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Clear users report random ID checks following new facial identity verification process

Editor’s note: This post was updated Jan. 12, 2024, with new information. It was originally published Nov. 8, 2023.

Late last year, Clear began verifying Plus users in preparation for Clear’s NextGen Identity+ technology to enable face as the primary biometric for membership identification.

Currently, Clear automates most users’ identity verification steps in the Transportation Security Administration screening process. As a secure identity platform, Clear allows members to go through a separate security lane with dedicated kiosks rather than waiting for a TSA agent to review their license or passport.

Once rolled out, this new technology will enable Clear Plus members to verify their identities with their faces (instead of iris or fingerprints), eliminating the need for members to stop at a Clear Pod.

“[This will] seamlessly integrate into TSA equipment for friction-free entry into physical screening,” per a Clear spokesperson. “Our vision is to keep you moving through the Clear Lane where you don’t break your stride.”

Although designed to ultimately speed up the TSA security process, TPG staffers who recently re-verified their identities are still being randomly asked to show their IDs, resulting in delays in passing through security as a result.

What is happening?

Screenshot of Clear message

In December, Caryn Seidman Becker, Clear CEO, announced that Clear Plus users and verified members would soon be able to identify themselves via their face; this would eliminate the need to provide additional biometrics or stop at a Clear Pod before being escorted to the TSA lane at airports.

Clear says this will allow for a faster Clear experience for users at airports once the program is rolled out fully over the next year.

To use this NextGen Identity+ technology, Clear members must go through a few steps to re-verify their identity, starting with creating a one-time password to verify their phone number via an email from Clear.

How the re-verification process works

After you verify your phone number, you should receive another email prompting you to bring a valid form of identification (unexpired driver’s license, state ID or passport) the next time you are at the airport to verify your identity in person.

Note that passports will allow for the quickest upgrade experience, per a Clear spokesperson. Once an updated photo is provided, Clear members can use this new technology when available and promoted. For this part of the registration process, Clear advised users to allot a few extra minutes at the airport when they intend to register.

“Clear members simply need to click the link they received on their phone to begin the process as they head to the airport,” the spokesperson said. “The one-time upgrade process will take just an extra minute or two at a Clear Enrollment Pod to avoid not affecting the Clear verification lane or wait times for travelers.”

Even so, some TPG staffers who are Clear users and went through this process at the end of last year said it significantly slowed them down.

“This definitely slowed me down at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA),” Becky Blaine, TPG newsletter editor, said. “Since I was running late for my flight, I didn’t have extra time for this, and halfway through the process, I told them I couldn’t wait any longer and told them I would do it next time. They don’t tell you how long it will take and that it requires a new photo.”

Similarly, David Slotnick, senior aviation reporter, found the Clear Lane to be slower for him than the regular TSA PreCheck line lately because of all the people upgrading.

“And it didn’t save properly the first time, so I had to do the upgrade again,” he said about his travel in mid-December at DCA and Boston Logan International Airport (BOS).

Other TPG staffers, including senior editor Madison Blancaflor, also recently verified their identity for Clear and said it added a few extra minutes, in line with Clear’s expectations.

“When I went through Terminal A at Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) in December with Clear and PreCheck, I updated my biometrics, but there was no line for Clear Plus,” Madison said. “It added an extra two to three minutes, but seeing as I would have needed to wait at least that long for the PreCheck and/or regular Clear line, I wasn’t mad about it.”

Although Clear said that verifying your identity via a passport would create the quickest, most seamless experience, senior cruise reporter Ashley Kosciolek was told machines couldn’t scan her passport at EWR.

“I always travel with my passport as my ID. They asked for my driver’s license because, apparently, the machines can’t scan passports as they can licenses,” Ashley said. “Passports have to be entered manually, which takes more time.”

What happens after the re-verification process

After you take a new picture and show your ID to a Clear agent at the airport as part of the re-verification process, you should receive an email indicating you’ve successfully re-verified to NextGen Identity+.

clear next gen

Although no more work is required on Clear users’ end at this point, some TPG staffers (myself included) have still been asked to show their IDs when using Clear.

For example, a Clear agent at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX) told me I had been randomly selected for an ID check when I traveled over the holidays.

Likewise, senior hotels reporter Cameron Sperance noticed more “random ID checks” after submitting his biometric information.

“I updated my biometrics at John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) last week, which only took a few minutes, but then I was still randomly selected for an actual ID check,” managing editor Clint Henderson said. “It looked like everyone else in the Clear lane was also randomly selected for ID check. It was quick, though, at least.”

That was also the case for Ashley last month at EWR, George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) and Miami International Airport (MIA).

“I got flagged for a random ID check. I got flagged a lot prior to updating my biometrics, and I’ve been flagged every time since,” she said. “I asked about it, and the Clear agent told me the new system’s aim to cut down on the random checks doesn’t go into effect until Jan. 31.”

In response, a Clear spokesperson on Jan. 12 maintained that any ID checks were random, a security matter in accordance with TSA policy.

“Randomization is a tool employed by TSA across the entire checkpoint, not just at Clear Lanes,” they said. “The rate at which random ID checks occur has varied over the years based on a number of factors, similar to TSA’s own practice of randomization in their screening activities.”

Bottom line

Regardless of where you are traveling, we suggest allotting at least 10-15 extra minutes to verify your identity to continue using Clear; this should be enough time to both re-verify your biometrics and show your ID if asked.

Currently, Clear is available at 56 U.S. airports, as well as various stadiums and other large venues. There are nearly 19 million members nationwide.

Reserve powered by Clear, which allows travelers to book timed entry through TSA security based on flight departure time, is currently available at 20 airports across the U.S., Canada and Europe.

An annual membership to Clear costs $189, but some credit cards cover the cost.

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