Making travel easier: TSA redress numbers
Air travel is filled with minor inconveniences, from shared armrests to lengthy waits in the screening line. If you find yourself repeatedly selected for random additional screening, the experience graduates quickly from a minor to a significant annoyance. If that's a situation you face when you travel by air, the Department of Homeland Security's Travel Redress Inquiry Program, or TRIP, may hold the answer. The program creates Redress Control numbers for travelers who are routinely misidentified for screening so they can board their flights with less chance of delay.
Why some travelers have problems
There are any number of reasons why you might be having trouble at the boarding gate, and often they're pretty innocuous. If you're a frequent visitor to the U.S., for example, you might have forgotten to submit your I-94 document at some point when you left the country. That means you'd show as having overstayed in the country which would result in being "flagged." If your appearance has changed notably since your passport photo was taken, or if your personal information is inaccurate or incomplete, that would do it, too. It's also possible you might share a name with someone who's on a DHS watchlist, which can result in a lot of scrutiny. If you think any of these might apply to you, turn to the TRIP program.
How to apply
Start the process by completing the interactive application at the Transportation Security Administration's website. You can't save and resume the session later, so be sure you have all the necessary information at hand before you begin: The dates and flight numbers when you had problems, your passport number, and any supporting documentation such as your birth certificate if you're a citizen or your green card if you're a permanent resident. You'll need a few minutes to complete the application, then submit it either electronically or on paper through regular mail. Regular mail takes a bit longer, of course. If you submit electronically, mail or email your supporting documentation at your earliest convenience. There's a 30-day deadline for getting in the supporting documentation after initial application submission, but the sooner the paperwork is in, the sooner you'll get a resolution.
How the process works
After completing the application, you are assigned a Redress Control Number. Save that number, because it's the key to every step after this. With that number, you'll be able to log into the TRIP program's status page to follow your application as it wends its way through the system, ultimately – hopefully – resulting in a determination in your favor. At that point, you can begin using your redress number when you travel. Should the decision go against you, you can appeal it following the instructions in your resolution letter.
Using your redress number
When you book a flight, enter your redress number into the airline's reservation system in the same way that members of the TSA PreCheck program or the DHS Global Entry program enter their "known traveler number." It's important to remember that a redress number doesn't entitle you to expedited screening, as those programs do. You'll still go through the regular screening process, and it also doesn't guarantee that you will never again be selected for additional screening. What it should do is ensure that you'll be able to fly with neither more nor less difficulty than any other traveler.