules for how IDs were provided and what information was showing on IDs, including security features. And these are not always the most robust requirements or processes.

Going back to the 1990s, many DMV’s struggled to deal with fraudulent actors who were seeking IDs for nefarious purposes, so this has been an ongoing problem.

However, they didn’t have the resources or the structure (or just the proper motivation) to successfully combat these and that is what the REAL ID initiative helped provide.

Related: TSA Pre-Check Guide (Application Process, Locations, Status)

What are the REAL ID Act requirements?

The REAL ID Act requirements primarily affect the agencies that are issuing the IDs and require them to comply with certain standards. Specifically, there are 39 REAL ID standards or benchmarks (although some argue there are 43).

The state or territory issuing the ID must meet certain standards when issuing an ID such as:

  • Capture a photograph of the applicant
  • Store digital images of the applicants documents
  • Verify the documents with the authorities who issued them (e.g., verify with the Social Security administration)
  • Verify existing IDs issued by another state are terminated
  • Limit the validity of ID documents to eight years
  • Implement background checks of employees
  • Maintain a database of ID documents issued along with driver histories
  • Provide access to other states and territories (State-to State (S2S) Verification Service)

The applicant must provide documentation of the person’s full name, date of birth, and residential address.

They must have a Social Security number or document that they are not eligible for one and they need a document that they are a US national or a foreign national legally in the US.

An applicant will have to show at least two documents showing their address. If they present a birth certificate, it must be verified through the EVVE. Also, US passports and visas on foreign passports must be verified with the Department of State.

As for the actual ID card, the REAL ID Act requires it to contain the following information:

  • Full name
  • Date of birth
  • Gender
  • Photograph
  • Address
  • Signature
  • Document number
  • Security features
  • Machine readable technology

Interestingly, states can still issue non-REAL ID compliant IDs but they have to make it clear that the document is not accepted for federal purposes.

Related: TSA Liquid Rules Ultimate Guide (3-1-1 Explained)

Timeline of Real ID events

July 2004

The 9/11 Commission Report is published and recommends that the federal government create standards for the issuance of identification documents such as drivers licenses in order to improve national security.

December 2004

The Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 (IRTPA) is signed by President George W. Bush on December 17, 2004.

This required the federal government to set regulations for the minimum standards for federal acceptance of driver’s licenses and ID cards — the first time national standards had ever been applied to ID cards.

May 2005

On May 11, 2005, the REAL ID Act was signed into law by President George W. Bush. (REAL is capitalized but apparently does not have meaning as an acronym.)

According to the DHS, the “REAL ID is a coordinated effort by the states and the federal government to improve the reliability and accuracy of state-issued identification documents, which should inhibit terrorists’ ability to evade detection by using fraudulent identification.”

The REAL ID Act specified that the new rules would go into effect on May 11, 2008. However, there was widespread opposition by many governments and so the deadline was extended.

March 2007

The DHS published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for REAL ID and opposition by state governments begins to grow.

Several states believed compliance would be too expensive and burdensome.

They also rejected it largely on the grounds of individual liberty, limited government, and privacy concerns.

For example, they believed having data from every American consolidated would make people more vulnerable to identity theft. Others saw it as a potential violation of the 10th Amendment and a slippery slope to federal government control.

As a result some states enacted legislation to oppose the law and prevent the state from being forced to comply.

For example, Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer stated “No, nope, no way, hell no,” and signed one of the toughest anti-REAL ID state laws in the nation. Many other states like Maine and Utah had also done the same or similar.

July 2009

Due to all of the opposition and uncertainty, critics of the REAL ID, including the ACLU, declared that the REAL ID act was essentially dead.

“Real ID is essentially dead. It’s time for it to be formally repealed and replaced with a process that works, one that protects civil liberties and license security,” said Michael Macleod-Ball, Acting Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office.

This time frame was truly the low point for the REAL ID as 15 states had passed legislation prohibiting participation in the REAL ID program including: Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Maine, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Virginia, Washington, Oregon, and Missouri.

In addition, 10 other states had enacted resolutions that were against REAL ID including: Arkansas, Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, South Dakota and Tennessee.

it certainly was not looking great for the rea ID.

January 2011

Despite a lot of opposition and doubt during the first few years of the REAL ID Act, by January 2011, 11 jurisdictions were in compliance with all of the REAL ID benchmarks — a significant sign of progress for the REAL ID.

Some states were finding it less expensive than initially expected which was helping more states to get on board.

The ease of compliance was also largely a product of the REAL ID Program Office working closely over the years with AAMVA and the individual DMVs to ensure that the new implementations were practical.

This was a tricky relationship for many states because while the DMV offices were generally in favor of strengthening the security of their IDs, they also had to contend with the fact that their governors may have opposed the REAL ID Act. Not only that, but some DMV’s were even told to report to the governor any attempts by the DHS to secure REAL ID compliance.

December 2013

The DHS announced a “phased enforcement” plan for the REAL ID Act. The first three phases were to begin between April 2014 and October 2015.

These phases meant that the restrictions would go into place for certain government facilities such as the DHS headquarters, nuclear power plants, and restricted areas for federal facilities and some semi-restricted areas for other federal facilities.

The fourth phase was to apply to boarding federally regulated commercial aircraft.

It required individuals to have a REAL ID compliant ID to board an aircraft although they could also carry a second form of ID if they only had a non-compliant ID.

This was supposed to go into effect no sooner than 2016.

January 2016

In January 2016, the REAL ID took a large step forward when the DHS announced what was believed to be the final phase of implementation for REAL ID.

DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson announced that effective from January 22, 2018, passengers with a driver’s license or ID card issued by a state that is still not compliant with the REAL ID Act (unless that state has been granted an extension to comply with the Act) would need to show TSA an alternative form of acceptable identification for domestic air travel.

It was stated that starting on October 1, 2020, every air traveler would need a REAL ID compliant license or another acceptable form of identification.

July 2016

Things really begin to heat up starting July 15, 2016, when TSA, in coordination with airlines and airport stakeholders, started to issue web-based advisories and notifications to the traveling public.

On December 15, 2016, TSA then expanded the “marketing” outreach at its airport security checkpoints through signage and handouts.

Spring of 2017

Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly announced in the spring of 2017 that he remained committed to the enforcement of the REAL ID rules.

He also reiterated the January 2018 deadline set by Secretary Johnson, and DHS officials continued to state that the October 2020 deadline is still set.

Some states like Missouri in Alaska repeal state laws against the REAL ID.

August 2017

Missouri became the last state to commit to REAL ID compliance.

January 2018

REAL IDs are required for air travel for all states unless they have an extension. However, it appears that all states that were not in compliance at the time secured an extension so air travel was not impacted.

November 2019

Substantial progress was made by many states in jurisdictions to be compliant with the REAL ID act.

For example, 51 jurisdictions were compliant and only five jurisdictions—New Jersey, Oklahoma, Oregon, American Samoa, and Northern Mariana Islands—had extensions or were under review.

All jurisdictions were set up to begin issuing compliant licenses by the summer of 2020.

January 2020

At the end of January 2020, DHS reported that the states had collectively issued more than 95 million REAL ID-compliant driver’s licenses and ID cards. This represented about (34%) out of 276 million total cards.

At this point, REAL ID had come a long way with every jurisdiction set up to begin issuing compliant licenses very soon.

Unfortunately, the world was in the process of adjusting to a very unexpected threat….

March 2020

As the coronavirus pandemic began to erupt and caused DMV’s to temporarily close or cut down on personnel, and the deadline around the corner for the REAL ID, Congress decided that they would need to extend the deadline.

On March 23, 2020, President Trump announced he would be delaying the deadline.

And then a few days later, Congress approved a relief package (CARES Act) that included a push back of the deadline by at least one year.

DHS Secretary Chad Wolf then set a new deadline of October 1, 2021.

September 2020

On September 10, 2020, The Department of Homeland Security announced that after more than 15 years, all 50 states were now in full compliance with the REAL ID Act.

In addition, over 105 million REAL ID-compliant driver’s licenses and identification cards had been issued, representing about 38% of all card holders.

April 2021

On April 27, 2021, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas announced the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) would be extending the REAL ID enforcement date by 19 months, from October 1, 2021 to May 3, 2023.

This delay was once again caused by the coronavirus pandemic, as many DMV offices were still operating with limited capacity.

December 2022

On December 5, 2022, it was announced that the REAL ID would once again be extended from May 3, 2023 to May 7, 2025.

This means that beginning May 7, 2025, “every traveler 18 years of age or older will need a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license or identification card, state-issued enhanced driver’s license, or another TSA-acceptable form of identification at TSA security checkpoints.”


Do minors have to comply with the REAL ID?

REAL ID applies to travelers 18 years of age or older.

When will the REAL ID be enforced?

The REAL ID is scheduled to be enforced on May 7, 2025.

How do I know if my ID is compliant?

REAL ID-compliant licenses are marked by a star on the top of the card. Some states may offer an enhanced driver’s license which will not have a star but will still be compliant.

Will I be able to fly if I don’t have a REAL ID-compliant license?

Yes, you will still be able to use alternative forms of ID to get through airport security. For example, you could use a passport.

Will my gender be on the REAL ID license?

Yes, gender is one of the required fields of the ID.

Do I need a REAL ID to visit any federal facility?

No, not every federal facility will require you to show a REAL ID.

Do I need a REAL ID to vote?

No, the Act does not apply to voting or registering to vote.

Does the REAL ID create a federal database?

No, states will continue to issue their own unique license and maintain their own records. However, they may share information with other states.

Final word

The REAL ID was created as a response to the attacks of 9/11 and has had a very long (and uphill) journey to get where it is today.

It is still not fully in effect, probably mostly due to the circumstances that followed the pandemic of 2020.

However, all of the states are now in full compliance with the REAL ID and more and more of these are getting issued every month.

Based on the traction that has finally developed and the amount of time that has passed since the outbreak of coronavirus, it’s likely that the next deadline will be the final deadline for the story of the REAL ID.


TSA No Fly List Explained (How Your Name Gets on A Watchlist) [2022]

For many people, there is a lot of mystery surrounding the TSA’s No Fly List. They wonder how exactly the list works and what happens if your name gets put on the list?

In this article, I will shed light on the entire process.

You’ll see how watchlist nominations are made, verified, and placed on the No Fly List. I’ll also highlight a number of related watchlists that are similar to the TSA No Fly List but serve slightly different purposes.

It’s worth noting that a lot of this process is secretive and subject to change but I have taken almost all information only from government sources and declassified documents.

How it all starts

In order to really grasp how the TSA No Fly List works, you need to understand how the bigger picture process functions with respect to identifying potential terrorists.

I’ll walk you through all of the key departments and steps that are involved below.

Terrorist Screening Database (TSDB)

There is something known as the Terrorist Screening Database (TSDB) which is the main database that is commonly referred to as the “terrorist watchlist.”

(This is NOT the No Fly List but it plays a major role in placing people on that list as will be shown below.)

The TSDB is maintained by the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center (TSC), which plays the central role in maintaining the current No Fly List that TSA uses.

TSDB nomination process

How does your name get on the TSDB?

It all starts with personnel called “originators.”

Originators work in places like intelligence and law-enforcement agencies or even at embassies and consulates.

These people nominate individuals that are classed together as “known or suspected terrorists” (KSTs).

There are specific definitions for people who fall under these classifications.

A “known” terrorist is:

an individual whom the U.S. government knows is engaged, has been engaged, or who intends to engage in terrorism and/or terrorist activity, including an individual:

(a) who has been charged, arrested, indicted, or convicted for a crime related to terrorism by U.S. government or foreign government authorities; or

(b) identified as a terrorist or member of a designated foreign terrorist organization pursuant to statute, Executive Order, or international legal obligation pursuant to a United Nations Security Council Resolution.

A “suspected” terrorist is:

an individual who is reasonably suspected to be, or has been, engaged in conduct constituting, in preparation for, in aid of, or related to terrorism and/or terrorist activities based on an articulable and reasonable suspicion

At the time of nomination, originators can recommend that the individual be included on a specific TSDB derivative list such as the No Fly List.

