U.S-Mexico Border Crossing: A Complete Guide to the SENTRI Pass
Travelling abroad, whether it is for pleasure or business, presents certain inevitable challenges. One of the most overwhelming aspects of every trip is border crossing. To make the process easier and less stressful for travelers, the U.S. Customs and Borders Protection (CBP) issued various Trusted Traveler Programs.
One such program is SENTRI, which is specifically designed for land border crossing between the U.S and Mexico. The SENTRI pass aims to reduce the hassle and the long waits at the security and border check
and to allow travelers to get quickly to their destination.
Apart from SENTRI, there are other Trusted Traveler Programs developed by the CBP including:
While SENTRI shares many of the benefits of these Trusted Traveler Programs, it also has some unique features. To avoid any confusion and to give you a better understanding of the SENTRI pass, we have compiled the most essential information about the program. In the following article you will find detailed outline of the application process and the benefits of SENTRI, as well as various tips and tricks to help you speed up your border clearance. We will also discuss how the SENTRI pass differs from the other CBP programs in order to help you pick the best option for your trip abroad.
What is a SENTRI Pass?
Secure Electronic Network for Travelers Rapid Inspection (SENTRI)
is a program issued by the U.S. Customs and Border protection that allows pre-approved, low-risk individuals to get faster clearance at the U.S-Mexico border
. It was developed in 1995 in order to ameliorate the busiest border crossing stations and to help travelers access the U.S. quickly and easily. The first SENTRI lane was put into service at the Otay Mesa border crossing near Sand Diego, but the number of lanes has sufficiently expanded since then. Currently, there are 11 border crossing ports with SENTRI lanes
in Arizona, California and Texas. Over the years, SENTRI lanes have become a necessity, especially in crowded border crossings such as San Ysidro in San Diego by cutting the wait time down from hours to minutes
The Benefits of SENTRI
Membership in the SENTRI programs provides travelers with expedited access back into the U.S. by:
- using allocated processing lanes at the U.S.-Mexico border crossings
- using the NEXUS lanes at the land crossing and the self-serve kiosks at the airports
- using Global Entry self-serve kiosks when entering the United States
*Note that Mexican nationals with SENTRI membership must apply for Global Entry through the Global Enrolment System (GOES). Also, since Global Entry and SENTRI programs are not recognized by Canada, members will not be allowed to use NEXUS lanes when ENTERING Canada. However, travelers are permitted to access the NEXUS lanes when RETURNING to the United States.
SENTRI and TSA PreCheck
U.S. citizens with SENTRI membership can also take advantage of TSA PreCheck lanes
on the participating airlines (more than 150 airports
). To do that, SENTRI members need to enter their CBP ID number or PASS ID/KTN
(Known Traveler Number) from their SENTRI card into their frequent flyer account
or into their flight reservation information. NEXUS and Global Entry members are also entitled to the same privileges.
Children under the age of 14 DO NOT use TSA PreCheck lanes with their parent or guardian without being member of any of the Trusted Traveler programs. Their parent or guardian, though, should be enrolled in one of the three programs.
Among the three Trusted Traveler programs, SENTRI is the most expensive one
. A membership will cost you $122.25 for GOES background check and $75.00 service fee for 5 years when applying through Global Trusted Traveler
|Government Application Fee payable by the applicant||$122.25 per person*|
|GTT Service * payable through PayPal||$75.00 per person*|
|*(children under 18 are exempt from government fees)|
Another advantage of the SENTRI program is that there are no citizenship or age requirements to apply for membership
. However, individuals under the age of 18 must have parent or legal guardian’s consent to enroll in the program. To sum up, the SENTRI card is available for:
US citizens Mexican citizens Lawful US residents of other countriesIn order to obtain a SENTRI card, individuals must fill in an application form and attend an in-person interview.
On the day of the interview travelers must present their Passport or Naturalization card and one additional form of I.D. such as Drivers License or ID card. Lawful permanent residents must bring their permanent resident card. Individuals applying for SENTRI are also required to present a copy of vehicle’s registration and evidence of U.S. automobile insurance.
