DEFINITION of 'SENTRI'

SENTRI is a U.S. government program that grants pre-approved travelers faster processing through the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) process. SENTRI, or Secure Electronic Network for Travelers Rapid Inspection, works at land border crossings to enter the United States from Mexico. SENTRI requires travelers to be fingerprinted, pass an extensive background check and complete a personal interview with CBP. It is one of the CBP's Trusted Traveler Programs.

BREAKING DOWN 'SENTRI'

Travelers who want to use SENTRI must apply for the program and must convince a CBP officer that they are low-risk travelers. At the interview, applicants are fingerprinted and photographed, and they must submit a valid driver’s license or state ID, vehicle registration and proof of insurance, proof of employment or financial support, proof of residence, and original documents proving citizenship or immigration admissibility.

Applicants may be disqualified from SENTRI for a number of reasons, including lying or omitting information on their application, having a criminal history, being the subject of a current law enforcement investigation or having a prior customs or immigration violation. The application, fingerprinting and system fees to apply for SENTRI total $122.25 per person. Additional vehicles cost $42 each to register.

How SENTRI Works

Approved SENTRI travelers receive a Radio Frequency Identification Document (RFID) card and vehicle ID tag that they use when entering the United States. Dedicated border crossing lanes for SENTRI participants have screening times that average 10 seconds versus 30 to 40 seconds for nonparticipants, according to CPB. The SENTRI process is faster because RFID technology lets CBP automatically identify approaching travelers in SENTRI lanes. CBP officers can then quickly verify the traveler’s identity and wave him or her through the border checkpoint – or refer the traveler for further screening.

SENTRI has been around since 1995, when it was first used in Otay Mesa, Calif. SENTRI has dedicated commuter lanes at popular border crossings such as El Paso, Texas; Calexico, Calif.; and San Luis, Ariz. SENTRI users can also use NEXUS lanes when they drive from Canada to the U.S. and Global Entry kiosks; they are also eligible for TSA Pre.

Interested travelers can begin the application process online (click here) or by filling in CPB Form 823S and mailing or taking it, with application fee, to the nearest SENTRI Enrollment Center.

CBP’s Trusted Traveler Program

CBP’s Trusted Traveler Programs allow speedy entry into the United States for travelers that meet certain qualifications and who have applied. Travelers must be pre-approved and considered low-risk.

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