Crowded airport near baggage claim

Everyone traveling seems to have an opinion about the best known traveler program — services that help you skip long lines at the airport and get to your vacation destination sooner. But which one makes sense for you? Deciding can be overwhelming given all the choices out there. What's the difference between SEA Spot Saver, Global Entry, TSA PreCheck and CLEAR?

  • Are there other options if I don't want to pay for a program?

  • Can my family travel together using these programs?

  • What else is available at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA)?

  • Which one is best for me and my travel needs, budget, and style?

  • What do I need if I don't travel overseas frequently? Or if I do?

But help is on the way. In this overview of the benefits, important details and eligibility requirements for all the programs out there, we’ll break down everything you need to know to speed through security. From federal programs to free program just for SEA travelers, here are some great options to make your visit to the airport easier and more predictable — no matter where you’re going. Learn the difference between trusted traveler programs at  

Sign up for the one you need at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Trusted Traveler programs.

Timing note: The federal government is receiving many applications and processing may take longer than usual. Here are current wait times:

  • Global Entry: 4-6 months

  • NEXUS: 12-14 months

If you're waiting for your approval, you can use SEA Spot Saver in the meantime.

1. Global Entry 

Benefits: Expedited screening for international travelers leaving and entering the United States by air, land, and sea. With more than 10 million members, Global Entry is one of the most popular trusted traveler programs available. With more than 10 million members, it provides expedited clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travelers upon arrival into the U.S. Global Entry also offers the benefits of TSA PreCheck for outbound air travel, with expedited security lines and screening and expedited passport and customs processing for travelers entering the U.S.

Provider: U.S. Customs and Border Protection

Best for: People who make frequent international trips — at least four times a year — including cruises and driving across international borders

Cost: $100 for five years

Who’s eligible? U.S. citizens, U.S. lawful permanent residents, and select foreign nationals

What you get with a membership:

  • Reduced wait times with self-service kiosks or E-Gates using facial comparison technologies. Average Global Entry processing time at SEA Airport’s International Arrivals Facility typically takes under 15 seconds.

  • No paperwork to fill out upon arrival

  • Includes five years of TSA PreCheck. In March of 2023, 89% of TSA PreCheck passengers waited under five minutes, according to TSA.

  • No need to remove shoes, belts, liquids, laptops or light jackets

  • Use of Global Entry Customs Kiosks at more than 75 airports when returning to the U.S. from abroad

  • Expedited entry into the the NEXUS lane when driving from Canada  (not available when driving into Canada)

Important details: When traveling with a group, every adult must have a PreCheck membership. Children ages 12 and under can join a parent or guardian with TSA PreCheck into the dedicated processing lanes.

How it works: 

  1. For air travel, enter your membership number into the “Known Traveler Number” field when booking reservations, or into your frequent flyer profile with the airline.

  2. Go to the dedicated TSA PreCheck security line.

  3. For land and sea crossings, show your Global Entry card.

How long does it take to sign up? 

Up to 90 days for approval; most applicants receive conditional approval within a few weeks. After that, you must schedule your interview within 24 months and have it completed within 730 days.

How to apply: 

  1. Complete an online application.

  2. Conduct an in-person interview in one of two ways:

  • Schedule an appointment at an Enrollment Center near you.

  • If you’re traveling internationally soon, opt for the Enrollment on Arrival option. If you’re a current member or a first-time applicant with conditional approval, you can complete your interview upon arrival at a U.S. airport. At SEA Airport, no appointment is needed for this. It may be your fastest path to membership approval if you have upcoming international travel. Learn more about Enrollment on Arrival here.

Busy lines at SeaTac Airport

2. TSA PreCheck

Benefits: Expedited security screening for flights departing from U.S. airports. Not valid for land and sea border crossings. Managed by the Transportation Security Administration, TSA PreCheck is one of the most popular trusted traveler programs in the U.S., with more than 10 million members. It provides expedited clearance for pre-approved low-risk travelers upon arrival in the U.S. In March of 2023, TSA reported that 89% of PreCheck passengers waited under five minutes for processing.

Provider: U.S. Transportation Security Administration 

Best for: People who fly internationally around once a year

Cost: $78 for five years

Who’s eligible? U.S. citizens, U.S. lawful permanent residents, and select foreign nationals

What you get with a membership:

  • Expedited security screening at participating U.S. airports

  • Reduced wait times with self-service kiosks or E-Gates using facial comparison technologies

  • No paperwork to fill out upon entry

  • No need to remove shoes, belts, liquids, laptops, or light jackets

Cost: $78

Duration: Five years

How long does it take to sign up? Four to six months

Important details: To travel with a group, every adult traveling must have a PreCheck membership. Children 12 and under can join a parent or guardian with TSA PreCheck in the dedicated processing lanes. Not valid for border crossings by land and sea. 

How it works: After enrolling, include your known traveler number in the appropriate field of your airline reservation. The TSA PreCheck indicator must be visible on your boarding pass. You cannot access the TSA PreCheck lane by presenting a trusted traveler card or other documentation. There are more than 85 participating airlines and more than 200 participating airports


Benefits: Expedited entry into the United States from Canada by air, land and sea. Dedicated expedited lanes when driving from Canada into the U.S. Also includes Global Entry and TSA PreCheck for expedited departure and arrival by air. (See above for more.)