Denied SENTRI Application
Participation in the SENTRI program may be denied if:
Keep in mind, that proper documentation, clear criminal background and application to the SENTRI program do not guarantee admittance.
the information on the application is false or incomplete; the applicant does not have clear criminal record or has outstanding warrants (including driving under the influence); the applicant has violated any immigration, customs or agriculture laws or regulations in any country; the applicant is investigated by any state, federal or local law enforcement agency; the applicant is not permitted to enter the United States under immigration regulation; it applies even for individuals with parole documentation or approved waivers of inadmissibility. The applicant cannot satisfy CBP’s requirements for low-risk status.
Applying for SENTRI
The application process for a SENTRI membership is fairly straightforward and involves several steps:
- online application form. Sign up in the Global Online Enrollment System (GOES) and create your personal account. Each traveler must have their own GOES account regardless of their age. If you want to avoid complicated application procedure, you can turn to Global Trusted Traveler to take care of the details, just go to our
- online application form and fill in the required fields. You will be required to $75 Global Trusted Traveler service fee that is refundable pay and a $122.25 non-refundable fee upon the completion of your application in GOES account. Go to our
- 1-3 weeks to process the application. If it is conditionally approved, you will receive further instructions on your GOES account to schedule an interview at a SENTRI Enrolment Centre. Each applicant is required to schedule individual interview. Once your application and fee are accepted, CBP will review your application. It will take between If approved, a SENTRI card will be provided, which you must activate.
If you don’t have access to the online application, you can print and fill in the physical form.
Then you will need to submit it to one of the 13 SENTRI enrollment centers for processing
. Although completing SENTRI application can be quite confusing, especially if you do this for the first time. Avoid any mistakes and erroneous information in the form that may result in denied application.
Useful Sentri Card Tips
Plan Ahead! Available dates vary depending on the selected location. An interview may be scheduled in up to three weeks from the day you received your conditional approval.
Don’t stress. The in-person interview is much shorter and less stressful than most people think. It doesn’t involve any personal questions. Usually, you will be asked about how often you visit the country stated in the application and whether you travel with friends and family.
Go there! If you can’t wait for your interview, you can go directly to any of the enrolment centres in Texas, California and New Mexico and check if they have any available openings.
Choose wisely. Some enrolment centres such as the one in San Ysidro can be quite small and cramped. If possible, pick the Otay Mesa enrolment centre. It is larger, has more officers and plenty of parking space.Bring your documentation.
Here is a list of everything you need to take with you on your interview.
Passport or other document of citizenship(originals), that were listed on the application; Non U.S. citizen should present originals of evidence of immigration admissibility that were listed on the application; Valid driver’s license or other form of identification issued in state where the applicant lives; Vehicle registration and evidence of United States automobile insurance; A notarized authorization letter ,if the vehicle is not registered in the applicant’s name; Written authorization on company letterhead for company vehicles;If the application process is successful, a SENTRI card will arrive in the mail within a week.
Here is how to activate your SENTRI card.
How to Activate and Use Your SENTRI Card
After you receive your SENTRI card, you need to log in to your GOES account and activate the card before you use it. Once you do this step, you can use it to cross the Mexican or Canadian border and enter the U.S. You can also use your KTN/PASS ID to take advantage of the TSA PreCheck benefits.
Once you approach the border in the SENTRI lane, the system will automatically recognize your vehicle and will determine the identity of the occupants. Your RFID card number is read upon the arrival and sends your data and status to the CBP Officer's screen. The officer then verifies your data and they either release you or ask you to go through additional inspection. With more than 47 land border crossings between the U.S. and Mexico
, there are only 11 checkpoints that have dedicated SENTRI lanes
. Note that, some lanes such as the ones in Mexicali don’t work 24/7 and may be closed at certain hours. Standard average wait times at the busiest port of entry in the U.S., San Ysidro is 2-3 hours.
The same principles for the SENTRI lanes apply for the NEXUS lanes as well. Don’t forget that SENTRI members can only access NEXUS lanes, when they are returning to the U.S. NEXUS lanes cannot be accessed when entering Canada from the U.S.
- • SENTRI and Global Entry
A SENTRI pass allows members of the program to use Global Entry Customs Kiosks When returning to the U.S. Travelers are not required to fill out the Customs Declaration upon their arrival and can skip the immigration line. Members can go to the Global Entry kiosks, where their passports and fingerprints will be scanned and they will be required to answer a few customs questions. After traveler’s photo is taken, they can get a “personal receipt” to present it to the immigration officer. There is no need to show your SENTRI card. Although, in most cases there are no lines to access the kiosks, many people end up waiting for their luggage.
