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SENTRI Cards and Ready Lanes – Crossing the Border Fast

SENTRI and Ready lanes are expedite crossing lines at the border for pre-screened travelers. 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.

In an effort to make car checks more efficient and northbound flow quicker, CBP created the SENTRI program. Travelers who register and gain approval for Sentri cards receive a Radio Frequency Identification card (RFID). The RFID contains all of the information that customs officers need.  Everyone in a vehicle must have the Sentri card in order to cross in one of the Ready Lanes.  Not every border crossing has Ready Lanes so 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, won’t work because the technology is not compatible.   Other acceptable cards that you can use 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 “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 SENTRI card are available online.  You can also be complete at Sentri enrollment centers at participating border crossings.  Minors may get Sentri cards, but guardianship paperwork must first complete before the minor can approve for the SENTRI program.

More to Know about Ready Lanes and SENTRI Cards

Travelers should be looking 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.  You show the card at the time of crossing so the officials can pull up your record. Each passenger must have a compliant RFID card to use the Ready Lines.  There are no group or family-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 for these RFID chip programs.  For information about Sentri fees, visit this site:  Trusted Traveler Program. You can pay the fees with 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 a reapplication is necessary.

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4 Responses to SENTRI Cards and Ready Lanes – Crossing the Border Fast

  1. We have Sentri cards, but when we tried to use the Sentri lane in Laredo (Bridge II). we were turned back on the Mexican side because they said we needed a chip or sticker on our windshield. We are thinking this must be a pre-paid bridge crossing permit. Do you know anything about this?

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