Travelers moving through South Carolina airports can now be pre-screened by the Transportation Security Administration for faster, less stressful clearance boarding planes once they arrive at the airport.
Columbia, Charleston, Greenville, Florence and North Augusta joined 300 other U.S. cities where the federal agency set up application sites for travelers to pre-enroll for the clearance.
The clearance program is known as TSA Pre(check).
Approved airline ticket holders would no longer have to remove their shoes, take off light outerwear or belts, remove their computers from the case or ditch federally-accepted liquids and gels from a carry-on bag.
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“It speeds up the process when you’re going through security,” said Mark J. Howell, Transportation Security Administration regional spokesman, in Columbia to officially open the local applications center, at 612 St. Andrews Road in Ashland Park shopping center. “The process is really simple.”
It begins online at www.tsa.gov, where applicants can pre-enroll by providing basic identifying information and setting up an appointment at the center.
Walk-in applicants also are welcome, TSA officials said, though there could be waiting time.
At the applications center, biographical information such as name, address and date of birth will be taken, along with fingerprints. Applicants also must provide valid identification and citizenship and immigration documentation. The list of acceptable documents is on the TSA website for pre-enrollment.
The non-refundable application fee is $85. Travelers who are approved are covered for five years.
“This new application process will greatly increase the availability of TSA Pre(check) benefits to a broader population of travelers nationwide,” John Pistole, TSA administrator, said in a statement.
“TSA Pre(check) is enabling us to move away from a one-size-fits-all approach to transportation security,” his statement said, as the agency looks for the best new ways to provide the best security possible.
When travelers are approved as pre-screened, they are contacted by letter by the TSA within 10 days of their application and issued a Known Traveler Number, or KTN, which is then used when booking reservations on a flight.
Tickets printed out will have the TSA Pre(check) logo on them or otherwise indicate the passenger is pre-screened.
At the airport, the passenger shows the boarding pass at the TSA screening point and is allowed to go through a line for pre-screened passengers, TSA officials said. However, no individual is guaranteed expedited screening, the TSA said, and “random and unpredictable” security measures are always in place at any airport.
Applicants to the pre-screened program cannot have been convicted of certain crimes, which are listed on the agency’s website under the eligibility requirements category.
The TSA pre-screening has been in effect at 115 mostly larger airports since October 2011 and more than 30 million passengers have gone through the program.
However, the TSA only began opening the application centers in December.
Nine major U.S. airlines currently participate in the TSA Pre(check) program, the agency said, including Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Southwest Airlines, United Airlines, US Airways and Virgin America.
“The opening of a TSA Pre(check) application center in Columbia provides our travelers the ability to conveniently apply for this program,” said Kaela Harmon, Columbia Metropolitan Airport spokeswoman.