The SENTRI pass. U.S. and Mexican border crossings made simple.
SENTRI is the first and original Trusted Traveler Program specifically developed for land border crossings between the U.S. and Mexico.
If you live near or have experienced the wait and hassle it can be to cross back into the U.S from Mexico, you know how useful this program can be.
Below we’ll touch on everything you need to know, from the SENTRI GOES applicaion to how to get TSA PreCheck with your SENTRI pass.
Click a link below to go to a section:
Since SENTRI’s inception in 1995 there have been other Traveler Programs developed by the U.S. CBP (Customs and Border Protection).
You probably have heard of them:
- Global Entry
- TSA PreCheck
The SENTRI pass shares a lot of these benefits.
And with the sharing, comes confusion.
We’re going to clear it all up here.
But…are they worth it?
Ready to find out why? Lets begin.
What is a SENTRI Pass?
The original benefit of SENTRI was and still is: to allow pre-screened individuals (now called Trusted Travelers) expedited access back into the U.S. from Mexico in designated SENTRI lanes.
SENTRI lanes cut wait time down from Hours to Minuets.
The oldest of the programs, SENTRI is a “Secure Electronic Network for Travelers Rapid Inspection” and was developed in 1995 and deployed into service at the Otay Mesa border crossing near San Diego.
Since its inception, SENTRI lanes have expanded to include 11 of the busiest border stations in California, Arizona and Texas.
Entering back into the U.S. has never been easier.
Especially at the San Ysidro border crossing in San Diego (busiest in the world), the SENTRI program is not only useful, but a necessity.
Millions of people cross the border (both ways) to go to work, conduct business and travel every year. For those Americans (and others that qualify) that live and work near the border, the SENTRI pass was needed.
Since the turn of the century additional programs were developed by the CBP and the Department of Homeland Security (Global Entry and TSA PreCheck respectively) to meet their specific situations such as international air travel and airport security.
These programs allow their members to be considered Trusted Travelers and assess the programs corresponding benefits.
Trusted Traveler Programs?
Trusted Traveler Programs are measures put in place by the Customs and Border Protection office (Global Entry, SENTRI, NEXUS) and the Department of Homeland Security (TSA PreCheck) that save you from airline travel hassle and headaches involved with border crossings by allowing members to use faster, expedited lanes.
SENTRI was already in place since ’95 and was able to take advantage of each new program’s benefits, such as TSA PreCheck and Global Entry.
Though, this sharing of benefits can leave some scratching their heads.
Lets clear it up quickly.
However, TSA PreCheck members get nothing other than TSA PreCheck.
This is due to the Big 3 being managed and implemented by the CBP: U.S. Customs and Border Protection. TSA PreCheck is managed and implemented by the TSA, not the CBP.
Clear as mud?
Other SENTRI Benefits
SENTRI card holders have access to the following:
- TSA PreCheck lanes
- At more than 150 airports
- Global Entry benefits
- Use of Customs Kiosks when returning from air travel abroad
- NEXUS benefits
- Use of NEXUS lanes when returning to the U.S. from Canada.
Unlike it’s sister programs, Global Entry and NEXUS, the SENTRI pass is available for application by anyone under most any nationality.
The SENTRI pass is available for:
Basically, anyone in good standing with proper documentation can apply for a SENTRI pass.
Though keep in mind, application to the program does not guarantee admittance.
People interested in becoming a member of the SENTRI program must have their Passport or Naturalization card and have one other form of I.D. to present to the interviewing officer such as a Drivers License or ID card. If you are a lawful permanent resident you must present your permanent resident card.
An application and in person interview with a Customs and Border Protection officer is required for becoming a member.
In addition, if you wish to utilize a vehicle for use in SENTRI lanes you must get it inspected at one of the 13 SENTRI interview locations, after you CBP interview. As of November 2015 the CBP no longer requires vehicle inspections, only your conveyance information!
