What is the SENTRI Program?

January 14, 2015

The SENTRI Pass (Secure Electronic Network for Travelers Rapid Inspection) gives low-risk, pre-approved travelers streamlined U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) processing when crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. The program is open to anyone who is a citizen or permanent resident of the U.S. or Mexico, although this status alone doesn’t guarantee you access. The SENTRI program was launched by CBP to allow prescreened applicants and vehicles quicker, more efficient access into the U.S. It offers many benefits for participants in addition to faster border access at peak periods. SENTRI pass holders also have speedier inspection times through specially designated lanes – CBP estimates that it takes them about 10 seconds at the inspection booth. This is also a great option for people traveling with children, as it makes the experience less stressful and time consuming. SENTRI was first implemented in Otay Mesa, California in 1995. Since then, SENTRI-dedicated lanes have been opened at many ports of entry in Texas, Arizona, and California.

How Do I Get a SENTRI Card?

In order to be approved and receive a pass, applicants must voluntarily undergo an extensive background check in criminal, immigration, law enforcement, customs, and terrorist databases, as well as a 10-fingerprint law enforcement check, and an interview with a CBP officer. Applicants may be denied participation in the SENTRI program if they have been convicted of any crime (excluding parking tickets) or have pending criminal charges or outstanding warrants; are in violation of any customs, immigration, or agricultural laws and regulations in any country; are under investigation by any law enforcement agency; or are inadmissible to the U.S. under immigration regulation. In the case of any dropped charges, court records may need to be supplied in order for membership consideration. It’s also imperative that applicants provide truthful, complete information on their form. The application review process can take up to 3 months. Once issued, the SENTRI Card is good for 5 years. You can not have one pass for the whole family; all family members must apply for separate SENTRI passes, including children and infants. You will also receive a decal for your vehicle.

How Does SENTRI Work?

Once an applicant is approved, they are issued a Radio Frequency Identification card (RFID) that will pull up their record and status in the CBP database as they arrive at the port of entry into the U.S. The wording may sound complex, but the RFID card uses the same technology as a TxTag pass would for going through tolls. As a SENTRI member, you will have access to specially designated lanes, which will cut down your waiting time exponentially. While your inspection time is usually quite brief, sometimes the computer may randomly choose you for a secondary inspection, or the inspector may initiate one if they sense something suspicious. SENTRI is incredibly beneficial for people who often cross the border by land, perhaps to visit family. As this is a very desirable program, the government is strict in who has access to it. This means that your SENTRI card may be revoked if you or even someone in your close immediate family is charged with criminal activity. Although there is no official appeal process for a denied application or revoked SENTRI card, individuals may reapply or contact the SENTRI enrollment center to explain their situation. Let the Law Office of Salmon-Haas help.

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