Provider: U.S. Department of Homeland Security

Best for: People who travel to Canada frequently or by boat

Cost: $50 for five years

Who’s eligible? U.S. citizens, U.S. lawful permanent residents, Canadian citizens, Canadian permanent residents, and Mexican nationals

What you get with a membership:

  • Expedited entry and a dedicated lane when driving from Canada into the U.S. 

  • Expedited vehicle and pedestrian entry into the U.S. or Canada

  • Expedited marine entry into the U.S. from Canada by telephone 

  • Access to Global Entry and TSA PreCheck expedited security lanes at airports within the U.S. and U.S territories for U.S. Citizens, U.S. lawful permanent residents and Canadian citizens

Important details: If you’re traveling with a group, every member of your party needs their own  NEXUS membership to use the designated entry lanes.

How to apply: Applicants can apply online or through an in-person interview with U.S. and Canadian officials at an Enrollment Center.


SEA Spot Saver

4. SEA Spot Saver

Benefits: SEA Spot Saver allows travelers to skip the TSA security line from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. with free timed entry to TSA security checkpoints at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. Parties of up to 10 can reserve an entry time online. SEA Spot Saver is available at TSA Checkpoints 3 and 5 (closest to the C, D, and N Gates) or at TSA Checkpoints 2 (closest to the A, B, and S Gates). 

Provider: Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. Other airports may have similar programs. 

Best for: Leisure travelers who travel infrequently and don’t want to wait in the security line at SEA Airport or pay for expedited entry through TSA PreCheck or CLEAR; families and groups who want to travel together

Cost: Free

Who’s eligible? All departing travelers flying out of SEA Airport.

What you get when you make a reservation:

  • Free timed entry into the general screening line

  • Advance reservations online

  • You can travel with up to 10 people in your group

  • No membership required

Important details: Spot Saver does not come with expedited screening – you will still have to remove your shoes, electronics and liquids.

How to apply:

  1. Reserve your spot in line up to five days before your flight or when you get to the airport at the ticketing level of the terminal.

  2. Provide the following information: airline, destination, flight number, number of people in your party, and contact information.

How it works:

  1. After saving your spot, you will receive an email and a QR code.   

  2. Bring your QR code to SEA Airport.

  3. Spend time doing what you want instead of standing in line: Check your bags, grab some coffee and hang out with loved ones. Then walk up to security at your appointment time.

  4. Go to your assigned checkpoint and look for the SEA Spot Saver logo or use the interactive map for step-by-step directions. 

  5. Show airport staff your confirmation and go through general screening.

5. CLEAR Plus

Benefits: CLEAR Plus is a paid membership program that helps you move faster through airport security nationwide in designated CLEAR lanes at TSA checkpoints.

Provider: CLEAR, a private company

Cost: $189 per year, plus $60 for each  additional family member; discounted rates are available for Delta SkyMiles and United MileagePlus members

Who’s eligible? U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents age 18 and older with valid government ID

What you get with a membership:

  • Dedicated CLEAR line for expedited entry through general security checkpoints at more than 50 airports and other venues (including Lumen Field for Seahawks and Sounders games)

  • Complimentary Avis Preferred Plus status with Avis rental car 

  • Expedited entry into general screening

  • Biometric screening to confirm your identify 

  • Quick signup

  • Online account management

How to apply: 

  1. Apply online or in person at a CLEAR airport location.

  2. If you start your enrollment online, finish up at any CLEAR airport location next time you fly.

  3. Provide your eye and fingerprint information for biometric registration.

  4. Enter the CLEAR line right away for expedited security screening.

How it works:

  1. Go to the dedicated CLEAR line at the airport.

  2. Step up to the pod and scan your boarding pass. Verify your identity with your eyes or fingerprint.

  3. You will be escorted to the front of the line for physical screening in the general security line; you will still have to remove your shoes, laptop, and liquids.

Important: CLEAR takes you to the front of the general screening line at airports, but it does not provide access to PreCheck or expedited screening; bundling CLEAR and TSA PreCheck will get you the fastest path through security.

6. Mobile Passport Control App

Benefits: This app-based program streamlines passport and customs entry into the U.S. by air and sea. You can download the app for shorter wait times, reduced congestion, and more efficient processing for your whole family. Eligible travelers can submit their passport and customs declaration information online, no paperwork required.

Provider: U.S. Customs and Border Protection

Best for: Last-minute travel. You can apply without advance notice. eople traveling by air and cruise ship and groups traveling together are also good candidates. 

Cost: The app is free to download from Google Play and the App Store; it does not require pre-approval.

Eligible: U.S. citizens, Canadian B1/B2 citizens and legal permanent residents (green card holders) 

Important details: Not available everywhere. Check ahead to see if an airport is among the 47 participating sites, including 33 U.S. international airports, 10 preclearance locations, and 4 seaports of entry. (SEA Airport is one of them.) Additionally, this app is used only for the first entry into the U.S. after international travel and does not provide expedited departure processes when leaving the country. 

What a membership gets you: 

  • Expedited international entry into the U.S. through a dedicated line 

  • No paperwork or receipts needed

  • Reduced passport control inspection time and overall wait time

  • Simplified entry into the U.S., so you don’t have to use a kiosk or complete a paper form

  • Reduced passport control inspection time and overall wait time.

How to apply: No application process is required. Just download the app before traveling and go!

How it works:

  1. Download the app in advance.

  2. Enter your information into the app on the way to SEA; you can include up to 10 members of your traveling party.

  3. Once you get your bags, look for the dedicated line for Mobile Passport Control.