The KSTs nominated for the terrorist watchlist are then vetted by agents at either the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) or the FBI.


During the vetting process, the NCTC maintains a database known as: the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment (TIDE).

TIDE is the U.S. government’s “central repository of information on international terrorist identities.”

The TIDE list is pretty large and in 2013 it contained the identities of approximately 1.1 million people of which 25,000 were US citizens and lawful permanent residents.

This list focuses on international terrorists.

Domestic terrorists are directly referred to NCTC by the FBI (they do not end up in TIDE as far as I can tell).

If your name ends up in TIDE it does not necessarily end up in the TSDB. And that is where the verification process comes in.

TSC verification

To make it into the TSDB, a nomination vetted by either NCTC or the FBI has to (1) meet the “reasonable suspicion watchlisting standard” and (2) have sufficient identifiers.

The final eligibility determination is made by the TSC.

Reasonable suspicion

The reasonable suspicion criteria is met by articulable facts and rational inferences made from those facts.

When the facts and inferences form a reasonable determination that the person is suspected of having ties to terrorist activity that person is added to the TSDB.

Guesses or hunches alone cannot support reasonable suspicion. Also, one cannot be designated a KST based on protected classes like national origin, ethnicity, or religion.


After the reasonable suspicion criteria is met, there must also be sufficient identifiers.

To be included on the TSDB, a record must have a last name “and at least one additional piece of identifying information (for example a first name or date of birth).”

The vast majority of nominations land up on the TSDB. In fact, it appears that only about 1% of nominations are rejected.

Exporting the information

The TSC obviously doesn’t just collect and build the TSDP for no reason.

Instead, they export the watchlist information to different federal agencies so that they can conduct terrorist screening.

The information exported is typically just the identifying information so that the sensitive/classified intel does not get shared with too many people.

This happens in real time so when a new name is added it will appear with the other federal agencies within seconds.

There are five different federal agencies that receive TSDP records:

  • Department of State
  • Transportation Security Administration (TSA) [DHS]
  • Customs and Border Protection
  • FBI
  • Department of Defense

Each agency has its own use of the information and will receive a tailored set of records based on how they use the information.

For example, the Department of State uses the information to process passports and visas.

Customs and Border Protection uses it to screen arriving travelers and determine if they should be admitted into the US.

TSA utilizes this information for the Secure Flight program which provides screening to:

identify known or suspected terrorists or other individuals who may be a threat to transportation or national security, to prevent some identified individuals from gaining access to airports and airplanes where they may jeopardize the lives of passengers, and to ensure that other identified individuals receive enhanced physical screening prior to accessing airport sterile areas or boarding an aircraft

Department of state building.
A handful of government entities utilize records from the TSDB.

TSA and the TSDB

The derivative TSDB lists the TSA actively is involved with include three different lists:

  • No Fly List
  • Selectee List
  • Expanded Selectee List

These derivative lists are special because they are the only watchlists that have their own minimum substantive derogatory criteria requirements.

These requirements are much more more stringent than the TSDB’s “known or reasonably suspected” standard. In addition, the No Fly and Selectee lists have the “narrowest minimum biographic inclusion criteria of all TSDB watch lists.”

No Fly List

Back in the day, TSA maintained the No Fly and Selectee lists.

However, in January 2005 maintenance and responsibility for the lists was transferred to the TSC. So it would probably be more accurate to call it the TSC No Fly List rather than the TSA No Fly List.

TSA states, “The No Fly List is a small subset of the U.S. government Terrorist Screening Database (also known as the terrorist watchlist) that contains the identity information of known or suspected terrorists.”

Individuals on the list “are not allowed to board a commercial aircraft flying into, out of, over, or within United States airspace; this also includes point-to-point international flights operated by U.S carriers.”

This list is not as big as you might think.

In 2014, only about 8% of the TSDB identities, totaling around 64,000, were on the No Fly List.

A 2013 NCTC document gives us some insight into the criteria for adding someone to the No Fly List.

It says that any person regardless of citizenship who represents:

  • a threat of committing an act of international terrorism (as defined by 18 U.S.C. § 2331(1)) or domestic terrorism (as defined by 18 U.S.C. § 2331(5)) with respect to an aircraft or
  • a threat of committing an act of domestic terrorism with respect to the homeland or
  • a threat of committing an act of international terrorism against a US government facility abroad and associated or support personnel, including US embassies, consulate and missions, military installations, US ships, US aircraft, etc, or
  • a threat of engaging in or conducting a violent act of terrorism and who is operationally capable of doing so

The fourth criteria adds flexibility to adding people to the list and targets people who do not pose a threat to civil aviation, the homeland, or US facilities.

It focuses on the term “operationally capable” which means that is based on credible intelligence the person reasonably appears to have the ability, knowledge, opportunity, and intent or is actively seeking the opportunity to engage in a violent act of terrorism.

An example would be someone attempting to obtain an IED but simply conducting internet research concerning IEDs would not be sufficient without additional activity.

That’s really important for people like me who like to (innocently) research these type of things!

Other factors that would indicate someone is “operationally capable” would be a subject who has:

  • Terrorist training or instruction to receive military training by a terrorist group
  • Indicated intent to participate in planning or conducting an attack
  • Expressed desire to become a martyr
  • Repeated contact with a known terrorist who recruits or facilitates trouble of operatives

Selectee List

The same 2013 document provides guidance on the Selectee List.

It states that any person regardless of citizenship who does not meet the criteria for inclusion on the No Fly List and who:

  • Is a member of a foreign or domestic terrorist organization designated pursuant to statute or executive order and
  • Is associated with terrorist activity

The Selectee List includes individuals who must undergo additional security screening before being allowed to board a commercial aircraft.

This is the dreaded SSSS check.

In some cases individuals are randomly assigned this so if you are like myself you probably have experienced this on a couple of occasions.

Like the No Fly List, this list is also small and in 2014 only had 24,000 people on it which amounted to about 3% of the TSDB.

Me getting a random SSSS check.

Expanded Selectee List

This list was created as an extra security measure after the failed underwear bomber of 2009, which also sparked the beginning of TSA body scanners.

Reportedly, this list screens against all TSDB records that includes a person’s first and last name and date of birth that are not already on the no-fly or selectee lists.

People on this list could be subjected to the same type of screening as those found on the Selectee List.

It seems like this list is used at times of heightened terrorism threats although there is still a lot of mystery behind this list, in my opinion.

TSA Watch List

My research also showed that it looks like TSA has its own TSA Watch List.

Nominations from this list may come from within TSA, from other DHS Components, or from other government agencies (federal, state, local, and international).

These lists are used to “mitigate threats to transportation or national security posed by individuals who are not on a TSDB watch list but who nonetheless present a threat to transportation or national security.”

This appears to be more of a real time decision.

For example, if someone is repeatedly attempting to evade TSA screening they could be put on this list even though their name is not in the TSDB.

Based on my research it looks like this is a very small list. Maybe 20 people might be on this list at a given time.

Other watchlists

There are other (non-No Fly List) watchlists that TSA may be involved with in these include the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Do Not Board List which does not allow certain persons to travel due to public health concerns (such as infectious tuberculosis and measles).

It does not appear that coronavirus qualifies for this list although you should still not fly if you have Covid. Update: people with coronavirus have been added to this list.

How TSDB screening works

So you’ve seen how your name could end up on a watch list.

But how does the screening process actually interact with that watch list?

There are multiple ways that your name could be screened against the TSDB.

  • Arriving in the US at a port of entry
  • Getting pulled over by local or state police
  • Visa applications reviewed by the Department of State

These checks are constantly happening with more than 1 billion likely being made every year.

If a screening yields a match this is known as an “encounter.”

A screener would receive notification of the match and then contact TSC, who are of course available 24/7.

The TSC has access to more information than the screeners do so they are able to dig a little bit deeper when verifying the match.

If there is a match or if the TSC cannot arrive at a conclusion, the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Operations Unit coordinates how the government will respond.

For example, they could send agents to a given location to apprehend somebody right on the spot.

In other cases, they may just come to interview the individual and add that intel to the records in the TSDB.

If a name is on a no-fly list I imagine the response could be denying them the ability to book a ticket or board a plane but it would probably depend on how high of a priority the person is to authorities.

In some cases, they may plan to bring the subject into custody.

Doing all of these checks can get extremely time-consuming and require a lot of resources.

This is one reason why we saw the TSA Pre-Check program emerge because they wanted to free up screening personnel so that they could focus on passengers with unknown records.


Some people unfortunately have the bad luck of having a name that is the same or similar to others on some of these watchlists.

When they try to fly to an airport they could be subject to SSSS screening every single time.

Luckily they do (usually) have the ability to obtain a redress number which allows the airlines to properly identify them.

It’s possible that these individuals may still have issues with things like online check-in or using automated kiosk.

But some people are even more unlucky and are denied entry back into the US.

You can find a long list of instances where people were falsely identified as terrorists and struggled to work with the government to get back or to ever board a plane.

Usually it seems like these cases are eventually resolved but sometimes they involve a pretty painful process and costly and lengthy legal proceedings.

There are also constant legal actions being brought against the government arguing that these watchlists are unconstitutional, in part because there is not a satisfactory way to challenge one’s status on the list.

How to know if you’re on the No Fly List

According to the ACLU, if you are denied boarding you can submit a standard form to the Department of Homeland Security Traveler Redress Inquiry Program (DHS TRIP) who will then relay the information to the TSC.

If you were placed on the No Fly List and are a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, “DHS TRIP will send you a letter informing you of your status on the No Fly List and providing the option to submit and receive additional information.”

You might be able to find out general information as to why you were placed on the list but it may be impossible to get specifics for national security reasons.

You won’t be able to challenge the determination at a live hearing but you can submit a written response along with supporting materials to challenge your status.

The government will then review your submission and inform you of any changing determination.

If you are NOT a US citizen or lawful permanent resident, it is much more difficult to know your status.

You can submit a challenge but you may not get a definitive answer as to your status. Pretty much all you can do to see if you have been removed from the list is attempt to purchase an airline ticket and board a plane.

Individual airlines

Individual airlines have their own No Fly Lists that operate independently from the TSA or other government agencies.

Typically, you can find the guidelines for how the No Fly List works in the contract of carriage for an airline.

Recently, we have seen more people get put on no-fly list with individual airlines by not abiding by policies regarding things like wearing a mask.

Other mistakes like trying to bring ammunition on a plane can get you on an airline’s No Fly List.

How many people end up on the No Fly List for individual airlines?

It’s kind of hard to tell because the airlines don’t publicize this data but according to Insider, a spokesperson for United told them that “they’ve banned 615 people from the airline since implementing their mandatory mask policy in early May.”

Delta has apparently added 700 passengers as well.

TSA No Fly List FAQ

Does TSA control the No Fly List?

TSA utilizes the No Fly List but the list and larger database it relies upon is managed by the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center (TSC).

How many people are on the TSA No Fly List?

In 2014, there were around 64,000 people on the No Fly List.

How do you get on the No Fly List?

Individuals are first placed in the TSDB as a “known or suspected terrorists” (KSTs) and then there must be an additional finding that the individual represents a specific type of threat relating to international or domestic terrorism.

Do you get notified if you are on the No Fly List?

No, in order to protect national security interests the US government currently does not notify you when you are placed on the No Fly List. However, US citizens and lawful permanent residents denied boarding can receive notification about their status from DHS TRIP and challenge their status. Foreign citizens have a much more difficult time getting clarification about their status.

Final word

When it comes to government watch lists there is probably always going to be a large amount of mystery going on behind the curtain. But when it comes to the No Fly List we actually know a good amount of how names end up on that list.

TSA Pre-Check Guide (Application Process, Locations, Status) [2022]

TSA Pre-Check is a program that has exploded in popularity over the last few years.

It’s popular because it allows passengers to avoid frustration and save valuable time by avoiding waiting in long security screening lines at airports.