Your vehicles information (conveyance information) is required at the end of your SENTRI application and included:
- VIN (Vehicle Identification Number)
If you do not yet have a vehicle to use, you may still apply for membership and enter your vehicles conveyance information at the end of your application.
Though let us say:
If you are an American citizen with a passport you should NOT apply for SENTRI.
Global Entry is more affordable than SENTRI, your vehicle may be registered for use in SENTRI lanes without an additional fee (SENTRI applications must pay an additional $42) and there are more locations for your CBP interview: 89 Global Entry Locations vs 13 for SENTRI.
In fact…if you live close to the northern border of the US you should apply for NEXUS over Global Entry or SENTRI. It’s the most affordable of all Trusted Traveler programs (even TSA PreCheck) but locations for an interview are quite out of they way for most.
Unfortunately, the SENTRI pass does cost more than all other traveler programs.
The SENTRI costs $122.25 for 5 years if you apply through GOES.
Use a SENTRI lane ONCE and you have already essentially “paid” for itself in the amount of time you get back.
|$100/ 5 years|
|$122.25/ 5 years|
|$50/ 5 years|
|$89/ 5 years|
|NO OTHER BENEFITS|
CBP Fees included
|$211.25/ 5 Years|
CBP Fees included
|$139/ 5 years|
CBP Fees included
|Not Available yet with EasySentri|
How to apply for SENTRI / SENTRI GOES
The process for applying for a SENTRI pass is fairly straightforward.
The SENTRI enrollment process is 3 steps:
- Complete an online SENTRI applicaion
- Attend an in person interview with a CBP officer
- Activate your card
For those that do not have access to a internet connection, there is a physical form that may be printed out, completed by hand, and submitted to one of the 13 SENTRI enrollment centers for processing.
1: Complete your SENTRI application
Completing your SENTRI application online is a simple, but rather long with the CBP.
It requires registering with the CBP’s GOES (Global Online Enrollment System) to complete your application and submit payment.
It’s straightforward and requires plenty of clicks and browser refreshing. We walk you though the GOES SENTRI application process here.
The application fee for SENTRI is non-refundable.
If you complete your SENTRI application with erroneous information or have prior marks on your record your application could be denied and your fee will not be refunded.
We personally have seen applicants be denied due to incidents 10 years in the past and more recently for quite a strange reason.
If you include your vehicles conveyance info please note that vehicles approved for use in SENTIR lanes must be driven by the person who submitted their SENTRI pass information and vehicle conveyance information.
You will then need to log back into your GOES account and schedule a date to attend a in person interview with a Customs and Border Protection officer.
Available dates and interview locations vary depending on which location you is chosen.
All SENTRI enrollment centers are located at border crossing stations in California, Arizona, Texas and now New Mexico. Dates for an interview can be up to 3 weeks. So plan ahead as best you can.
2: Your SENTRI Interview
Your SENTRI interview is much shorter and less stressful than many realize.
There are a total of 13 locations for your SENTRI interview all located in southern Arizona, California and Texas and New Mexico.
Impatient? You can walk into an enrollment center and see if there are available openings.
The San Ysidro SENTRI/Global Entry enrollment center is small, cramped in non obvious location and there is only paid parking options being right on the border.
When you attend your interview you will want to bring certain documentation with you:
- Originals of evidence of citizenship that you listed on your application
- If not a U.S. citizen, originals of evidence of immigration admissibility to the U.S., that you listed on your application
- Valid drivers license (or state identification) issued in state where applicant lives
- Any evidence of your employment or residence (tax return, pay stub, mortgage/rent payment receipts)
After the interview you will have your photograph taken for your identification card and your fingerprints will be scanned.
The CBP officer will also as basic questions concerning your application.
Questions could be:
- “How often do you go to (said country in application)?”
- “Do you or any friends or family travel to Mexico. If so, how often?”
- “How often do you visit (said countries)?”
No personal questions are asked and the whole time in front of an officer is about 5 min.
