I discovered SENTRI totally by chance while looking for information about working in USA without actually living there, just by crossing the border back and forth every day. Which I supposed it would have required a visa, by the way, but I cannot find anything about it.

Instead, on the CBP site, I've found that:

There is no citizenship or residency requirement to apply for SENTRI.

which is unclear to me, as the sentence immediately above states:

SENTRI was established to expedite movement along the Southwest Land Border of eligible, pre-screened, low-risk, pre-approved travelers through designated vehicle traffic lanes.

And on a linked page it says:

Eligibility Required: Proof of citizenship and admissibility documentation.

I've tried to google a bit, but I cannot find a page that relate SENTRI to visa, which sounds strange. SENTRI looks more like a speed up border transit pass, not a visa substitute.

Does someone have more detailed information on SENTRI pass?

  • Just to point out: I'm doing my searches et all, but I must admit being European in this case comes as a disadvantage to me, because most of this limitations sounds weird; I'm used to a lot freedom, so sometime I find difficult wrapping my mind around all those limits, I can sound stupid, I know, but it's simply that those things feel really aliens sometimes.
    – motoDrizzt
    Commented May 22, 2017 at 7:46
  • 4
    It looks like this just facilitates easy movement across the border for people who already have clearance to enter the US. So this is not a substitute for a visa. It's just a "pre-screening" for citizens, or for non-citizen nationals who have right of abode or other reasons for entering the US. I think it's a bit like the French PARAFE system. Commented May 22, 2017 at 12:36

1 Answer 1


SENTRI is not a US Visa, it is a pre-approval to speed up the land border crossing between Mexico and the US.

If you require a Visa to enter the United States, then you will still need this even if you get SENTRI pass. In fact you will need the Visa before you apply for SENTRI (see the second-to-last bullet point here, from US CBP SENTRI Eligibility

Reasons for Ineligibility

You may not be eligible for participation in the SENTRI program if you:

  • 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.

Also (from SENTRI Pass FAQs)

I am a Mexican citizen and have a SENTRI card. Can I travel to the USA without a visa?
No, you will still have to apply a non-immigrant visa in an American embassy or consulate in Mexico.

The SENTRI pass can considerably cut the waiting time to enter the US - a drive across the border at somewhere like San Ysidro (Tijuana to San Diego) can take 3 hours (or more), but with SENTRI this time is usually less than 15 minutes.

SENTRI Pass Benefits:

The list of SENTRI pass benefits may be small but put simply, the time spent queuing at the US Mexico border particularly at peak times makes a SENTRI pass essential for anyone who crosses the border no matter how often. Some of the SENTRI program benefits are as follows:

  • Faster border crossing times even at peak periods.
  • Dedicated SENTRI lanes to expedite travel and save long queue times.
  • Faster border inspection time. Customs and Border Patrol estimate that it takes SENTRI card holders 10 seconds at the border guard’s inspection booth.
  • Fewer questions by border agents.
  • Less stress when traveling with children.

The pre-screening/pre-approval of you and your vehicle is what helps speed up the process, coupled with the fact that a lot less people have the pass so there are less crossing the border through those lanes. Part of the application process is an interview with CBP.

Please note:

Who is eligible for a SENTRI pass?
The SENTRI pass program is open to anybody who is a permanent resident or citizen of the USA or Mexico to apply. However, it is designed for low risk travelers. People with criminal convictions, penalties, and violations of any kind are not likely to be approved.

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