But how exactly does the TSA Pre-Check application process work and what are all of the benefits?

In this comprehensive article, I’ll cover all of the key benefits of TSA Pre-Check and walk you through how to handle the application, appointments, checking your status, and everything else you need to know about.

I’ll also show you how to find which airlines and airport locations offer TSA Pre-Check.

What is TSA Pre-Check?

TSA Pre-Check is a government program that costs $78 to join and allows approved passengers to go through a separate security screening process that is less demanding than the security screening open to the public.

Tip: Use the free app WalletFlo to help you travel the world for free by finding the best travel credit cards and promotions!

TSA Pre-Check brief history

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is an agency of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that was created as a response to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and its goal is to provide security for the traveling public in the United States (mostly related to air travel).

TSA Pre-Check is a relatively recent program launched by TSA back in 2011 to enhance the pre-boarding security screening process.

It started off as a bit of an experiment found in only a handful of airports and was utilized by only American and Delta Airlines, but in 2013 it opened up to the public so anyone could apply.

Now it’s found at over 200 different airports and involves over 50 different airlines.

What are the TSA Pre-Check benefits?

There are quite a few benefits to the program that allow for more convenient travel through airports.

First, you often only have to pass through a traditional walk-through metal detector (as opposed to the invasive full-body scanners) and you also get to enjoy the following benefits:

  • Shoes can stay on
  • Belt can stay on
  • Light jackets can stay on
  • Laptops allowed to stay in bag
  • Liquids (3-1-1 Rule) can stay in bag

On occasion, if your shoes or belt contains too much metal or your jacket is too bulky, you may have to remove them.

By keeping these objects on your person and in your bag, it makes getting through security much less stressful and also speeds up the process a great deal. So everybody’s sanity remains intact for a little longer.

Screen Shot 2016-07-20 at 9.24.33 AM

What is the TSA Pre-Check application process?

The TSA Pre-Check application process is pretty simple and straightforward.

  • First, you need to fill out and submit your application online.
  • Second, you’ll need to schedule your in person appointment that includes a background check and fingerprinting/getting a photo taken.
  • Third, you’ll wait to get approved and receive your KTN (Known Traveler Number) and be done with the process.

TSA states that this process will usually take 2 to 3 weeks but in reality it can take as few as 5 to 10 days. So unlike Global Entry, which often takes much longer, the TSA Pre-Check application process is a relatively quick process.

How much does TSA Pre-Check cost?

The application fee for TSA Pre-Check is $78 USD.

Payment methods

They will accept the following payment methods:

  • Credit card
  • Money order
  • Company check
  • Certified/cashier’s check

Keep in mind that you must pay at your appointment so they don’t allow you to use a credit card in someone else’s name.

Get TSA Pre-Check for free

You can easily get this fee covered by using a credit card that offers a complimentary TSA Pre-Check or Global Entry credit.

There are many credit cards that offer this statement credit but some of my favorite are:

  • American Express Platinum Card
  • Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
  • Chase Sapphire Reserve
  • Citi Prestige
  • United MileagePlus Explorer Card

As stated, these cards also offer Global Entry credits so you need to seriously consider if Global Entry might be the better option for you. Keep scrolling down for a TSA Pre-Check vs Global Entry comparison.

TSA Pre-Check application

The application for TSA Pre-Check is very simple to fill out. You can find the application by going to the Pre-Check website here.

I’ll walk you through the information that you’ll need to share in order to complete your application.

Note that you can get through this application very quickly. I timed it and it took me less than two minutes to complete the application and schedule an appointment. 

Step 1 — Biographic Information

The first part of step 1 will just require you to input your basic biographic information, such as:

  • Name
  • DOB
  • Gender
  • Email
  • Phone number
  • Country of birth
  • City/State of birth
  • Country of citizenship

Then you will need to answer the following questions:

  • Have you ever used a maiden/previous name?
  • Have you ever used an alias?
  • Is your mailing address the same as your residential address?
  • Have you lived at your current residential address for more than five (5) years?

You’ll then need to input information about your

  • Height
  • Weight
  • Hair Color
  • Eye Color

Then input your address and you’ll move on to the eligibility questions.

Step 2 — Program Eligibility Questions

Here are the questions that you’ll need to answer to make sure that you are eligible for TSA Pre-Check.

  • Are you a U.S. citizen, U.S. National or Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR)?
  • Excluding juvenile cases unless convicted as an adult, have you been convicted, pled guilty including “no contest” (nolo contendere), or found not guilty by reason of insanity, of any disqualifying felony listed in TSA Eligibility Requirements, Part A, in any jurisdiction, military or civilian?
  • Excluding juvenile cases unless convicted as an adult, have you been convicted, pled guilty including “no contest” (nolo contendere), or found not guilty by reason of insanity, of any disqualifying felony listed in TSA Eligibility Requirements, Part B, in any jurisdiction, military or civilian, during the 7 years before the date of this application?
  • Have you been released from incarceration in any jurisdiction, military or civilian, for committing any disqualifying felony listed in TSA Eligibility Requirements, Part B, during the 5 years before the date of this application?
  • Are you wanted or under indictment for any disqualifying crime listed in TSA Eligibility Requirements, Parts A or B?
  • Have you ever been found by a court or other lawful authority as lacking mental capacity or involuntarily committed to a mental institution?

Step 3 — Documents Required for Enrollment

You’ll need to choose the type of photo ID you’re going to bring into the enrollment center. You can choose from a lot of different types of ID forms, such as a

  • Driver’s license
  • Passport
  • Enhanced Driver’s license
  • Commercial Driver’s license
  • Federal ID card
  • Military ID card
  • State ID card
  • And several other forms of identification

You’ll also need to choose a Citizenship/Immigration document, which could include:

  • Birth Certificate (with seal)
  • FAST Card
  • Enhanced Driver’s license
  • Enhanced ID
  • Passport book

Note that if your first, middle, and/or last names do not match you’ll need additional documentation.

For example, if your name on your ID is different from your birth certificate due to marriage, you’ll need to provide a marriage certificate that links the name on the birth certificate to the name on the driver’s license.

If one ID has your middle name listed and another ID only has your middle initial that is okay. 

In some cases, multiple name change documents are necessary to link identity documents. This could include documents such as divorce decrees if you’ve gone back and forth with your last name.

Once you select the documents you are going to bring, you’ll see a window telling you what documents you have to bring to your TSA appointment.

Make sure to bring these documents!

Step 4 — Create an Appointment

For step 4, you’ll choose an appointment at a TSA enrollment center.

You can find TSA enrollment centers here. However, the application page will allow you to input your Zipcode/City/Airport Code to search for nearby centers.

The great thing about TSA enrollment centers is that there are many more of them compared to Global Entry and the availability is much better for setting up your appointment. 

Many people are able to schedule their appointment for the next day for example.

After selecting a location, click ‘Next’ to continue to the next screen where you will select the date and time of your appointment. You can also choose to walk-in but others with appointments will have priority over you.

Once you input that date, you’ll be able to hit submit and finalize your pre-enrollment application. You should see your confirmation of your application along with your UE (Universal Enroll) ID and the required documents for your appointment.

You should also receive a confirmation email that confirms the price of the enrollment and contains your UE ID which you can use to check your status.

Very important: You’ll need to visit an enrollment center within 120 days to complete your enrollment. 

Note: If you are paying with a credit card, that credit card will likely have to be in your name.

TSA Pre-Check appointments

The TSA Pre-Check appointments are usually very brief and very easy to get through.

In some instances you’ll be met by someone who will simply take down your information, and then take your fingerprints/photo. This can easily take less than five minutes. 

Sometimes you won’t be even asked any questions though some have been asked basic questions like where they plan on traveling and if they plan on traveling for work or pleasure (these are similar questions to Global Entry interviews).

Eligibility email

It’s not uncommon to receive your eligibility email the same or very next day after your appointment. However, some people do have to wait several days or even over a week to receive their eligibility email.

Getting your KTN

The eligibility email might tell you to expect a letter in the mail within 10 days, but you won’t have to wait that long to get approved as you might receive your official approval with your KTN within a couple of days of receiving your eligibility email.

Once you receive that KTN, you can start adding that to your itineraries and frequent flyer profiles and you’ll be able to enjoy the TSA Pre-Check benefits.

Checking your TSA Pre-Check application status

If you need to check your TSA Pre-Check application status you can go to this link.

You can check your status by entering in your personal details such as your name, DOB, and contact information or you can simply enter in your UE ID and DOB.

TSA Pre-Check background check

TSA Pre-Check requires you to pass a background check and a lot of people wonder whether or not they will be able to pass the background check.

Luckily, TSA publishes a list of offenses that will exclude you from being eligible. There are two lists.

One is a list of offenses that will permanently exclude you and the other list is a list of offenses that will temporarily exclude you.

Permanent disqualifying offenses

The list of permanent disqualifying offenses is pretty hardcore and includes offenses such as the following:

  • Espionage or conspiracy to commit espionage.
  • Sedition or conspiracy to commit sedition.
  • Treason or conspiracy to commit treason.
  • A federal crime of terrorism
  • Improper transportation of a hazardous material
  • Unlawful possession, use, sale, distribution, manufacture, purchase, receipt, transfer, shipping, transporting, import, export, storage of, or dealing in an explosive or explosive device
  • Murder

Interim disqualifying offenses

The list of interim disqualifying offenses is still full of hard core offenses but it only applies if the applicant was convicted, pled guilty (including ‘no contest’), or found not guilty by reason of insanity within seven years of the date of the application; OR if the applicant was released from incarceration after conviction within five years of the date of the application.

Here are some of the offenses:

  • Unlawful possession, use, sale, manufacture, purchase, distribution, receipt, transfer, shipping, transporting, delivery, import, export of, or dealing in a firearm or other weapon.
  • Extortion.
  • Dishonesty, fraud, or misrepresentation, including identity fraud and money laundering
  • Bribery.
  • Smuggling.
  • Immigration violations.
  • Distribution, possession w/ intent to distribute, or importation of a controlled substance.
  • Arson.
  • Kidnapping or hostage taking.
  • Rape or aggravated sexual abuse.
  • Assault with intent to kill.
  • Robbery.
  • Fraudulent entry into a seaport as described in 18 U.S.C. 1036, or a comparable State law.
  • Violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act under 18 U.S.C. 1961, et seq., or a comparable state law, other than any permanently disqualifying offenses.
  • Voluntary manslaughter.

Note that TSA can still disqualify someone if they determine that an applicant is not eligible for the application program based on analyses of the following:

  • Interpol and other international information, as appropriate.
  • Terrorist watchlists, other government databases and related information.
  • Any other information relevant to determining applicant eligibility or an applicant’s identity.

Extensive convictions

TSA may also determine that an applicant is not eligible if the security threat assessment process reveals:

  • Extensive foreign or domestic criminal convictions
  • A conviction for a serious crime not listed (including some lesser included offenses of serious crimes; e.g. murder/voluntary manslaughter), or
  • A period of foreign or domestic imprisonment that exceeds 365 consecutive days.

TSA may also determine that an applicant is not eligible based on analyses of records related to violations of transportation security regulatory requirements.

These include security-related offenses at an airport, on board an aircraft, at a maritime port, in connection with air cargo and other regulatory violations.

Related: Does TSA Check For Arrest Warrants?

Adding TSA Pre-Check

Once you receive your Known Traveler Number, you then need to add it to your frequent flyer profiles with all of your different airlines. This step is key because if you don’t link your account with your KTN, you won’t receive TSA Pre-Check.

If you forget to enter in your KTN into your profile, you can always check with an agent at check-in and they should be able to add your KTN no problem. So always keep your KTN stored somewhere like in your phone!

Related: Can You Get Through TSA and Fly with No ID? 

What airports have TSA Pre-Check?

TSA Pre-Check  is currently available at more than 200 airports. You can search for which airports have TSA Pre-Check here. Simply click on a state and then you’ll see a close-up of that state with all of the airports where Pre-Check is available.

