By M.L. Dehm <i>For HBJ</i>
People around the country have been taking advantage of the new Transportation Security Administration’s Pre-Check program that allows domestic travelers to go through faster airport screening lines.
The program was added in February at the Port of Everett Security Building at 2900 Terminal Ave. That means travelers in and around Snohomish County are able to go there, rather than to Seattle, to obtain the special pre-screening that provides access to the speedier lanes.
There are 118 airports in the country that have dedicated TSA check-in lanes.
They tend to move much faster than standard check-in lanes because the pre-screened passengers allowed to use them are deemed to be low risk and are usually not required to remove their shoes or belts or open their computer laptop cases.
More than 97,000 people have enrolled in the TSA Pre-Check program so far, said Lorie Dankers, TSA public affairs manager.
“The average daily enrollment over the past week has been 2,960 nationwide,” Dankers said. At the Port of Everett, there were 20 enrollments on just one typical weekday in March.
Travelers have the option of scheduling an appointment time or doing a walk-in for the service. But the program has been so busy in these initial months that many travelers prefer scheduling an appointment in advance to avoid a long wait at the Pre-Check center.
Auburn resident Matt Coughlin drove to Everett in order to get the first available appointment to be pre-screened for his upcoming trip to Fiji.
“When I went to schedule an appointment, this was the only place that had one available within the next 30 days,” Coughlin said.
Snohomish County residents Mike and Vickie Johnson came into the office at the same time as Coughlin, hoping to do a walk-in but found there would be a long wait.
The Johnsons don’t have any immediate trips planned but hope to travel extensively in the future so they wanted to take advantage of the new service.
Successful applicants to the Pre-Check program are granted what is called a “Known Traveler Number” that is valid for up to five years.
For travelers such as the Johnsons, that makes it well worth the non-refundable processing fee of $85.
“Hopefully it will ease the process of having to go through screening,” Mike Johnson said. “A friend of ours, who travels a lot for business, really likes it.”
Pre-Check is not a security bypass. Travelers are still screened at the airport but they are screened in a separate lane, Dankers explained.
Because all of the passengers in that separate lane have already been pre-screened and provided information, processing takes less time and there are fewer unexpected delays.
The Pre-Check application process requires travelers to verify their identity in advance and to prove that they are a U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent resident.
Travelers must also provide fingerprints that are then used in a criminal background check.
There are crimes that disqualify a person from the program, sometimes permanently and other times for a shorter period of time.
Those who do apply will need to provide a valid, unexpired I.D. that offers both identification and proof of citizenship, such as a passport, enhanced driver’s license or enhanced tribal card, or they can provide separate documents that offer the same proof.
If travelers already have a Known Traveler Number through border programs such as Global Entry, NEXUS, or SENTRI, there is no need to apply for the TSA Pre-Check program. That number will grant the same access as TSA Pre-Check.
For the last several months, Dankers, who works out of the TSA’s Seattle office, has been kept busy attending the openings of Pre-Check sites around the nine-state region she serves. The majority of these sites are at off-airport locations such as the Port of Everett.
Almost daily, Dankers and screeners at the Port of Everett are asked why that site was chosen. It is not particularly visible and is not near an airport.
The answer has to do with the TSA’s security contractor MorphoTrust.
“They were the existing transportation credentialing company,” Dankers explained.
MorphoTrust was already at the Port of Everett carrying out similar screening for Transportation Worker Identification Credentials for port workers and Hazardous Materials Endorsements for hazardous materials transporters.
With these resources already in place, the location was an easy choice. It’s a bonus for Snohomish County travelers.