At various crossings on the U.S.-Mexico border, pre-approved travelers returning from Mexico have the option to cross the border quickly by using Ready Lanes and Sentri cards that speed up the crossing process.  During peak crossing times, drivers may wait as long as two hours to cross the border into the U.S.; the Sentri card, however, can transform this wait time to about ten minutes!  For travelers who visit Mexico often, this time savings is incredibly convenient.

 

The Sentri program was launched several years to make customs checks more efficient and to streamline northbound traffic.  Travelers who register and are approved for Sentri cards are issued a Radio Frequency Identification card that contain all of the information needed by customs officers.  Everyone in a vehicle must have the Sentri card in order to cross in one of the Ready Lanes.  Not every border crossing is equipped with Ready Lanes thus far, but some are located at crossings into California, Arizona, and Texas.

 

Ready Lanes are located at:

  • San Ysidro, California
  • Brownsville, Texas
  • Laredo, Texas
  • Nogales, Arizona,
  • Otay Mesa, California
  • Calexico, California
  • San Luis, Arizona
  • El Paso, Texas
  • Hidalgo, Texas
  • Anzalduas, Texas

 

The program is similar to the Nexus program that streamlines the crossings at U.S.-Canadian border crossings.  While Ready Lanes support the use of Sentri cards, they also allow some other RFID chip-enhanced cards that streamline the crossing process.  Electronic passports, however, are not allowed as the technology is not compatible.   Other acceptable cards that may be used in the Ready Lanes include U.S. Passport cards, the Enhanced Driver’s License, and Enhanced Tribal cards.

 

How to Register for a Sentri Card

The Sentri program is open to anyone; however, people must be deemed “low-risk” in order to qualify.  Those with histories of violations or convictions may not be eligible to participate in the program.  Applications for the card can easily be completed online.  They can also be completed at Sentri enrollment centers at participating border crossings.  Minors may be issued Sentri cards, but guardianship paperwork must first be presented before the minor can be approved for the Sentri program.

 

More to Know about Ready Lanes and Sentri Cards

Travelers should be look for Ready Lane signs when approaching border crossings.  While not all border crossings boast the Ready Lanes, many have plans to instate them in the future.  Cards should be presented at the time of crossing so officials can easily pull up driver and passengers’ information.  Each passenger must have a compliant RFID card to use the Ready Lines.  There are no group or family-issued cards, so each individual, both minors and adults, must apply for the cards and pay the required fees for submitting application, fingerprinting, etc…

 

Naturally, there are fees associated with RFID chip programs.  For information about Sentri fees, visit this site:  http://www.cbp.gov/xp/cgov/travel/trusted_traveler/sentri/faqs/sentri_faqs2.xml.  Fees can be paid using credit cards or bank cards.

 

Travelers who have more questions about eligibility may visit the CBP.gov website for more extensive information regarding the program.  Interested parties many also begin their enrollment process on this website in order to streamline the registration process.  The web-based application is far simpler to use than the traditional paperwork model in place at border crossings.

 

Program Benefits

The program is especially useful for travelers who frequently travel to and from Mexico.  With the headache of wait times diminished, travelers can enjoy a safe and speedy crossing while customs officials have the digital assurance of knowing who travelers are without the lengthy need to search.  Most enhanced travelers’ cards are good for five years before reapplication is necessary.