TSA Pre-Check map.

You can also search for the TSA Pre-Check schedule at specific airports.You can see which terminals and checkpoints are open at exact times which can be very helpful for planning your visit through the airport.

Pre-Check Lite

Something you need to know is that just because an airport is listed as a TSA Pre-Check airport, that does not mean that all terminals at that airport will have TSA Pre-Check lines.

In many cases, if they don’t have an official TSA Pre-Check line, they’ll allow you to get by with some of the TSA Pre-Check benefits but you’ll just have to go through the regular line.

They might let you keep your liquids and/or electronics in your bags but take your shoes off or vice versa — it all just depends on the airport.

Tip: Use WalletFlo for all your credit card needs. It’s free and will help you optimize your rewards and savings!

What airlines allow TSA Pre-Check?

You can find the list of participating airlines here.

  • Advanced Air
  • Aerolane Lineas Aereas Nacionales del Ecuador
  • AeroMexico
  • Air Canada
  • Air Choice One
  • Air France
  • Air India
  • Air Serbia
  • Alaska Airlines
  • All Nippon Airways
  • Allegiant Air
  • American Airlines
  • Aruba Airlines
  • Asiana Airlines
  • Austrian Airlines
  • Avelo Airlines
  • Avianca
  • Azul Airlines
  • Boutique Airlines
  • Breeze Airways
  • British Airways
  • Brussels Airlines
  • Cape Air
  • Cathay Pacific Airways
  • China Airlines
  • Condor Airlines
  • Contour Aviation
  • Copa Airlines
  • Delta Air Lines
  • Eastern Airlines
  • Edelweiss Air
  • EL AL Israel
  • Elite Airways
  • Emirates
  • Etihad Airways
  • Eurowings Discover
  • EVA Air
  • Finnair
  • Flycana
  • Frontier Airlines
  • Global Crossing Airlines
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • Icelandair
  • InterCaribbean Airways
  • Japan Airlines
  • JetBlue Airways
  • Key Lime Air
  • KLM Royal Dutch Airlines
  • Korean Air
  • LAN Peru S.A.
  • LATAM Airlines
  • Lufthansa
  • Norwegian Air
  • Omni Air International
  • PAL Express
  • Philippine Airlines
  • Porter Airlines
  • Qantas
  • Qatar Airways
  • Scandinavian Airlines
  • Seaborne Airlines
  • Silver Airways
  • Singapore Airlines
  • Southern Airways Express
  • Southwest Airlines
  • Spirit Airlines
  • Sun Country Airlines
  • Sunclass
  • Sunwing Airlines
  • Swift Air
  • Swiss International Air Lines
  • Swoop
  • TAM-Linhas Aereas S.A.
  • TAP Air Portugal
  • Turkish Airlines
  • Ultimate Jet Charters
  • United Airlines
  • Virgin Atlantic
  • Viva Air Colombia
  • VivaAerobus
  • Volaris
  • WestJet
  • World Atlantic

TSA is constantly adding new airlines to this list so always make sure to check on the latest update to the list.

Singapore Airlines A380
Many international airlines now participate in TSA Pre-Check.

TSA Pre-check contact phone numbers

TSA Pre-Check vs Global Entry

Global Entry is a program that allows you expedited entry back into the US through immigration and customs. This can be a life-saver when you arrive back to the US and are faced with those daunting immigration lines.

Global Entry does require you to pass a more rigorous background check and it also has a (slightly) more demanding interview process (the hardest part can be scheduling the interview since there are fewer locations and fewer open slots).

The extra work to get approved for Global Entry is often worth it though because if you are approved for Global Entry, you are automatically given TSA Pre-Check.

This is why if you have a credit card that gives you a statement credit for both of these programs, it can be wiser to just use it for Global Entry.

At the same time, if you don’t ever travel internationally, you may have no use for Global Entry and in that case all the extra work for Global Entry may not be worth it.

There are two other programs similar to Global Entry that also provide you with Pre-Check. These programs are ideal for those who travel between the US and Canada or the US and Mexico.

But note that the statement credits usually don’t apply to the programs below, so you’ll just have to pay out of pocket for them.


NEXUS is a joint program between the US and Canada that will grant pre-approved, low-risk travelers expedited entry into both Canada and the US.

Specifically, membership in the NEXUS program allows you to reduce your wait times at designated ports of entry by:

  • Using dedicated processing lanes at land border crossings
  • Using NEXUS kiosks when entering Canada
  • Using their card in dedicated SENTRI lanes along the U.S.-Mexico border
  • Using Global Entry kiosks when entering the United States, and
  • Calling a marine telephone reporting center to report your arrival into the United States and Canada

You may also be granted access to the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) Security Line at some Canadian airports to expedite airport pre-boarding security screening. (This is like a Canadian version of TSA Pre-Check.)

Just like Global Entry, NEXUS will require you to clear a background check.

The difference is that this background check also is submitted to Canadian authorities, such as the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP).

One of the major draws to the NEXUS program is that the application fee is only $50. This is surprising since NEXUS comes with both Global Entry and TSA Pre-Check. For people who live near or travel between the US/Canada border, NEXUS is an especially attractive bargain.


The Secure Electronic Network for Travelers Rapid Inspection (SENTRI) is a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) program that allows expedited clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travelers upon arrival in the United States.

You can enter the United States by using dedicated primary lanes into the United States at Southern land border ports so this is a program you might be interested in if you’re traveling between the US and Mexico a lot.

TSA Pre-Check vs CLEAR

CLEAR is a privately owned service offered to passengers that allows them to bypass the lines going into airport security, whether you are going into the standard security line or the TSA Pre-Check line.

In order to use it you find the CLEAR line leading to security which should have little to no line and then you simply scan your boarding pass and biometric data and then you’re off to the races and able to skip whatever line you would have been waiting on.

You don’t even have to show your ID.

CLEAR can be great for frequently flyers in busy airports but it’s not cheap at $189 per year (though cheaper promos are often available).

As you can probably tell, CLEAR is something that you’d get that you would use in addition to TSA Pre-Check to help save you even more time by skipping the line.

If you frequent airports when the TSA Pre-Check line gets long or backed up and very slow, then CLEAR could absolutely be worth it.

TSA Pre-Check vs Mobile Passport

Launched in the fall of 2014, Mobile Passport Control is an app, developed by Airside Mobile and Airports Council International-North America in partnerships with CBP, that you can download to use in order to expedite your entry into the US.

It’s available in the Apple App Store and Google Play.

It’s free to use and can be just about as good as Global Entry at some airports, though I’d still take Global Entry over Mobile Passport.

That’s because Global Entry gets you Pre-Check and also allows you to get through customs AND immigration while Mobile Passport often only get your priority access through immigration.

Mobile Passport deals with entry back into the US and does NOT come with TSA Pre-Check, so it’s not really a competitor or alternative to TSA Pre-Check in any way.

However, since Mobile Passport is free and doesn’t require the extensive background check, it can be a great alternative to Global Entry.

TSA Pre-Check FAQs

Do you always get TSA Pre-Check with your boarding pass?

No, you won’t always receive TSA Pre-Check on your boarding pass. I’ve been told that you can expect to receive it about 95% of the time. If you don’t see it on your boarding pass don’t assume that you didn’t receive it for your flight.

For whatever reason, TSA Pre-Check is sometimes not included on your boarding pass and you simply need to go to a check-in desk to request your KTN to be added.

Also, note that you might be given TSA Pre-Check on your boarding pass even when it’s not available for an airline, so be on the lookout for that.

How long is TSA Pre-Check good for?

Your membership will be good for five years.

Is there an age limit for kids?

There is no age restriction to apply for TSA Pre-Check. However, family members ages 12 and under traveling with an eligible parent or guardian with a TSA Pre-Check indicator on their boarding pass can participate in expedited screening.

Do I need to be a US citizen?

TSA Pre-Check is only open to U.S. citizens, U.S. nationals and lawful permanent residents.

How long does it take to get through security?

In October 2018, 93% of TSA Pre-Check passengers waited less than 5 minutes.

How do I find my TSA Pre-Check number?

You can look up your Pre-Check number (KTN) here.

What is the TSA Pre-Check processing time?

TSA states that it should take about 2 to 3 weeks from the time you apply from the time you receive your KTN. However, there are many reports of applicants getting their applications processed in under 10 days so you could get approved much quicker than 2 to 3 weeks.

Can I get TSA Pre-Check with a misdemeanor?

Yes, while your situation may depend on how many misdemeanors and what type they were, others have been approved for TSA Pre-Check despite having committed a misdemeanor.

Are there TSA Pre-Check military benefits?

Members of the armed forces can take advantage of Pre-Check. They simply need to enter their DoD ID number from the back of their common access card into the “known traveler number” field of their flight reservations or when updating their Defense Travel System profile for official travel.

Do I need a TSA Pre-Check card?

No, you do not need to show a TSA Pre-Check card to use the benefit and you are not issued a card for the program.

Does TSA Pre-Check require a drug test?

No, TSA Pre-Check does not require you to take and/or pass a drug test.

How do I know when my TSA Pre-Check expires?

TSA will send a renewal notification to members who have a valid email and/or phone number on record.
You may check your membership status online.
You can find your KTN expiration date under the field marked “TSA Pre✓®Expiration Date”

You may also contact customer service at 855-347-8371 weekdays between 8 a.m. – 10 p.m. ET to request your KTN expiration date.

When can I renew my TSA Pre-Check?

You may renew your membership up to six months before the expiration date.

Can I renew Pre-Check online?

Most members will be able renew online here. In order to renew, you will need to enter your name, date of birth, and KTN. But note that some members may be required to renew in person at an enrollment center.

Will I keep the same KTN when I renew?

Yes, most members will keep the same KTN.

Final word

TSA Pre-Check is a great perk. Personally, I recommend getting Global Entry and going with a credit card that covers the enrollment fee but if you don’t travel internationally then you might not need Global Entry. In that case, you can take advantage of the easier enrollment process for TSA Pre-Check.

Known Traveler Number Guide: (How to Lookup, Global Entry, Pre-Check) [2022]

This comprehensive article will tell you everything you need to know about your Known Traveler Number.

I’ll cover how you can get one and the best way to do that with programs like TSA Pre-Check and Global Entry. I’ll show you how to look-up your Known Traveler Number and add it to your travel itineraries with airlines like United, Southwest, and Delta.

Finally, I’ll explain the differences between a Known Traveler Number and a Redress Number.

What is a Known Traveler Number?

A Known Traveler Number, also called your “KTN,” is a 9-digit number used to link your TSA Pre-Check enrollment to your travel itinerary in order to ensure that you can receive TSA Pre-Check benefits like expedited security screening.

This is the same number used for other trusted traveler programs, such as Global Entry, NEXUS, and SENTRI. However, for these latter programs, this number is known as your “PASSID.”

Tip: Use the free app WalletFlo to help you travel the world for free by finding the best travel credit cards and promotions!

TSA pre-check station
Your Known Traveler Number is vital for getting expedited security screening with TSA Pre-Check.

Why do you want a Known Traveler Number?

With a Known Traveler Number, you can participate in TSA Pre-Check, which means you’ll be able to breeze through security at airports.

How do you get a Known Traveler Number?

You can get a Known Traveler Number by signing up, getting approved, and paying the fees for any of the following programs:

TSA Pre-Check

As already discussed, TSA Pre-Check will usually get you through airport security in a breeze.

You’ll usually get access to a priority security line which is often much shorter than the standard security line (though not always, unfortunately).

You’ll also be able to go through a less restrictive and invasive screening process. You often only have to pass through a traditional metal detector (as opposed to the full-body scanners) and you also get to enjoy the following benefits:

  • Shoes can stay on
  • Belt can stay on
  • Light jackets can stay on
  • Laptops allowed to stay in bag
  • Liquids (3-1-1 Rule) can stay in bag

This program costs $78 to enroll for five years and it does not require the extensive interview process that Global Entry requires. There are multiple ways to get TSA Pre-Check for free and you can read about those here.

