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How to skip to the front of the line with TSA's PreCheck program

Joe Raedle / Getty Images file

A TSA agent waits for passengers to use the TSA PreCheck lane Oct. 4, 2011, at Miami International Airport. TSA PreCheck is now available at 25 airports.

Do you want to ease through airport security with your belt and shoes on and without having to dump your laptop into a tray like some of the qualified frequent fliers can?

Now that the expedited screening program, TSA PreCheck, is in place at 25 U.S. airports for Alaska, American, Delta, United and US Airways, you don’t need to feel left out if you aren’t an elite frequent flier and haven’t received one of those coveted email invitations from your most-flown airline.

What else you need to know about skipping to the front of the line

A lot of travelers aren’t aware of it, but you can also qualify for TSA PreCheck if you are a member of one of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) Trusted Traveler programs, including Global Entry, NEXUS and SENTRI.

It’s more of a hassle to get in than through an airline invite, but there is no minimum number of trips or miles you need to have logged in order to qualify.

To apply, travelers go to CBP's Global Online Enrollment System, fill out an online application, and pay a $100 nonrefundable application fee. Then the CBP reviews your application, and notifies you to schedule an in-person interview at one of its Global Entry Enrollment Centers.

Bring proper ID, such as a passport or valid driver’s license, and if you get approved, they’ll take your photo, scan your fingerprints, and you’ll receive a PASS ID with a unique number to enter when you are making your airline reservations.

If you qualify as a Trusted Traveler, you’ll have that information embedded in the barcode of your boarding pass, and you’ll likely be breezing through airport security lanes very soon.

There are no guarantees, though: Even if you qualify, you may be subject to random screening at the airport.

TSA PreCheck currently comes into play for U.S. domestic flights only. The program is on tap to be expanded to an additional 10 airports before the end of the year. 

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