You know what you want. You’ve seen those smug, gloating people over in the “TSA Pre-Check” line, looking down on the rest of us, and you want to be one of them. But then you see that there are half a dozen different trusted traveler programs, and everyone seems to be telling you to sign up for a different one. The official sites do a mediocre job of covering the differences, so I’ll help break it down.
Here’s the official comparison chart: https://www.dhs.gov/trusted-traveler-comparison-chart
Summary of Benefits:
- NEXUS wins. It includes all the benefits of all the other programs, including Global Entry (which includes Pre-Check) and SENTRI (Mexico entry benefits), along with special Canada entry benefits.
- Global Entry comes in second. It includes TSA Pre-Check, along with expedited processing when entering the US. This includes using NEXUS/SENTRI lanes when entering the US. If you register a vehicle when you apply, it also includes using the SENTRI lanes when entering Mexico. The only thing it won’t give you is the ability to use NEXUS when entering Canada, you need NEXUS for that.
- TSA Pre-Check has the fewest benefits; this only gets you expedited TSA processing but won’t help you at customs and border crossings.
NEXUS: We’ve established that NEXUS is the most comprehensive, and at $50 for a 5 year membership, it is also half the price of Global Entry. Nice! So, why doesn’t everyone just get NEXUS? The answer is that it requires an interview with both a US and a Canadian Border Patrol officer – and this is only available at locations near our northern border: http://usa.immigrationvisaforms.com/travel/nexus-pass-interview-centers , so it just isn’t convenient for a lot of folks to get to an interview site. There can also be a long wait for interviews at some sites. If it isn’t too far out of your way to get there, and you are ok waiting a few months for an appointment, this is the one to get.
Global Entry: If you never travel to Canada, Global Entry is just as good as NEXUS and easier to get with interview locations all over the US. The cost is $100 for 5 years, just $15 more than Pre-Check alone. Similar to NEXUS, some interview locations may have long waits, so it could take a few months before you are fully approved.
Pre-Check: If you never travel internationally, Pre-Check is the fastest and easiest to get – and at $85 for 5 years, it saves you $15 over Global Entry. There is no interview with a Customs and Border Patrol officer, but you will still need an appointment to interview with a TSA agent, provide fingerprints, and verify ID.
Here’s hoping this knowledge helps you find yourself cruising through security screening with the cool kids in no time. Safe travels and good luck!