The benefits of TSA Pre-Check.

Global Entry

Global Entry would be my preferred method for obtaining a Known Traveler Number. That’s because not only will you get TSA Pre-Check, but you’ll also get expedited entry at Customs and Immigration when making your way back into the US.

This program does require you to attend an interview to be approved but the interview process is not difficult at all. If you’ve got a clean criminal history and come prepared with your documents then you should pass the background check and interview without any issues at all.

In some cases this “interview” process will only take about five minutes total.

You might get asked some very basic questions like what countries you have visited and whether or not you have traveled for business or pleasure. It’s hardly anything close to an interrogation in most cases.

The hardest part is often scheduling the interview because availability can be limited and in some cases it might take weeks (or even months) to find an open slot.

Luckily, some airports offer interviews upon arriving from international locations. So if you have some international travel coming up, this can be one of the easiest ways to get approved for Global Entry.

There are many credit cards that come with a $100 statement credit for your Global Entry application fee, so it’s very easy to get this program for free. My personal recommendations for getting a $100 statement credit for your Global Entry/TSA Pre-Check is to go with the United Explorer Card. It has great perks and a low annual fee and you can read more about it here! 

Since you’ll get both TSA Pre-Check and expedited entry back into the US, I think Global Entry is the way to go for many people.


NEXUS is a joint program between the US and Canada that will grant pre-approved, low-risk travelers expedited entry into both Canada and the US. Specifically, membership in the NEXUS program allows you to reduce your wait times at designated ports of entry by:

  • Using dedicated processing lanes at land border crossings
  • Using NEXUS kiosks when entering Canada
  • Using their card in dedicated SENTRI lanes along the U.S.-Mexico border
  • Using Global Entry kioks when entering the United States, and
  • Calling a marine telephone reporting center to report your arrival into the United States and Canada

You may also be granted access to the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) Security Line at some Canadian airports to expedite airport pre-boarding security screening. (This is like a Canadian version of TSA Pre-Check.)

Just like Global Entry, NEXUS will require you to clear a background check. The difference is that this background check also is submitted to Canadian authorities, such as the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP).

One of the major draws to the NEXUS program is that the application fee is only $50. This is surprising since NEXUS comes with both Global Entry and TSA Pre-Check, which cost $100 and $85 respectively. For people who live near or travel between the US/Canada border, NEXUS is an especially attractive bargain.


The Secure Electronic Network for Travelers Rapid Inspection (SENTRI) is a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) program that allows expedited clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travelers upon arrival in the United States.

You can enter the United States by using dedicated primary lanes into the United States at Southern land border ports so this is a program you might be interested in if you’re traveling between the US and Mexico a lot.

You might be a little overwhelmed with all of the different Trusted Traveler programs and perhaps you’re not sure which program you should sign-up for.

If that’s the case you can check out this TSA tool which can help you narrow down what program is most ideal for you based on your citizenship, number of flights, and travel destinations.


CLEAR is a privately owned service offered to passengers that allows them to bypass the lines going into airport security, whether you are going into the standard security line or the TSA Pre-Check line.

In order to use it you find the CLEAR line leading to security which should have little to no line and then you simply scan your boarding pass and biometric data and then you’re off to the races and able to skip whatever line you would have been waiting on. You don’t even have to show your ID.

CLEAR can be great for frequent flyers in busy airports but it’s not cheap at $179 per year (though cheaper promos are often available). This program does not require you to have a Known Traveler Number.

Mobile Passport

Launched in the fall of 2014, Mobile Passport Control is an app, developed by Airside Mobile and Airports Council International-North America in partnerships with CBP, that you can download to use in order to expedite your entry into the US. It’s available in the Apple App Store and Google Play.

It’s free to use and can be just about as good as Global Entry at some airports, though I’d still take Global Entry over Mobile Passport.

That’s because Global Entry gets you Pre-Check and also allows you to get through customs AND immigration while Mobile Passport often only get your priority access through immigration. This program also does not require you to have a Known Traveler Number.

Image via CLEAR.

Adding a Known Traveler Number

Once you have your Known Traveler Number, you’re going to need to add that number to your travel profiles for the various airlines so that your Known Traveler Number will automatically show up in your itineraries.

However, you should note that your Known Traveler Number will NOT automatically show up in all of your travel  itineraries.

Many people assume that once they add their Known Traveler Number to their profile, it will always show up but that’s not the case. So you always need to double check that your KTN was added.

Below, you can see how to add your Known Traveler Number to some of the major airlines. For whatever reason, it is not always the easiest thing to do since you often have to click around a lot.

Usually you can find where to input it if you just look for your profile and a button allowing you to edit your profile, but the steps below should help you locate this.

American Airlines

Sign in to your American Airlines account and then click on your name at the top of the page. Then click on “your account.” Next, click on “edit account” and then click on “Information and password.” Scroll down and then under “Secure traveler,” you will see where to input your Known Traveler Number.


Sign in and click on “My Account” and then scroll to “My Preferences” to change your personal details within your profile information.


Sign in and click on Profile and Preferences and then click on “Travel identification documents” and then you’ll see the area to enter it in below.


Go to the Delta website and log-in and then proceed to My Delta -> My Profile -> Basic Info. You’ll then see a field where you can input your Known Traveler Number.


First, sign in to your JetBlue account. Click on the arrow in the upper right corner by your name and then click on “Edit profile.” Scroll down and you will see where to input your information.

Hawaiian Airlines

First, sign in to your Hawaiian Airlines account. Go to My Account and under that click on “Profile & Settings.” Click on the travel tab and you will see where to input your information.

Hawaiian Airlines known traveler number entry

Travel portals and OTAs

Most online travel agencies (like Expedia) will allow you to enter in your Known Traveler Number into your profile which should populate into your itinerary when you make a booking.

But since you’re dealing with a third party, you should always verify that your number was properly included in your booking.

Tip: Use the free app WalletFlo to help you travel the world for free by finding the best travel credit cards and promotions!

Add Known Traveler Number after booking?

If you add your Known Traveler Number to your profile after you make a flight reservation, there’s a good chance that your flight itinerary is not linked to your Known Traveler Number and you won’t get TSA Pre-Check. 

In that case, you should be able to call up the airline and request for them to input your number into your itinerary.

You could also just wait until you arrive at the check-in desk for baggage and request for your Known Traveler Number to be added to your boarding pass.

Also, sometimes you’ll have to re-add your Known Traveler Number to specific itineraries. It’s not always clear why this happens but sometimes you’ll just have to do it.

If you ever are given a boarding pass without TSA Pre-Check on it and you know you have a TSA Pre-Check membership, simply approach an agent at the check-in desk and tell them you would like to add your Known Traveler Number.

It’s usually no problem for them to do this and they can re-issue you a boarding pass in a couple of seconds that has TSA Pre-Check.

For the reasons above, I highly recommend that you keep your Known Traveler Number somewhere easily retrievable like in your smart phone in a folder or app that you won’t forget about and can quickly pull up.

Where can I look up and find my Known Traveler Number?

If you are a member of the TSA Pre-Check Application Program you can, look up your KTN online.

If you are a member of another trusted traveler program, such as Global Entry, NEXUS, or SENTRI, log on to the Trusted Traveler Program website to obtain your PASSID, which once again is the same as your KTN.

You’ll find it right under “Program Memberships.”

ktn look up

You can also check the back of your trusted traveler cards for your PASSID. Note that TSA does not issue an ID card like Global Entry, NEXUS, and SENTRI do.

Related: Can You Get Through TSA and Fly with No ID?

Global entry card with pass ID known traveler number
Global Entry card showing where you can find your Known Traveler Number. Image via United.

What is a redress number?

You might also be wondering about a redress number since that field often shows up near where you input your Known Traveler Number.

A redress number is the record identifier for people who apply for redress through the DHS Travel Redress Inquiry Program (DHS TRIP).

“DHS TRIP is for travelers who have been repeatedly identified for additional screening and who want to file an inquiry to have erroneous information corrected in DHS systems.”

For example, someone might share the same name as another person on a no-fly list and that might bring up a red flag every single time this unfortunate traveler attempts to board a plane.

The redress number will help those people avoid additional searches, pat downs, and questioning in the future.

So in case you were wondering a redress number really has nothing to do with your Known Traveler Number.

Known Traveler Number for Military members

If you are a member of the military, you can utilize TSA Pre-Check for free.

Members of the U.S. Armed Forces can get expedited screening including those serving in the U.S. Coast Guard, Reserves, and National Guard.

This can be done by using the official Department of Defense (DoD) identification number when making flight reservations. Your 10-digit DoD ID number is located on the back of your Combined Access Card ID and it is not the same as your SSN. Read more about how to utilize this benefit here.

TSA Pre-Check vs Global Entry

Now that you’re aware of all of the benefits you might be wondering whether or not you should choose TSA Pre-Check or Global Entry.

The answer to this question depends a lot on your personal preferences.

If you are only going to be traveling within the US then your need for Global Entry will be nearly zero.

In that case, getting TSA Pre-Check should be just fine. The only drawback to that is that if an unexpected trip comes up you’ll lose out on the benefit you could have had with Global Entry.

On the other hand, if you’re going to be traveling internationally then you might want to think about Global Entry since it will save you a lot of time getting back into the country.

The two drawbacks to Global Entry are that it requires you to attend an interview and that the background check can be tough to clear if you have anything on your record like a DWI, DUI, etc.

Known Traveler Number FAQ

What is the easiest way to get a Known Traveler Number?

The easiest way would be to get approved for TSA Pre-Check.

Do I need a Known Traveler Number for CLEAR?

No, you do not need a Known Traveler Number for CLEAR?

How do I add my Known Traveler Number to my itinerary?

At the time of booking, you will typically see a field where you can enter your Known Traveler Number. In addition, you can add your Known Traveler Number to your frequent flyer profile.

If you are at the airport, you can also ask an agent to add your Known Traveler Number to your boarding pass.

What is the difference between a Known Traveler Number and PASS ID?

There is no practical difference and these are essentially the same.

Final word

As you can see, getting a Known Traveler Number can be very easy and can even be done for free with the right credit card.

I recommend going with a program like Global Entry to get your PASSID/Known Traveler Number and using a credit card with a $100 credit for Global Entry.

If you always keep your Known Traveler Number with you at all times you’ll be able to add it to your boarding pass when needed and there shouldn’t be any major issues.

TSA Pre-Check Line Closed? You Still Have Hope w/Pre-Check Lite

TSA Pre-Check can make your travels a lot more efficient and stress-free but sometimes you are forced to deal with the disappointment of finding the TSA Pre-Check line closed.

But you might still have hope of getting through security relatively stress-free with some of your Pre-Check benefits via Pre-Check Lite and in this article I’ll explain how it works. I’ll also give you some alternatives to consider to better deal with line closures.

TSA Pre-Check refresher

Just in case you need a quick refresher on what TSA Pre-Check is and what the benefits are, here you go.

TSA Pre-Check is a program that costs $78 to join and allows approved passengers to go through a separate security screening process that is less demanding than the security screening open to the public.

Once you pass the background check and are approved, your membership will be good for five years.

TSA Pre-Check allows you to pass through a traditional metal detector (as opposed to the invasive full-body scanners) and you also get to enjoy the following benefits:

  • Shoes can stay on
  • Belt can stay on
  • Light jackets can stay on
  • Laptops allowed to stay in bag
  • Liquids (3-1-1 Rule) can stay in bag

When security lines are backed up the program can save you a good amount of time. (However, sometimes the TSA Pre-Check can also get backed up which can cause delays.)

Tip: Use the free app WalletFlo to help you travel the world for free by finding the best travel credit cards and promotions!

Why do TSA Pre-Check lines close?

There are a couple of reasons why the TSA Pre-Check lines might close.

If you are headed to the airport very early in the morning (before the airport truly opens) or late in the evening, there may not be TSA Pre-Check lines open.

This is because they sometimes shut down when there is very little traffic at the airport which happens when the first/last flights are going out or taking off.