If you are registering your vehicle for use in SENTRI lanes you will also need to provide:
- Valid drivers license (or state identification)
- Vehicle registration
- Evidence of US automobile insurance
- If the vehicle is not registered in the name of the applicant, a notarized letter authorizing its use by the applicant is required.
- A company vehicle requires written authorization on company letterhead
If all the above is successful, your SENTRI card will arrive in the mail in about a week.
Now you can activate your membership and have access to SENTRI program benefits.
3: SENTRI Card Activation and Use
Once your interview is complete and if you are deemed a Trusted Traveler you will receive your SENTRI card in the mail in about one week.
Log back into your GOES account and active you card before use.
Once you active your SENTRI card that’s it. You’re done!
You can now use your program’s benefits to cross the Mexican or Canadian border in less than 20min.
Or, use your KTN/PASS ID to enjoy TSA PreCheck benefits.
“What’s a KTN?” “Can’t I just show my card and be good to go?”
We wish it could be that easy.
Scroll down to: “How to get TSA PreCheck with your SENTRI pass” to access TSA PreCheck lanes as often as possible.
Don’t worry, it’s easy.
SENTRI Pass For Children
Children under the age of 18 are eligible for enrollment in the SENTRI program, but only under their parents or guardians consent.
All children, regardless of age, must apply for and pay the appropriate fees and attend an in-person interview with a CBP officer to become a member.
If you are under the age of 18, a parent or legal guardian must be present at the time of your interview.
Your parent or legal guardian DOES NOT have to be a SENTRI member.
Causes for SENTRI denial
Application to the SENTRI program does not guarantee acceptance.
You may not be eligible for the SENTRI program and your application may be denied if any of the following are found true. If applying though SENTRI GOES your application fee will be lost.
- Provide false or incomplete information on the application
- Have been convicted of any criminal offense or have pending criminal charges or outstanding warrants (to include driving under the influence);
- Have been found in violation of any customs, immigration or agriculture regulations or laws in any country;
- Are the subject of an ongoing investigation by any federal, state or local law enforcement agency;
- Are inadmissible to the United States under immigration regulation, including applicants with approved waivers of inadmissibility or parole documentation; or
- Cannot satisfy CBP of your low risk status.
*above information taken from here.
We have had applications denied in the past due to the above reasons, the second specifically. A full refund is given to customers who apply for a SENTRI pass with EasySentri*.
How to Renew your SENTRI pass
To renew a SENTRI pass membership is the same as the original application process.
You will need to log into your GOES account 90 days before your membership expires, click the Renew Button and update all personal and legal information.
If your SENTRI renewal application is “Conditionally Approved” you will receive another e-mail or letter stating such and will have 30 days to schedule another CBP interview.
Please note that prior admittance to the SENTRI program does not guarantee renewal. Any new information or information falsely submitted may be cause for your SENTRI pass renewal denial.
How to use your SENTRI pass
On to the good stuff.
All of the big 3 Traveler Programs share their benefits.
When you throw TSA PreCheck into the mix things it gets confusing
“What goes with what?” “I have SENTRI but am flying to Europe, what can I do?”
To clear it up we’ll go over:
- Global Entry kiosks when returning to the U.S. from foreign air travel
- SENTRI lanes
- NEXUS lanes when returning to the U.S. from Canada
- TSA PreCheck when flying with more than 11 U.S. carriers
Even if you are a member of SENTRI, Global Entry or TSA PreCheck itself, being granted TSA PreCheck privileges upon checking in for a flight is still random.
Though Global Entry members have been seen to be granted TSA PreCheck MORE than members of other programs, even members of stand along TSA PreCheck.
By having a SENTRI pass, members of the program can use Global Entry Customs Kiosks when entering back into the US from travel abroad.
By using the kiosk you do not have to fill out the Customs Declaration card upon landing back into the US and can skip the immigration line.
This is a massive time saver!
Using a kiosk is easy. Just make sure you push in your passport all the way into the scanner.
