Travel News Guide to How the SENTRI Pass Works

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Guide to How the SENTRI Pass Works

Learn more about the rules and processes of the SENTRI TSA PreCheck program governed by the Customs and Border Protection division of Homeland Security.

  1. The SENTRI pass is designed for people frequently traveling across the U.S.-Mexico border.
  2. Pass members can cross the border at 13 different stations in four states.
  3. The pass saves travelers hours of waiting in lines moving through immigration.
  4. This is one of the most expensive traveler programs available.
  5. The program is governed by Homeland Security and Customs Border Protection.

SENTRI is an acronym for Secure Electronic Network for Travelers Rapid Inspection. This U.S. Customs and Border Protection program is designed to allow pre-approved, low-risk travelers expedited clearance when arriving to the United States.

Other program requirements include preapproval, traveling through dedicated primary lanes, and arriving at southern land border ports.

At the airport

The program was originally deployed in 1995 and designed to save trusted travelers hours of waiting at the border to get back into the U.S.

This is one of many programs, like TSA PreCheck and Global Entry, designed by the Homeland Security and CBP to address expedited crossings over borders, airport security, and international travel.

The dedicated primary lanes currently include 13 border stations spread across Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California.

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U.S. Traveler Programs

The program mainly benefits people living in border towns and southern states and who travel to and from Mexico frequently. U.S. citizens, lawful U.S. residents of other countries, and Mexican citizens can qualify for this pass.

Members of the program do receive access to the shorter TSA Pre Check lanes. Aside from the TSA Pre Check lanes, these members can also use the Global Entry Customs kiosks as well. A five-year subscription for this program does cost slightly more than the fee for a global entry application.

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If you have a U.S. passport, you should consider a global entry application even if you live in Mexico. It’s worth noting that pass members do get TSA PreCheck as well. Pass members can access the TSA PreCheck status on any domestic air travel.

This program is not recognized by Canada and cannot be used to gain entry beyond their border. In order to access the TSA PreCheck status and benefits, check the pass ID on the back of the member card.

Moving Through U.S. Immigration

With the member pass, citizens can use the Global Entry kiosks to bypass Customs Declaration and immigration lines when returning to the U.S. The expedited process simply requires citizens to submit their passports and fingertips for scanning and then answer a couple of customs questions.

Using the kiosks means you’ll be able to avoid virtually every line as you make your way through immigration. Pass holders have access to a shorter designated line for getting their baggage through customs.

Qualifying for the Border Pass Program

The ease and convenience that the pass provides for moving through immigration is helpful for anyone who is on a tight schedule or who needs to make flight connections. At a cost of approximately $122 for five years (2017 pricing), this program is more expensive than others.

The price for the pass consists of an initial online application fee, a fingerprint fee, and a system cost fee. Applications can either be turned in online or in written form at one of the 13 enrollment centers.

Potential Outcomes for Travelers

It’s worth noting that even if your application is denied, the fees are not refundable. Denials typically occur after the in-person interview or after applying online. If approved, the member pass can be used to travel through the primary dedicated lanes in a vehicle or on foot.

As soon as officers in customs see the personal receipt, pass members are waved through the border. Whether you’re traveling by vehicle or walking, this member pass can help you save hours in travel time.

This program is most advantageous to people who frequently travel across the U.S.-Mexico border for business or pleasure. To properly evaluate this border pass, compare it against the benefits and limitations of other travel programs you can currently qualify for.