Sometimes the lines can be closed at random times. This could be due to some type of shortage of staff members or some other type of operational issue.

You can always check the online schedule to see what TSA Pre-Check checkpoints are open. The problem is that sometimes this website does not accurately show the hours and there is even a disclaimer for that.

The TSA website states:

TSA PreCheck® hours are subject to change based on operational needs. TSA incorporates unpredictable security measures throughout the airport and no passenger is guaranteed expedited screening.

Related: How Early Should You Get to the Airport?

What happens when TSA Pre-Check lines close?

If a dedicated line for TSA Pre-Check is not open then there are probably two different outcomes you can expect.

TSA Pre-Check Lite

TSA Pre-Check Lite is a term used to describe when you get some or all of the TSA Pre-Check privileges but you still go through the standard security line.

How it works is that when you show your TSA Pre-Check marked boarding pass to the TSA agent, the agent will hear a special trio of beeps or simply see Pre-Check marked on your airline ticket.

At that point they should issue you some sort of laminated piece of paper or a card that shows that you are TSA Pre-Check (some airports even use little dividers for your luggage like at grocery stores).

Note that sometimes the agent may not be paying close attention to your boarding pass and not issue you what you need for TSA Pre-Check Lite.

If you do not receive any type of document indicating your TSA Pre-Check status, try to quickly mention that you have TSA Pre-Check to the screening agent.

Once you make your way through security, you will hand over your card/paper.

This card does NOT typically give you priority in the security line, so you will not hop to the front of the line. At least not in my experience. (Some travelers have been escorted to the front of the line in the past.)

TSA Pre-Check Lite allows you to retain some (or all) of the TSA Pre-Check benefits. Often, the benefits that you get to retain are listed on the piece of paper you receive, perhaps in some type of checklist format.

Once again here are the benefits to look out for:

  • Shoes can stay on
  • Belt can stay on
  • Light jackets can stay on
  • Laptops allowed to stay in bag
  • Liquids can stay in bag

If your benefits are not spelled out for you then you can ask the TSA agent what rules apply or simply just assume that you have the normal TSA Pre-Check benefits (it’s much better to ask for clarification, IMO).

When going through the standard security line you may have to go through the full body scanner instead of a metal detector although often the standard line also has a metal detector open for TSA Pre-Check Lite.

It’s worth pointing out some report that the metal detectors are more sensitive for the general security line.

This means that your watch or shoes may NOT set off a metal detector when going through TSA Pre-Check but that they WILL set off the metal detector when going through the standard security line.

This might be true based on my experience because my belt has set off the metal detector during TSA Pre-Check Lite and it never goes off for TSA Pre-Check.

As for what benefits you can expect to retain, it varies.

In some situations in the past, I was only allowed to keep my shoes, belt, and jacket on but still had to remove my electronics and liquids.

One time I only had to remove my liquids. And other times, I’ve received all of the TSA Pre-Check benefits.

The inconsistencies can make things pretty confusing and to make matters worse the TSA agents can be impatient and act as if you should know this stuff.

I’m not sure who makes the call or if there will ever be a universal approach to this procedure so just be ready for anything and pay close attention to what your card says.

Go through normal security

Sometimes you won’t be issued TSA Pre-Check Lite and you will simply have to go through security just like everybody else. In my experience, this is a pretty rare occurrence but it does still happen from time to time.

TSA Pre-Check Lite card

Alternatives when the TSA Pre-Check line is closed

If the TSA Pre-Check line is closed you have a couple of different solutions that can help you out.

The CLEAR solution

It can really help to have CLEAR in situations where you get stuck in the standard security line.

CLEAR is a special service available at 50+ airports nationwide that allows you to jump ahead of the line whether you are in the standard TSA security checkpoint line or if you have TSA Pre-Check.

It works by obtaining your biometric data such as scans of your fingerprint, eyes, or facial features and storing them in an encrypted manner. It then verifies your identity by matching your biometrics with its database every time you visit the airport.

It’s one of the best ways to save a lot of time when flying on busy days since even the TSA Pre-Check line can get long. CLEAR also offers expedited entry into select stadiums around the US. You can read more about CLEAR here.

The alternative terminal solution

Another solution is to simply go through a different airport terminal.

This may require you to do a fair amount of walking or perhaps figuring out your logistics on the fly so it’s not for everybody. In some cases, it may just be easier to go through the standard security line.

But if you are familiar with an airport, then a lot of times it’s pretty easy to just enter through a different terminal and connect to the terminal you need to get through.

Final word

Arriving at the airport only to find the TSA Pre-Check lines closed can be pretty frustrating. Luckily, in a lot of cases you can still get the TSA Pre-Check benefits by receiving a card that grants you TSA Pre-Check Lite. You may or may not receive the full privileges you would be entitled to but you should still receive enough to help you get through security.

Global Entry Guide (Application & Interviews) [2022]

Global Entry is one of the travel perks that I absolutely would not want to travel without. It has saved me tons of time and stress over the past decade and I think anybody who does even a small amount of traveling should consider it.

In this comprehensive article, I’ll tell you everything you need to know about Global Entry. I’ll cover things like the benefits, eligibility, and how the entire process works, as well as answer a lot of common questions.

What is Global Entry?

Global Entry is a U.S. Customs and Border Protection service that allows pre-approved, low-risk travelers expedited entry at select airports when passing through immigration and customs checkpoints.

Tip: Use the free app WalletFlo to help you travel the world for free by finding the best travel credit cards and promotions!

What are the Global Entry benefits?

  • Expedited entry through immigration and customs at airports
  • Expedited entry at other ports of entry including cruise terminals
  • Expedited entry in select other countries
  • TSA Pre-Check
  • Government-issued ID card

Expedited entry through immigration and customs at airports

Whenever you arrive back in the US, you will be able to skip the long lines at immigration via automated kiosk stations (I explain how that process works below).

This will save you lots of time in many cases.

In fact, the time savings can be doubled as many airports also have separate lines at customs. So when you are trying to exit the airport with your baggage, you often can skip the long lines there as well.

Expedited entry at other ports of entry including cruise terminals

It’s not just airports that offer expedited entry, you can also get through border checkpoints quicker when crossing back into the US at cruise terminals.

While rare, it’s possible you could come across an “express lane” when departing a cruise, such as the line that Port Everglades, FL had.

Expedited entry in select other countries

By getting approved for Global Entry, you’ll be able to access security clearance programs in other countries that offer expedited entry. I‘ll have the full breakdown of those below.

TSA Pre-Check

If you are approved for Global Entry, you will be given TSA Pre-Check automatically. TSA Pre-Check will allow you to bypass the main security screening line when arriving at airports and also provide you with some additional benefits that make the security screening process much quicker and less stressful.

These additional benefits include:

  • Shoes can stay on
  • Belt can stay on
  • Light jackets can stay on
  • Laptops allowed to stay in bag
  • Liquids (3-1-1 Rule) can stay in bag

Government-issued ID

Something that a lot of people don’t realize is that a Global Entry ID card is an official government recognized identification. So if you ever lose your license or your passport, often times this ID can help you in those situations.

It also can be used at certain ports of entry. The CBP states that they “accept Global Entry cards for lawful U.S. entry at land and sea ports of entry” and the cards can be used “for expedited entry into the United States via the SENTRI and NEXUS lanes.”

Picture of a global entry sign at an airport.
Benefits extend beyond US borders with Global Entry.

How much does Global Entry cost?

The Global Entry application fee is $100 and if you are approved your membership is good for five years. Note that if you are not approved, you will NOT get refunded the $100.

The good news is that there are many credit cards that offer Global Entry credits to completely cover your $100 application fee. A lot of these are travel credit cards that offer additional perks and benefits that make them well worth holding onto.

A few of the top cards for Global Entry credits include:

How does Global Entry work?

After you apply, attend an interview, and you get approved, you will be issued something known as a “PASSID” which is also called a “Known Traveler Number.” This number will be automatically attached to your passport.

When you arrive back in the US, you will be able to bypass the main immigration line and head over to a kiosk area where you can scan your passport and biometrics. After verifying your travel details and making any declarations, you will be issued a receipt and often you will show that to an immigration officer who will quickly wave you through immigration.

It’s a very efficient process that takes the pain out of international travel to a large degree.

Who is eligible for Global Entry?

To be eligible for Global Entry you need to be a citizen of the US or another recognized country and also be able to pass the background check.

Citizens eligible for Global Entry

U.S. citizens, U.S. lawful permanent residents, and citizens of the following countries are eligible for Global Entry membership:

  • Citizens of Argentina
  • Citizens of India
  • Citizens of Colombia
  • Citizens of United Kingdom
  • Citizens of Germany
  • Citizens of Panama
  • Citizens of Singapore
  • Citizens of South Korea
  • Citizens of Switzerland
  • Citizens of Taiwan
  • Mexican nationals

Something to note is that if you come from certain countries, there may be additional requirements that you have to meet in order to be eligible.

For example, if you were applying for Global Entry and you were from Taiwan, you would first need to obtain a Police Criminal Record Certificate from the local Taiwan Police Department.

Also, Global Entry members who are not U.S. citizens or U.S. lawful permanent residents must keep CBP updated regarding visas.

If an individual obtains a new visa or a new petition for a work visa they must go in person to an enrollment center so that the CBP can update their information. You can find out more about those requirements here.

Background check eligibility for Global Entry

In order to get approved for Global Entry, you must pass a background check.

Criminal history

This background check will require your history to be squeaky clean when it comes to criminal activity.

If you have been convicted of any criminal offense or have pending criminal charges or outstanding warrants, you may not get approved. Past offenses include driving under the influence.

Luckily, there is a time component to these criminal offenses.

Online sources state that if your conviction is 10 years or older, you can still pass a background check. Your conviction might still be brought up in the interview, but at least you can get past the conditional approval stage.

Customs and immigration violations

If you have been found in violation of any customs, immigration or agriculture regulations or laws in any country, you could lose your membership status.

So let’s say you were caught transporting banned plants from a country like Australia, that infraction could cost you your eligibility for Global Entry.

So be smart and always think about the consequences!

Ongoing investigations

Even if you have not been convicted, if there is an ongoing investigation by any federal, state, or local law enforcement agency, you might not be able to pass a background check.

Not allowed in the US

This one is a no brainer but if you are not admissible into the US under immigration regulations, including applicants with approved waivers of inadmissibility or parole documentation, you will likely not get approved.

Cannot satisfy CBP of your low-risk status

Basically, if CBP cannot deem you a low risk traveler you will be out of luck. However, it is possible to appeal the decision for your Global Entry eligibility.

Age requirements

There are no age requirements for Global Entry.

However, if you are under the age of 18, you must have your parent or legal guardian’s consent to participate in the program.  But note that the parent or guardian does not have to be a Global Entry member.

Also, regardless of your age you will have to have your own TTP account and each applicant must schedule a separate interview.

How do you sign up for Global Entry?

To sign up for Global Entry follow these steps:

  1. Create a Trusted Traveler Programs (TTP) account
  2. Complete the online application and pay the $100 fee
  3. Get conditionally approved
  4. Schedule an interview at a Global Entry Enrollment Center.
  5. Get approved!

Create a Trusted Traveler Programs (TTP) account

In order to sign up for Global Entry you will need to create a trusted traveler program account. You can do this online in a matter of minutes.

Complete the online application and pay the $100 fee

In order for your application to be reviewed, you will have to pay the $100 nonrefundable application fee.

The good thing about Global Entry is that you don’t have to use a card in your name to pay the fee. So if somebody else has a credit card with a $100 Global Entry credit, they can use it on your application.

Get conditionally approved

After submitting your application for review, the next thing you need to do is get the conditional approval letter. This should come within a couple of weeks although mine have always come in a few days.

You should get an email and/or notification leading you to a letter you can access online that begins something like:

We are pleased to inform you that your U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Global Entry membership application has been processed and you are now invited to visit an enrollment center to complete the enrollment process.