Be aware that if one person in your vehicle is not a SENTRI, Global Entry or NEXUS member, you will be shuttled into another screening. In this case passenger who is not part of any of the Trusted Traveler programs can get out of the vehicle before hand, pass the border and meet you on the other side, while the other travelers drive through. It goes without saying that the vehicle must be driven by a member of the Trusted Traveler program. The driver should keep their SENTRI Card, Global Entry Card, or NEXUS Card in hand. We recommend declaring everything you may have with you when crossing the border such as clothes, equipment, etc. Keep any noticeable food out of your vehicle.
Using SENTRI pass for TSA PreCheck
As mentioned earlier, you can use your SENTRI pass to skip the airport security. To be able to gain access to the TSA PreCheck, you will need to enter your Known Travel Number (KTN) or PASS ID ( both are the same). This is a nine-digit number assigned to your membership that can be found on the back of your Trusted Traveler card. All you need to do is to enter your KTN before you finalize your airline ticket purchase. The field where you can to enter your KTN is usually on the final checkout page. You may come across sites that have fields labeled “Traveler Number”. You can use it to enter your number. The KTN or PASS ID allows online ticketing registers (airlines, 3rd party sites) to identify you as a Trusted Traveler or TSA PreCheck member. If you forgot to enter your number or have problems finding the field, contact the help centre of your airline or a travel agent.
SENTRI and Vehicles
Individuals who apply for the SENTRI program can also register their vehicles without paying any additional fee. In order to register a vehicle after the initial application, members are required to pay a $42 registration fee. Adding or removing vehicles from the SENTRI lanes can be done through the traveler’s GOES account. Once the vehicle is approved, travelers can use it immediately with their existing Trusted Traveler card. No vehicle inspections are required by the CBP. Members of the program only need to present conveyance information at the end of their SENTRI application such as:
- • Make
- • Model
- • Year
- • Color
- • VIN (Vehicle Identification Number)
- • Country
- • Registered owner information
It’s worth noting that there is no additional fee for registering a vehicle when applying for Global Entry. Since members of this program are allowed to use the SENTRI lanes, it makes more economical sense to get a Global Entry card. If you skip registering your vehicle and attempt to access the dedicated lanes, you will not only be sent for secondary screening, but you may also have all your Global Entry privileges revoked.
Renewing Your SENTRI pass
To renew a SENTRI membership, you need to follow the same steps as the ones in the original application process. Log into your GOES account at least 90 days before your membership expires and click the “RENEW” button. Then you can update all your legal and personal information. You will again need to pay a non-refundable application fee. Once your application is conditionally approved, you can schedule another CBP interview within 30 days. Keep in mind that previous admittance into the program doesn’t guarantee that your membership will be renewed.
Other Trusted Traveler Programs
In order to meet the unique needs of international travelers, the CBP and the Department of Homeland Security has deployed other programs to provide pre-approved, low-risk individuals with expedited clearance upon their arrival into the U.S. Aside from SENTRI, there are also Global Entry, NEXUS and PreCheck
. When choosing a program, consider how often you will fly and whether in general the benefits exceed the costs. With few exceptions, the Trusted Traveler programs require applicants to be U.S. citizens or to be permanent residents.
Keep in mind that even if you are enrolled, that doesn’t guarantee that you won’t be selected for further screening at any time
. Despite that, each program can be extremely useful, if you want to spare yourself the hassle and the long lines at the border crossing. Picking the right Trusted Traveler program can be challenging with so many options out there
. So which program is the best fit for your travel style?
- TSA PreCheck /$85 for five years
is run by the Transportation and Security Administration and is great for domestic air travelers, who lack a passport. It allows members to use expedited security lane, without taking off your shoes, belts and jacket or leave your laptop
. Individuals can apply online and schedule interview at one of the many enrollment centers (more than 380). The downside of the program is that travelers should be extra careful when entering their KTN or PASS ID to ensure that number is put correctly. Otherwise they may end up on the regular security line. In addition, even expedite lanes can grow quiet big, especially during peak travel times. TSA Precheck does not benefit from the other Trusted Traveler programs because is not managed by the CBP
. The good part is that some credit cards and loyalty programs offer to cover the fee for you. The bottom line is that TSA PreCheck is great for regular flights, but less practical if you only take a couple of trips in the next years.