The process involves scanning your passport, fingertips and answering a few customs questions, similar to what is on the declaration form.
You are done and back on home soil without having to wait in line.
There are virtually no lines to access a kiosk and you can be through in moments.
Customs = Your Bags / Immigration = You
Though, folks have mentioned that everyone usually ends up waiting for their luggage anyway after passing immigration.
True, in some cases. However, you’ll still need to lug your luggage through Customs.
This line is usually very long complete with people and all their gear.
SENTRI pass holders have their own line (by way of Global Entry included benefits) for you to to clear customs and finally make it back to the US.
Take your “personal receipt” to the Customs officer in line and you’ll be waved on through. No questions asked.
You’re through in no time. No need to show your SENTRI pass or SENTRI card either.
You will make your flight connections because of this.
SENTRI for SENTRI lanes
The real reason you applied for SENTRI.
Crossing the U.S./Mexico border.
Don’t worry, these lanes are located at the crossings you would typically cross at anyway.
Though be aware, some SENTRI lanes such as those in Mexicali are closed at certain hours and then re-open in the morning.
At the busiest port of entry in the United States and the World (San Diego’s San Ysidro crossing) standard wait times are on average 2-3+ hours.
Friends of EasySentri have had to wait 7 hours while crossing on foot.
By having access to SENTRI lanes when returning from Mexico, Global Entry members wait less than 30 minuets when crossing back to the U.S.
Access to SENTRI lanes with vehicle requires that specific vehicle to be inspected. This vehicle must be taken to the inspection and driven in SENTRI lanes by the accompanying Global Entry, SENTRI or NEXUS member.
Skipping this step of registering your car, truck or motorcycle and attempting to access these lanes will surly get you sent to secondary screening and your total Global Entry privileges could be revoked!
You can not drive someone else’s car across the border in a SENTRI lane.
The vehicle must be driven by the person who is a member of the Trusted Traveler program. The driver must have their Global Entry Card, SENTRI Card, or NEXUS Card in hand.
If you are crossing in the San Diego area, the San Ysidro border crossing is likely to be long for your passengers that do not have their Global Entry card or SENTRI card. Best to drive 20minuets to the Otay Mesa border crossing for their shorter lines.
SENTRI lanes, along with pedestrian SENTRI lanes, are available at the Otay Mesa crossing.
SENTRI pass in NEXUS lanes
Same principle as above. Pretty easy.
Note that SENTRI members may only access NEXUS lanes when entering the U.S. from Canada at land border crossings. SENTRI members may NOT access NEXUS lanes when entering Canada from the U.S.
Getting TSA PreCheck with your SENTRI pass
You received your SENTRI pass?
“Now it’s time to skip that airport security with my PreCheck! Woot!”
Hold on. Not so fast.
While crossing the US border in with your SENTRI pass or using your membership for Global Entry is rather a non-event, getting access to TSA PreCheck lanes with your SENTRI card is a tad different.
But not hard.
First, TSA PreCheck is only available to passengers of 16 U.S. carriers:
|Air Canada||American Airlines||Hawaiian Airlines||Sun Country Airlines|
|Air Canada||Cape Air||JetBlue Airways||United Airlines|
|Alaska Airlines||Delta Air Lines||Seaborne Airlines||Virgin America|
|Allegiant Airlines||Etihad Airways||Southwest Airlines||WestJet|
To even be able to get into TSA PreCheck lanes you’ll need to know your “KTN”.
This stands for your Known Traveler Number or PASS ID.
What are KTN and PASS ID?
A KTN stands for “Known Traveler Number” These are numbers assigned to your membership that you will need in order to be granted access to TSA PreCheck.
When you receive your Trusted Traveler card you will see a 9 digit number on the back usually beginning with 98. This number is your PASS ID and is labeled as such.
This serves as your KTN.
Your PassID or KTN is on the back of your Trusted Traveler card.