This letter is important because it will have your Global Entry membership number aka PassID aka Known Traveler Number. Be sure to print out this letter because you will need to bring it with you to the interview; also be sure notate your membership number just in case you end up losing your letter.

You will need to complete enrollment within 365 days of the date of conditional approval.

Schedule an interview at a Global Entry Enrollment Center

The toughest part about this process might be scheduling an interview. Keep reading below for more details on how to schedule an interview.

Get approved!

Sometimes you’ll get approved right on the spot at the conclusion of your interview.

Other times you might have to wait around a little bit for your confirmation email. When I was initially approved for Global Entry, my confirmation email came about one hour after my interview was over.

If you do not hear back after a couple of days, something might be wrong and you might want to follow up.

Once you are approved, your PASSID (that is also your Known Traveler Number) is live.

This is the number that you will need to plug into your frequent flyer profiles for different airlines in order to ensure that you receive TSA Pre-Check. 

Membership will be good for five years beginning from the date of your next birthday.

This is one reason why I recommend for people to apply right after their birthday because they can essentially get six years of membership.

How do you complete an interview for Global Entry?

There are three ways to knock out the interview requirement for Global Entry:

  • Schedule an interview
  • Walk-in appointment
  • Enrollment on Arrival

Scheduling an interview

To schedule an interview simply log into your account and you should see a blue call to action button allowing you to schedule an interview.

One of the most challenging aspects of signing up for Global Entry is getting an interview.

Getting an interview is somewhat problematic for some people because there are not many interview locations and the wait time for an interview opening could be several months depending on where you live.

One of the ways that you can make this process less painful is by checking the available interview slots on a regular basis.

Many times people will change their appointments or cancel them and slots will open up allowing you to reschedule your interview.

When I initially signed up for Global Entry many years ago, I was able to reschedule my appointment and get it done within a week.

To do this, simply click on “reschedule appointment” and search for open slots.

Doing a Global Entry walk-in interview

Many people simply show up unannounced to an enrollment center at an airport and try to get an interview done on the spot. It’s a bit aggressive but hey it sometimes works despite the fact that many (if not most) enrollment centers explicitly state they do not accept walk-in appointments.

Typically, if you were doing something quick like a name change it seems like they are more accepting of those types of requests.

Global Entry Enrollment on Arrival (EOA)

If you are struggling to find an interview slot, one of the best things that you can do is simply do “Enrollment on Arrival.”

If you are flying back from an international flight, at some airports you will see a designated area that you can get your interview conducted at on the spot. Simply look for a sign that indicates Global Entry “Enrollment on Arrival.”

Check the FAQ below for a list of all of the airports where you can do Enrollment on Arrival.

If you do decide to go this route, make sure you have all your documents. You will need your passport and proof of residence (such as a drivers license), mortgage statement, rental payment statement, utility bill, etc.

Picture of a global entry enrollment on arrival sign.
Enrollment on arrival is one of the easiest ways to get the interview done.

What is the Global Entry interview like?

A typical Global Entry interview is very quick and not nearly as thorough or invasive as you might think.

Generally, they will be asking you straightforward questions such as: What type of travel do you do, business or leisure? What countries have you visited?, etc. They are very much softball questions.

If there is something questionable on your application, that will probably come up in the interview so be prepared to address certain things.

But after answering a few questions and allowing them to take your biometrics (fingerprints) and a photo, you will be off to the races!

(I have heard some locations asked applicants to watch a short video in the past.)

If you want more details about the interview process, you can read about my interview experience at Houston Intercontinental Airport.

What do I need to bring to a Global Entry interview?

Most applicants will only need to bring:

  • The conditional letter of approval
  • A valid passport
  • A document showing proof of residency such as a drivers license

But note that depending on your circumstances, you might need to bring in additional documents. I’ll explain more below. 

Conditional letter of approval

You should bring your conditional letter of approval to the interview. If for some reason you do not have your letter, at the very least be sure to have your PASSID number found on the application.

The CPB states:

You will need to bring a copy of your conditional approval letter. To print the letter, log into your TTP account and you will see it under Notifications. If you do not have it, then please write down the PASSID number issued to your application and print out a copy of your interview confirmation.

So the key is to have a way to bring the PASSID number with you (though I think they can still access your number if you don’t have it).

Valid passport or permanent resident card

You’ll need to bring a valid passport or permanent resident card.

If you travel using more than one passport, bring them all to the interview so that the information can be added to your file. This provides you with the ability to use either passport at the Global Entry kiosk.

Proof of residency

For many people the proof of residency will be a drivers license assuming that the address on the license is current. In other cases though you could bring something like a mortgage statement, rental payment statement, utility bill etc. Note that minors do not need a proof of residency.

ACRO Disclosure Certificate

If you are a UK citizen and applied for Global Entry, and you are not a U.S. lawful permanent resident (green card holder) you must bring an original copy of your ACRO Disclosure Certificate (police certificate) to the interview.

Court disposition papers

If you had any prior arrests or convictions, you will need to bring court disposition papers that explain what happened with your case. Read more about what to bring with you here.

How do you renew Global Entry?

In order to renew your Global Entry, you will need to go online and go through the renewal process. You won’t be able to renew your membership until one year prior to it expiring.

Renewing your membership will require you to input additional details that have changed since the last time you were approved. For example, if you have moved to different addresses or travelled to different countries, you will need to update the application with that information.

You will not always have to go in for a second interview whenever you renew your Global Entry membership. But if you are unlucky like myself, you will have to go in for an additional interview.

Typically, there will be a six-month grace period after your membership expires. During this time, you should have access to your for Global Entry benefits although I’ve heard some people have issues getting TSA Pre-Check.

Because of the coronavirus outbreak in 2020, the CBP allowed for a temporary one year grace period.

Is Global Entry worth it?

The value in Global Entry is that it is a huge timesaver. The amount of time that you will save will depend on how much international travel that you do.

Basically, you need to ask yourself how often are you going to be going through immigration and customs?

At some airports during peak hours, the long wait time for immigration can be over 90 minutes! (You can look up waiting times here.) That is a very long time to be waiting and just imagine if you had to endure that long wait time after crossing the Atlantic. It’d be no fun, I assure you.

But with Global Entry, you can usually skip those long lines.

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Global Entry benefits in other countries

As mentioned above, Global Entry will get you expedited entry in select other countries.


When traveling in Australia, you can access SmartGate courtesy of the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service. This will allow you to self-process through passport control and may be faster than waiting for a Customs and Border Protection officer.

There is no registration process for SmartGate but in order to use it U.S. citizens must be:

  • Traveling on a valid U.S. electronic passport, and
  • At least 16 years old


When traveling in Germany, you can access EasyPASS-RTP Which allows you to partially self process at passport control. This automated control system does not fully replace manual border checks but it does help to speed up the lines at airports that handle the highest volumes of passengers.


If you are approved for Global Entry, you can apply for Viajero Confiable. You’ll need to meet some additional requirements which include:

  • Applicants must be at least 18 years of age
  • Applicants must hold a valid machine-readable passport
  • An interview at one of the Viajero Confiable enrollment centers is required
  • Biometric information will be collected at time of interview
  • Application fee

Once approved, your membership will be good for five years.

New Zealand

In New Zealand you will have access to a dedicated screening lane when arriving at Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch International Airports. The lanes should be clearly marked with signs that say US Global Entry and in order to access the lines, Global Entry members simply present their Global Entry card, U.S. passport, and arrival documentation.


When touching down in Panama, you can take it vantage of Panama Global Pass.

Republic of Korea

In Korea, Global Entry members can use Smart Entry Service (SES) — a trusted traveler program operated by the Republic of Korea for expedited processing. These can be used at three popular airports: Incheon, Gimpo, and Gimpae.

US citizens must first become a Global Entry member, and may then apply for the Korean SES program. You can learn more about SES at Smart Entry Service for U.S. Citizens.

Other trusted traveler programs

Global Entry is just one of a handful of Trusted Traveler Programs that make security screening and traveling through borders easier. These other programs include:

  • TSA Pre-Check
  • FAST

TSA Pre-Check

As already mentioned, if you are approved for Global Entry you will get TSA Pre-Check. Because Global Entry is only a little more expensive than Pre-Check, I recommend most people to consider Global Entry. The only reason why you would not get Global Entry is it for some reason you have absolutely no plans to travel internationally.


NEXUS is pretty much the Global Entry for getting into Canada on an expedited basis. It’s cheaper than Global Entry but credit cards do not offer credits for this program. If you live near the Canadian border you should seriously consider Nexus.


SENTRI is for expedited entry into the U.S. from Canada and Mexico. This can be a great way to expedite your land crossings. Though this is the most expensive program at $122.50.


FAST is for truck drivers entering and exiting the U.S. from Canada and Mexico. So if you’re not a commercial truck driver, this program is not of much interest.

In addition to those programs, there are a couple of non-Trusted Traveler Programs that can be very handy when traveling.

Mobile Passport

Mobile Passport is a free app you can use to get expedited entry through immigration. It doesn’t come with all of the perks that Global Entry comes with like TSA Pre-Check, expedited customs lines, and perks in other countries. But it is great for using for groups when some individuals don’t have Global Entry and it can also be used at some cruise terminals.


Finally, there is also the program CLEAR. This is the ultimate way to expedite your airport experience because you can jump to the front of the line. If you combine TSA Pre-Check with CLEAR then you have the ultimate streamlined screening process and it’s great for frequent fliers. Just note that CLEAR is expensive.

LGA Terminal C CLEAR TSA Pre-Check

Global Entry FAQ

What does conditional approval mean?

Conditional approval means that you have met the minimum threshold for advancing to the interview process. You will likely get approved but there is still no guarantee.

How do I find a Global Entry enrollment center?

To find an enrollment center where you can get an interview done, click here. You’ll be able to search by state or country. Many of these are located at airports but not all of them are.

Does Global Entry really save you time?

Yes, Global Entry can save you lots of time whenever you are entering back into the US. In some cases, it could save you 30 minutes to an hour of waiting time.

How much does Global Entry cost?


How can I get Global Entry for free?

Several credit cards such as the Platinum Card offer credits that allow you to sign up for free.

What airports have Global Entry?

The following airports have Global Entry kiosks. But note that the airports with “*” do not have enrollment centers.

Abu Dhabi International Airport (AUH)*
Anchorage – Ted Stevens International Airport (ANC)
Aruba – Queen Beatrix International Airport (AUA)*
Austin – Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS)
Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI)
Bermuda International Airport (BDA)*
Boston-Logan International Airport (BOS)
Burlington International Airport (BTV)*
Calgary International Airport (YYC)
Charlotte-Douglas International Airport (CLT)
Chicago Midway International Airport (MDW)*
Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD)
Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG)
Cleveland Hopkins International Airport (CLE)
Dallas/Ft. Worth International Airport (DFW)
Denver International Airport (DEN)
Detroit Metropolitan Airport (DTW)
Dublin Airport (DUB)*
Edmonton International Airport (YEG)
Fairbanks International Airport (FAI)
Ft. Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport (FLL)
George Bush Intercontinental Airport, Houston (IAH)
Grand Bahamas International Airport (FPO)*
Guam International Airport (GUM)
Halifax Stanfield International Airport (YHZ)
Hartford – Bradley International Airport (BDL)
Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL)
Honolulu International Airport (HNL)
Houston – Hobby International Airport (HOU)
Indianapolis International Airport (IND)*
John F. Kennedy International Airport, New York (JFK)
John Wayne Airport (SNA)*
Kansas City International Airport (MCI)
Lambert – St. Louis International Airport (STL)
Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)
McCarran International Airport, Las Vegas (LAS)
Miami International Airport (MIA)
Milwaukee – General Mitchell International Airport (MKE)
Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport (MSP)
Montreal Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport (YUL)
Nashville International Airport (BNA)
Nassau – Sir Lynden Pindling International Airport, Bahamas (NAS)*
New Orleans International Airport (MSY)
New York – Stewart International Airport (SWF)*
Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR)
Oakland International Airport (OAK)*
Ontario International Airport (ONT)*
Orlando International Airport (MCO)
Orlando-Melbourne International Airport (MLB)*
Orlando-Sanford International Airport (SFB)
Ottawa Macdonald-Cartier International Airport (YOW)
Philadelphia International Airport (PHL)
Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX)
Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT)
Portland International Airport (PDX)
Providence – T.F. Green International Airport (PVD)
Raleigh-Durham International Airport (RDU)*
Sacramento International Airport (SMF)*
Saipan International Airport (SPN)*
Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC)
San Antonio International Airport (SAT)
San Diego International Airport (SAN)
San Francisco International Airport (SFO)
San Jose International Airport (SJC)*
San Juan-Luis Muñoz Marin International Airport (SJU)
Seattle-Tacoma International Airport-SeaTac (SEA)
Shannon Airport (SNN)*
South Bend International Airport (SBN)*
Southwest Florida International Airport (RSW)*
Tampa International Airport (TPA)
Toledo Express Airport (TOL)*
Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ)
Vancouver International Airport (YVR)
Washington-Dulles International Airport (IAD)
Winnipeg James Armstrong Richardson International Airport (YWG)

What airports have Enrollment on Arrival?

