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Homeland Security is offering a range of Trusted Traveler Programs (TTP) that could make your next vacation much easier. Here is what you need to know about them in order to take advantage.

1. Benefits

There are four TTPs available to travelers: TSA Pre-check, Global Entry, NEXUS, and SENTRI. Each comes with different benefits that make them suitable for different people, but there is quite a bit of overlap as well.

TSA Pre is the most basic Trusted Traveler Program available. Essentially, it allows you to speed through security when flying without having to go through the usual process of removing your laptop, liquids, shoes, belt, and jacket. This is an appealing proposition for frequent flyers and travelers, which is why over 5 million people have already subscribed to the program.

NEXUS is a similar program, except it is geared towards both the USA and Canada. A NEXUS membership allows you to use Global Entry kiosks when entering the U.S. as well as NEXUS kiosks when entering Canada. It is best suited for people who routinely travel between the two countries. It also grants you faster processing at land and marine border crossings, which is particularly handy if you tend to drive as well as fly internationally, and includes TSA Pre benefits.

If you want to learn more about NEXUS, check out NEXUS: 5 Things To Know About The Frequent-Traveler Card.

Global Entry speeds up the process of arriving in the USA by pre-authorising low-risk travelers. You use a Global Entry kiosk, available at selected airports, to quickly clear border checks. SENTRI stands for Secure Electronic Network for Travelers Rapid Inspection. It includes the benefits of Global Entry and the land border benefits of NEXUS, and you can also use a dedicated processing lane at southern border checks. This makes it the best choice if you regularly travel across the southern border by land. As with the others, TSA Pre? is also included.

2. How It Works

With a Global Entry membership, you can use a designated Global Entry kiosk to enter the country by simply presenting your passport (or U.S. Permanent Resident card), scanning your fingerprints, and doing a simple customs declaration.

This may seem like a good option if you travel frequently, however, do bear in mind that only select airports have Global Entry kiosks. If you regularly use an airport not featured on the list, Global Entry may not be a good investment for you, as you will have to go through regular border checks.

Global Entry members are given an RFID-enabled Global Entry card which, confusingly, cannot be used at Global Entry kiosks. However, you can use it to enter the U.S. via the NEXUS and SENTRI lanes (but not to enter Canada via NEXUS).

Your NEXUS card allows you to use NEXUS kiosks at airports and the NEXUS lane at land and marine borders. You can also use Global Entry kiosks. Do bear in mind that if you are traveling with non-NEXUS members, you will have to use the regular lane.

Your SENTRI card allows you access to dedicated processing lanes on southern border checks.

Planning trip on map

3. Eligibility

You do not need a passport to apply to TSA Pre, and both citizens and lawful permanent residents of the USA are eligible.

For Global Entry, all U.S. citizens and permanent residents are eligible, along with citizens of Argentina, India, Colombia, the UK, Germany, Panama, Singapore, South Korea, Switzerland, Taiwan, and Mexico. However, further criteria may be applicable for certain countries. Canadian nationals are applicable for Global Entry through a NEXUS membership.

NEXUS is available to citizens and permanent residents of both the USA and Canada and does not require a passport. There are no citizenship requirements for SENTRI: anyone can apply.

4. Application Process

You can apply online for TSA Pre here, and most people have their application processed within 5 minutes. This is not the whole process, however: this step simply schedules you for an appointment at an enrolment center, which will include a basic background check and fingerprinting.

Once you are approved, you do not automatically get to use TSA Pre services every time you fly; you will have a unique traveler number that you need to enter when booking your flight, which will produce a TSA Pre marker on your boarding pass. It is your responsibility to make sure you do this every time you fly.

The application process for Global Entry is similar, but conducted through Customs and Border Protection rather than the TSA. It consists of an initial online application (done through the TTP website) followed by a meeting at a Global Entry Enrollment Center. As of February 2018, you can complete this stage upon arrival from a trip abroad at selected airports, which is a good choice if you have a trip planned.

The application process for NEXUS and SENTRI is the same as for Global Entry: just select your desired program on the application form. However, enrolment on arrival is not available, and you will need to make an appointment.

Filling out application

5. Cost

TSA Pre costs $85 for a five-year membership, which comes out to a mere $17 per year. If you travel often and find yourself getting frustrated at security lines, this is a worthwhile investment.

Global Entry membership costs $100 for 5 years. It includes all the benefits of TSA Pre for only $15 more, so it is worth looking into if you are already considering Pre.

Costing $50 for five years, NEXUS is half the price of Global Entry, making it by far the best investment if most of your travel is predominantly between the US and Canada.

SENTRI is the most expensive of the TTPs, $122.25 for five years.

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