If you only have TSA PreCheck you will not have a PASS ID. You will receive your KTN in the post or via e-mail.
You’ll need these numbers in order to gain access to expedited PreCheck lanes.
When purchasing airline tickets online, right before you finalize your purchase, you will will see a field asking you to enter need your “KTN”, “Known Traveler ID” or other identifier. Enter your PASS ID or KTN here.
Really…they are the same thing.
KTN = PASS ID
The reason for the difference is that Active Military Members do not need to apply for TSA PreCheck.
When purchasing airline tickets online through the airline or 3rd party reseller (Expedia, Travelocity) enter this number into the filed labeled KTN upon checkout.
The KTN or PASS ID lets online ticketing registers (airlines, 3rd party sites) to recognize you as a Trusted Traveler or member of TSA PreCheck and set your airline tickets up for receiving PreCheck.
How to use your KTN
All 13 participating airlines and 3rd party agents (Expedia, Travelocity, Priceline) have fields for you to enter you KTN. The field is usually located on the final checkout page before credit card submittal.
Some sites have fields labeled “Traveler Number” instead. Use this field to enter your number.
Most carriers like American Airlines and JetBlue have informative pages covering KTN and how to enter it within their system or Frequent Flyer program.
After you enter your KTN and purchase your ticket…that’s it. You’re done!
Forgot to enter your number or find a site without a KTN field?
You can always call your airline’s help center or travel agent and have them double check if your KTN was entered correctly. They can even enter you KTN into your reservation after purchase.
At the gate
When checking in with your airline you will see TSA PreCheck printed on the top of your boarding pass if you were selected.
Remember, being a member of a Traveler Program or TSA PreCheck does not guarantee you will be granted PreCheck when checking in. It only improves your chances.
The TSA still have Trusted Travelers and solo PreCheck holders pass through normal security to keep them honest, according to the TSA.
Trusted travelers will always have access to Customs Kiosks. No KTN necessary to use.
Recently, Global Entry members are being granted access to PreCheck much more than those with the stand alone program itself, SENTRI or NEXUS.
Things to remember
Everyone in your family will need to be a member of a Traveler Program or TSA PreCheck in order to receive it’s benefits.
This goes for airline travel AND accessing SENTRI or NEXUS lanes.
If you have Global Entry and purchase 3 airline tickets with ONE KTN upon checkout…only one of you is liable to get selected for PreCheck.
The same goes for the Military.
Spouses, children (over 14 years old) and family members need to have their own Traveler Card or KTN.
Stinks, we know.
Helpful Sites and Resources
To aid you in your travels across the border as well in the airport there are a few websites and apps that will aid you in your time management.
The website: CBP Border Wait Times is extremely valuable to check current and past border delays by the hour at both the U.S./Canadian and U.S./Mexican border.
Lists include SENTRI lanes and FAST lanes as well.
A simple search at your desired crossing location could show you that crossing back to the U.S. from Mexicali on a Sunday at 6:00pm is not such a good idea.
Next, there are two free apps that are also available and give the same information and are easy to use on the fly.
Both these Apps list border crossing wait times (between the US-Mexico & US- Canada) amongst Standard, Ready Lane, and SENTRI lanes for Mexico and NEXUS lanes for Canada.
With the University of California’s there is even a graphical representation of the amount of traffic per border location, time of day and day of week.
The CBP app is a tad newer and works great.
The “Best Time To Cross The Border” offered by the University of California San Diego has a slick interphase…but has been a tad buggy.
Download both free from your App store.
A bit overwhelmed?
It’s ok. We were too.
But after using your SENTRI pass, you’ll wonder why you didn’t apply sooner.
Is SENTRI pass or any program worth it?
Every week we at EasySentri save Hours waiting in line by accessing SENTRI lanes and using Global Entry kiosks.
We can easily say YES, it’s worth it.
Your fellow travelers will thank you.
Have anything to add on using your SENTRI pass or questions concerning your SENTRI GOES application let us know.