Enrollment on Arrival is available at the following locations:

Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS)
Abu Dhabi international Airport (AUH)
Aeropuerto Internacional Reina Beatrix in Oranjestad, Aruba (AUA)
Baltimore/Washington International Airport (MWI)
Buffalo Niagara International Airport (BUF)
Calgary International Airport (YYC)
Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT)
Chicago Midway Airport (MDW)
Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG)
Dallas Fort Worth International Airport (DFW)
Denver International Airport (DEN)
Detroit Metropolitan International Airport (DTW)
Dublin Airport (DUB)
Edmonton International Airport (YEG)
Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL)
Fresno Yosemite International Airport (FAT)
Grand Bahamas International Airport in Freeport (FPO)
George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) in Houston
Halifax International Airport (YHZ)
Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL)
Honolulu International Airport (HNL)
John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York (JFK)
John Glenn Columbus International Airport (CMH)
John Wayne International Airport (SNA) in Orange County, CA
Kansas City International Airport (MCI)
Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)
Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (MSY)
Metropolitan Oakland International Airport (OAK)
McCarren International Airport (LAS) in Las Vegas
Miami International Airport (MIA)
Minneapolis St. Paul International Airport (MSP)
Montreal-Pierre Elliot Trudeau International Airport (YUL)
Luis Munoz Marin International Airport San Juan (SJU)
Lynden Pindling Nassau International Airport (NAS)
Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR)
Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport(SJC)
O’Hare International Airport (ORD) in Chicago
Orlando International Airport (MCO)
OrlandoSanford International Airport (SFB)
Ottawa International Airport (YOW)
Philadelphia International Airport (PHL)
Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX)
Portland International Airport (PDX)
Reno-Tahoe International Airport (RNO)
Sacramento International Airport (SMF) /li>
Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC)
San Antonio International Airport (SAT)
San Diego International Airport (SAN)
San Francisco International Airport (SFO)
Seattle Tacoma International Airport (SEA)
Shannon Airport (SNN)
St. Georgeâs Bermuda International Airport (BDA)
St. Louis Lambert International Airport (STL)
Tampa International Airport (TPA)
Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport (ANC)
Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ)
Vancouver International Airport (YVR)
Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD)
William P. Hobby Airport (HOU) in Houston
Winnipeg James Armstrong international Airport(YWG)

Can my spouse use my Global Entry?

Global Entry can only be used by individuals who have their own membership. If you are interested in expedited entry for individuals without Global Entry, look into Mobile Passport.

How long will it take me to get approved for Global Entry?

The amount of time it takes from the time of applying to the time of approval will vary based on how long it takes you to get an interview. This could range from a few weeks to a few months. In some cases, there are delays that last for several months.

Final word

Global Entry is one of the best ways to spend $100 assuming you even have to come out of pocket for the fee. It will upgrade your airport experience allowing you to save a lot of time and stress when entering back into the US.

11 TSA Carry-On Rules That Matter The Most [2021]

Getting your carry-on bag through TSA security requires you to abide by a number of rules. Some of these are (hopefully) pretty obvious like not bringing a gun through security but others are more subtle like what constitutes a liquid and are there exceptions for medication?

In this article, I will cover the 11 TSA carry-on rules that really matter the most.

Show a valid ID to proceed

Before you ever get a chance to take your carry-on luggage through the TSA airport security checkpoint, you first need to show a valid ID and your boarding pass.

TSA accepts a lot of different types of ID and even if you forgot or lost your ID, there is still a way for you to get through (you just will need extra time in that case).

Tip: Use the free app WalletFlo to help you travel the world for free by finding the best travel credit cards and promotions!

TSA Pre-Check exemptions

If you have TSA Pre-Check the rules for transporting your carry-on will be a little bit different. TSA Pre-Check allows you to bypass the main security line and head to a line that is usually shorter and faster. Not only do you get to access the expedited security checkpoint, but you also get the following benefits:

  • Shoes can stay on
  • Belt can stay on
  • Light jackets can stay on
  • Laptops allowed to stay in bag
  • Liquids (3-1-1 Rule) can stay in bag

The last two benefits are the ones that really affect how you get your carry-on through security. The first major difference is that you can keep your large electronics such as laptops in the carry-on.

The second major difference relates to bringing liquids in your carry-on which I will talk about next.

Related: CLEAR Airport & Stadium Security Review

Liquids (3-1-1 Rule)

Probably the most well-known TSA carry-on rule is the liquids rule which is also known as the “3-1-1 rule.”

  • The “three” indicates that your liquids must be contained within a container no larger than 3.4 fluid ounces or (100 mL)
  • The first “one” means that your liquids must fit within 1 quart-sized resealable bag
  • The last requirement is that you are allowed 1 quart size bag per person

If you have TSA Pre-Check then you do not have to remove your quart sized bag from your carry-on. However, if you are traveling with a standard boarding pass then you will need to remove this bag from your carry-on as you make your way through security.

Knowing how to store your liquids in a bag is pretty easy but the much more difficult question sometimes is what actually is considered a liquid?

Many personal items like deodorant, toothpaste, and other toiletries can fall into a bit of a gray area. It really just comes down to the type of state they are in.

If they are in a gel-like state that is typically going to be considered a liquid but if they are in more of a solid state (like deodorant often is) then that should be considered a solid.

Note, in 2021, there was an accidental publication about TSA allowing bigger quantities of sunscreen to go through but that is no longer the case. Sunscreen in your carry-on is still subject to the standard TSA liquids rule.

Foods allowed but need to be packaged

What foods can be brought in your carry-on item through TSA airport security is one of the most common travel questions related to TSA that I see and hear. Many travelers are pretty surprised to find out that they can bring along a lot of different types of food with them through security and on the plane.

For the most part, you can bring reasonable quantities of just about any type of solid food you can think of. The key thing to keep in mind is that you may have to remove your food from your carry-on for x-ray scanning. So it is really smart to properly package up your food so that things don’t get messy and you don’t slow down the security line.

It gets a little tricky when it comes to food that is in a liquid or semi-liquid state. In those cases, the food will be treated as a liquid which means that it will be subject to the 3-1-1 Rule.

Here is a non-exhaustive list of food items that will fall under the liquids rule:

  • Liquid chocolate
  • Creamy dips and spreads
  • Mashed fruits such as applesauce
  • Gravy
  • Honey
  • Jam and jelly
  • Maple syrup
  • Oils and vinegars
  • Peanut butter
  • Wet pet food
  • Salad dressing
  • Salsa and sauces
  • Soups
  • Yogurt

Alcohol allowed but within limits

Alcohol has its own set of unique rules when it comes to airport security. You are allowed to bring alcohol with you on a plane as long as you comply with TSA 3-1-1 rule and also FAA rules.

Passengers are permitted to bring in mini bottles of alcohol but they must fit in the quart-sized bag. This also means that you can bring along your own alcohol as long as the alcohol is in a container no greater than 3.4 ounces.

Alcoholic beverages with more than 70% alcohol (over 140 proof), including grain alcohol and 151 proof rum are not allowed on the plane. That’s because alcohol becomes flammable at that level.

Keep in mind that there are special rules for consuming alcohol on a plane so make sure that you read more about bringing alcohol on a plane.

Medication exceptions

TSA is pretty relaxed about medication in carry on bags. They allow you to go beyond the requirements of the liquids rule so long as you are bringing reasonable quantities of your medication in your carry-on.

They also don’t check your medication for prescriptions (although you should be aware that state laws still apply regarding controlled substances).

So for the most part as long as you are being reasonable with the quantities of medication you will need on your trip and you are able to articulate that to a TSA agent, you should not have issues with bringing medication in your carry-on.

There are TSA rule exceptions for bringing medication in your carry-on bag as long as you are bringing “reasonable quantities.”

Sharp objects banned

A common point of confusion relates to bringing sharp objects through TSA in carry-on bags. You are allowed to bring certain types of sharp objects but they usually need to be pretty small and not very threatening. For example, you can bring small scissors, round-bladed butter knives, disposable razors, tweezers, etc.

The penalties for bringing a knife in your carry-on can be quite stiff. For example, you could get hit with up to a $2,050 fine if you’re caught with a knife since they fall in the banned category below: 

Axes and hatchets; bows and/or arrows; ice axes and ice picks; knives with blades that open automatically (such as switchblades); knives with blades that open via gravity (such as butterfly knives); any double-edge knives or daggers; meat cleavers; sabers; swords; and machetes throwing stars

So leave the sharp objects in your checked baggage and be sure to properly package them so that sharp tips are not exposed to someone who might need to search through your bag.

Explosives and flammable substances

It’s probably obvious to 99% of the population that you should not bring explosives on a plane and that you will not be able to bring them through TSA inside your carry-on luggage.

There is some confusion though because some items can be considered explosives that you may not necessarily think about.

For example, there are batteries that can explode given the right conditions and there are other flammable substances that come in products like bear spray. My advice would be to check the list of flammables provided by the TSA.

Firearms never allowed

Firearms are never permitted to be brought in your carry-on. TSA will find these when your carry-on bag goes through the x-ray machine and they may refer you to authorities who could then press charges on you. So make sure that you are aware of how to properly travel with your firearms via aircraft.

Size doesn’t necessarily matter

TSA is not very concerned about the size of your carry-on.

In fact, you can find a lot of reports online of people bringing some very large carry-on bags through security that are obviously too big for an airline to accept. This was actually a pretty well-known travel hack that more airlines are probably aware of than ever before.

For the most part, if your carry-on bag can fit through the x-ray machine chances are TSA is not going to raise an issue. I’m sure some agents are more vigilant about these things but many will probably let an oversized bag slide as long as it does not cause issues for security screening.

Since TSA does not make up the rules regarding the size of your carry-on bag, you need to check with the baggage policy of your airline to ensure that your bag is within the size limits.

Every airline will have published size limits but they are not always enforced so there often is a little bit of leeway.

Also, a lot of airlines do not publish the weight requirements for a carry-on bag so you typically can get away with pretty heavy carry-ons (within reason).

SSSS = more security screening

If your boarding pass happens to have four capital S’s (“SSSS”), this means that you are going to be subjected to enhanced security screening.

Most likely you will have to open up your carry-on bag and allow a TSA agent to dig through all of your belongings and possibly remove them for inspection.

Sometimes this process is a major pain but other times it is not so bad.

It’s a good idea to have the contents in your carry-on bag organized as you prepare to go through the TSA checkpoint because it will likely make this experience easier and will reduce the odds of you accidentally leaving something in your carry-on that should not be there.

Final word

Bringing your carry-on through TSA and complying with the rules is not as difficult as it might sound as long as you apply common sense. Things only really get a bit tricky when you are bringing along items in your carry-on that pose some level of threat to the safety of other passengers. If you keep the rules above in mind when flying you should not run into any issues and can focus on just enjoying your flight and arriving to your destination.

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