Clear/TSA PreCheck Partnership on the Horizon

Travelers will be able to avoid a trip to a TSA PreCheck enrollment center by enrolling at a Clear kiosk instead.
Sean Cudahy
By Sean Cudahy 
Edited by Meghan Coyle

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It can be difficult to keep track of all the different memberships and services associated with air travel in 2023.

From TSA PreCheck to Clear and Global Entry, several programs aim to expedite or improve your airport experience, each with its own rules, fees and application processes.

However, there could be a major simplification on the horizon for two such programs. Clear, an annual membership service that allows paid members a fast-tracked identification check at Transportation Security Administration checkpoints and some stadiums, is working on a future partnership to enable people to apply for TSA PreCheck at specific Clear locations.

Clear and the TSA confirmed the partnership could potentially streamline the application process for both programs, which require separate applications and in-person interviews.

TSA is also partnering with the information technology and cyber security company Telos to offer TSA PreCheck enrollments, giving travelers more ways to complete the interview process.

That means Clear and Telos will soon be able to process TSA PreCheck applications, in addition to TSA’s existing enrollment vendor, Idemia, which has processed more than 15 million TSA PreCheck applications over the better part of a decade.

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What’s the difference between Clear and TSA PreCheck?

TSA PreCheck allows verified, enrolled passengers who pay the application fee access to the expedited security lane. It currently costs $78 for a five-year membership, though some credit cards offer a credit.

Those passengers also get a less cumbersome experience at the checkpoint. For example, shoes and light jackets can stay on, laptops and liquids can remain in bags and, generally, members don’t have to go through the larger, full-body scanner.

Clear’s members who pay its $189 annual fee (though there are ways to get discounts) enjoy an even faster trip through airport security. Members first have their identity verified through biometrics at a Clear kiosk — no driver’s license or passport is necessary — and then get escorted by a Clear representative to the front of the security line.

But here’s the catch today: Passengers can get through the ID and physical security checks more quickly if they enroll in both Clear and TSA PreCheck. Applications for both options are separate for now, but that could soon change.

How the Clear/TSA PreCheck partnership will work

Both Clear and Telos are currently testing their enrollment technology and processes, TSA press secretary R. Carter Langston told NerdWallet by email. He expects the rollout to happen “sooner than later,” but didn’t give specific timing.

Following testing, a Clear spokesperson said the company “will be approved by TSA to begin offering TSA PreCheck enrollment services to the public at select locations using Clear pods.”

Considering Clear can enroll a member at airport kiosks for its current services in a matter of minutes, this could make the TSA PreCheck enrollment process easier for passengers who would, theoretically, no longer need to make a separate trip to an enrollment site for a screening interview.

Neither Clear nor the TSA has specified whether this partnership and a potentially streamlined application process might affect pricing.

TSA PreCheck program is expected to grow

The reason the TSA is embracing these new enrollment partnerships with Clear and Telos is simple: the agency sees record enrollments in PreCheck and only wants the program to grow.

The agency marked 15 million members in early March and tracked its highest single enrollment day in the decade-old program’s history in February.

While frequent travelers might not be overly thrilled about more fellow passengers in the expedited line, the agency reports 92% of PreCheck passengers still wait five minutes or less at checkpoints.

The agency sees growth as a win for everyone.

“It allows our TSA officers … to focus on those who haven’t been vetted,” Langston says. “We expect even more avenues, even more possibilities, for people to become TSA PreCheck members, and see this as nothing but a sure benefit in expanding access to TSA PreCheck.”

How to apply for TSA PreCheck and Clear now

While that points to even further changes potentially in the pipeline for these programs, for the moment, your best option is likely to submit an application for TSA PreCheck on the TSA’s website. Additionally, you can enroll through the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Trusted Traveler Programs webpage.

That’s also where you can opt to enroll in Global Entry. It costs $100 for five years — just $22 more than PreCheck. But in addition to PreCheck access, it gets you an expedited trip through U.S. Customs after international travel.

As for Clear, you can start the enrollment process online and complete it at one of the company’s kiosks or do it entirely in person.

Clear and TSA PreCheck’s expanded partnership

The TSA wants PreCheck to grow. To do this, it’s adding new partners that will be able to help travelers simplify the enrollment process. This includes Clear, the biometric-centric service that, in conjunction with PreCheck, gives paying members an ultra-fast trip through airport security.

While we still have much to learn about this partnership, it could likely help streamline the application process for new members in the years ahead.

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