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Faster travel via new ABQ PreCheck office

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Obtaining credentials that let travelers get through airport security quicker is about to get easier for many New Mexicans. The Transportation Security Administration’s PreCheck program is scheduled to open an enrollment office here this week.

The PreCheck program allows low-risk fliers to go through an expedited security line, where they don’t have to remove their shoes, belts or jackets or open their laptops.

The application process requires an in-person interview at a TSA “enrollment center,” which, prior to the impending opening of the Albuquerque center, required many New Mexicans to travel to centers in Hobbs or Farmington, said Los Angeles-based TSA spokesman Nico Melendez.

The Albuquerque enrollment center is scheduled to open Tuesday at 2921 Carlisle NE, Suite 126. It will be open Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. and from 1:30 p.m. to 3:45 p.m., according to the TSA website.

Placitas resident Lisa Palmeri, who had expressed frustration with the prospect of traveling to Hobbs or Farmington for a PreCheck interview, welcomed the news that an enrollment center is opening closer to home.

But Palmeri discovered that, as an international traveler who has to go through Customs screening when she returns to the United States, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Global Entry program was a better fit – and the in-person interview can be done at the Albuquerque International Sunport.

While the TSA’s PreCheck program lets travelers move quickly through airport security screening, CBP’s Global Entry program allows you to do that, plus move through Customs by using touch-screen kiosks in the arrivals area of many U.S. airports. “Whether you fly internationally quite a bit, or even if you only do so once or twice a year, it’s quite nice,” said Tracy Thorpe, port director for Customs and Border Protection at the Sunport. “After you fly into JFK, LAX or even Houston, the wait can sometimes be an hour plus. Global Entry decreases your wait time by 70 percent, so it’s really an expeditious process.”

“Once they’ve been enrolled in Global Entry, they’re automatically enrolled in TSA’s PreCheck” at no additional cost, Thorpe said.

Both processes require an extensive background check and fingerprinting. Requirements are outlined at each agency’s website.

Interested travelers can pre-enroll for TSA’s PreCheck at tsa.gov.

The process requires a nonrefundable $85 fee, and successful applicants will receive the required documentation by mail two to three weeks after their interview, Melendez said.

For more information on Global Entry, visit globalentry.gov. As the application process proceeds, applicants will be instructed to schedule an interview.

The Sunport enrollment office is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays. It’s located at the west end of the departure area, and the office number is 346-6994. There’s a nonrefundable fee of $100 for Global Entry application and, like PreCheck, memberships are valid for five years.

Not all airports and airlines are set up to use PreCheck or Global Entry, but the programs’ respective websites list which ones are.

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