Here's How Long It Typically Takes To Get Approved For TSA PreCheck

Few things are more frustrating than waiting in line at the airport. If you're running late, you have to consider the time it takes to check in and drop off your luggage. And then there's the dreaded queue at the TSA security checkpoint, often with long lines that move at a glacial pace. If you're not careful, TSA security can cause you to miss your flight, costing you time, money, and frustration. 

A study conducted by Upgraded Points on 25 of the busiest airports in the U.S. found that some airports, notably Newark Liberty International (EWR) and George Bush Intercontinental (IAH), are the worst when it comes to security wait times. At peak times, you can expect to wait up to an hour at these airports, which is the last thing you want if you're in a hurry. You can't bypass the line, either, since going through airport security is one of the most critical steps to complete before boarding a flight. That is, unless you have TSA PreCheck, a privilege that lets you breeze through the inspection without taking your laptop out of your bag.

But the convenience of TSA PreCheck comes with a price — literally. Not only will you have to pay a fee of $78, but you also can't expedite the approval process.

The standard waiting time is three to five days

U.S. citizens, U.S. nationals, and permanent residents are permitted to apply for TSA PreCheck. You would need to fill out an online application and schedule an in-person interview at any of the 500+ application centers, where you'll pay the $78 application fee. It's not exactly an interview, but rather more of a biometrics collection and verification to check if the documents you submitted are legitimate.

Per the TSA's website, you can expect to get an approval notification in three to five days, but it's not guaranteed. It can take up to 60 days to get a result, especially if you applied near a holiday. Centers can get backed up with applications, leading to delays in approvals. There are also isolated cases wherein approvals take more than 60 days. "Going on 81 days with no approval yet. Check online every week, and called at the 60 and 80 day mark," a Reddit user shared on r/travel. The TSA told them there was still a backlog of applications from the COVID-19 pandemic — it ended up taking 122 days to get approved!

Is getting TSA PreCheck even worth it?

Despite this potential delay in the application process, TSA PreCheck is well worth it. You'll no longer be required to remove your shoes during inspection, nor will you be asked to take out liquids and laptops from your bag. The TSA PreCheck pass also lasts up to five years, so you won't have to keep renewing and paying annually.

Overall, TSA PreCheck will make getting through the airport faster and easier. You won't have to arrive at the airport five hours before your flight, and you can breeze past the long lines. If you do the math of a $78 application fee for a five-year validity, that only amounts to $2 per month. Even better, there are some credit cards that cover your application fee, including Capital One Venture Card, Citi Prestige Card, United Explorer Card, and Chase Sapphire Reserve.

It should be noted, though, that TSA PreCheck is best for domestic travel. If you fly abroad, you may want to look into getting Global Entry, which includes the privileges of TSA PreCheck with an added bonus of expedited customs and immigration screenings. It costs $100 with a validity of five years, making it only $22 more expensive than TSA PreCheck. But just like with TSA PreCheck, you can get your application fee reimbursed with certain credit cards.