- Global Entry/$100 for five years + $75.00 Global Trusted Traveler Fee
is one of the three CBP programs that allows preapproved travelers to skip the processing lines and the paperwork when entering the U.S. and to go straight to self-serve kiosks. trips. Like the other two programs, travelers apply online and then undergo a background check. The last step is an interview at a Global Entry Enrollment Center. The program is great for international travelers, who can also take advantage of the TSA PreCheck privileges
. Plus, Global Entry members can apply for expedited customs in other countries such as South Korea and Britain. It is more affordable than SENTRI, but provides almost the same benefits.
Without a doubt Clear is the most expensive option on the market. Although it is private trusted-traveler program, it is supervised by the Transportation Security Administration. Members can save a lot of time as they can use Clear’s lane and have their identity verified by iris scan or fingerprint, instead of waiting for an officer. However, travelers without TSA Precheck will still have to go through inspection. Clear has limited number of lanes, though they are expanding. The program is also used at several baseball stadiums, which makes them perfect option for baseball fans. Another great feature of Clear is that children under the age of 18 can use the lanes for free when travelling with an enrolled parent or guardian. With such a small number of lanes, clear is not worth the price. However it does has potential to expand in the future.
- NEXUS/ $50 for five years + $75.00 Global Trusted Traveler Fee
is a joint trusted traveler program between Canada and the U.S. Thus, it can be very practical for Americans and Canadians, who reside near the northern border. As a CBP program, it is designed to save time and provide quick clearance at the Canada-U.S. border
. What is great about Nexus is that members are allowed to use TSA PreCheck lanes and Global Entry kiosks. Plus, they can benefit from fast processing at the marine reporting locations. That makes Nexus the most sensible option when it comes to value for money.
Compared to the other trusted traveler programs , SENTRI is definitely not the most pocket-friendly alternative, but it provides members with a number benefits such as Global Entry, NEXUS and TSA Precheck privileges and quick way to cross the U.S. – Mexico border.
|Agency||Transportation Security Administration||Customs and Border Protection|
|Program||TSA Pre✓®||Global Entry||NEXUS||SENTRI|
|Eligibility Required||U.S. citizens and U.S. lawful permanent residents.||U.S. citizens, U.S. lawful permanent residents and citizens of certain other countries.||U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents, Canadian citizens and lawful permanent residents of Canada.||Proof of citizenship and admissibility documentation.|
|CBP* Fees||$85.00 (5 year membership)||$100.00(5 year membership)||$50.00 (5 year membership)||$122.25(5 year membership)|
|GTT** Fees||Not Available||$75.00||$75.00||$75.00|
|Total Fees||Not Available||$175.00||$125.00||$197.25|
|Passport Required||No||Yes; or lawful permanent resident card||No||No|
|Application Process||Pre-enroll online, visit an enrollment center; provide fingerprints and verify ID.||Pre-enroll online, visit an enrollment center for an interview; provide fingerprints and verify ID.||Pre-enroll online, visit an enrollment center for an interview; provide fingerprints and verify ID.||Pre-enroll online, visit an enrollment center for an interview; provide fingerprints and verify ID.|
|Program Experience||TSA Pre✓® expedited screening at participating airports.|
Expedited processing through CBP at airports and land borders upon arrival in the U.S..
Includes the TSA Pre✓® experience.
Expedited processing at airports and land borders when entering the U.S. and Canada.
Includes Global Entry benefits.
Includes the TSA Pre✓® benefits for U.S. citizens, U.S. lawful permanent residents and Canadian citizens.
|Expedited processing through CBP at land borders.|
Includes Global Entry and TSA Pre✓® benefits for U.S. citizens and U.S. lawful permanent residents.
|Apply Now||No Available||Apply for Global Entry here||Apply for NEXUS here||Apply for SENTRI here|
|*U.S. Customs and Border Protection|
**Global Trusted Traveler
September 11th, 2017