The SENTRI program, or Secure Electronic Network for Travelers’ Rapid Inspection, allows pre-approved, low-risk travelers and vehicles to cross the border Northbound into the United States more rapidly and efficiently.The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency first implemented the SENTRI program in 1995. Today, more than 90,000 travelers from both sides of the border are registered in the vehicle SENTRI program.
The system is currently being used at the Otay Mesa, San Ysido, and Calexico border crossings in California and the El Paso (Staton Street Bridge) crossing in Texas. Participants receive an identification card that allows them to cross the border without routine customs and immigration inquiries.
Currently, the SENTRI lane hours of operation are Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., Saturday from 6 a.m. to midnight, and Sunday from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.
To obtain a SENTRI pass, applicants must voluntarily undergo a thorough biographical background check against criminal, law enforcement, customs, immigration, and terrorist indices, a 10-fingerprint law enforcement check, and a personal interview with CBP. Once approved, a SENTRI participant is issued a Radio Frequency Identification Card that will identify their record and status in the CBP database upon arrival at the U.S. port of entry. The participant simply shows the SENTRI card to the officer.
Border officials extensively screen applicants. One criminal conviction, warrant, or customs violation may disqualify an applicant. Any positive encounters with state, federal and local law enforcement, border agencies, military authorities, etc., would render an applicant inadmissible to the SENTRI program. There seems to be some discretion in granting the pass if any criminal records have been cleared; so it would be wise to invest in record clearing before applying for a pass. A modest investment in expungement or record sealing could be the difference between having your request accepted or denied. In many instances, record clearing means that any convictions cannot be seen, and at a minimum, it will show that you have resolved all matters with the court. A SENTRI applicant must not have any penalties, violations, arrests, convictions or pending law enforcement investigations in their backgrounds. In the case of dismissed charges, certified court records will be required before an application will be considered for the SENTRI program.
The total fee for obtaining a SENTRI pass is $127.00 per person (application fee $25.00, fingerprint fee $22.00, system cost fee $80.00).
To receive additional help with your SENTRI application, call the CBP Help Desk at 1-800-927-8729.
Upon approval, you will also be issued a PortPass card and RFID vehicle decals for each vehicle registered in the program. The card will expire after 5 years.
For more information on how to deal with having a criminal record, please visit our expungement information and education page.
Olga Sattarova holds a juris doctor from the University of Utah's S.J. Quinney College of Law.