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Trusted Traveler Programs: SENTRI – Easy Access

In our fourth post in our Trusted Traveler Program Series  we are going to cover SENTRI, the program for pre-approved travelers who cross the U.S./Mexico border frequently.

SENTRI users have access to specific, dedicated primary lanes into the United States.  Members are issued a Radio Frequency Identification Document (RFID) that will identify their record and status in the CBP database upon arrival at the U.S. port of entry.  Participants in the program wait for much shorter periods of time than those in regular lanes waiting to enter the United States, even at the busiest time of day.

SENTRI Dedicated Commuter Lanes are available at El Paso, TX; Otay Mesa, CA; San Ysidro, CA; Calexico, CA; Nogales, AZ; Hidalgo, TX; Brownsville, TX; Anzalduas, TX; Laredo, TX; and San Luis, AZ

How to apply: 

  • Submit your application online using the Global Online Enrollment System (GOES).
  • Once conditional approval is received, schedule your appointment online through your GOES account at an Enrollment Center.
  • Applicants have 30 days from that date to schedule an interview or your application will be denied and you will have to submit a new application.
  • You must bring original documents with you that show:
    • Evidence of citizenship that you listed on your application
    • Valid driver’s license (or state identification)
    • Vehicle registration and evidence of US automobile insurance
    • Evidence of employment or financial support.
    • Evidence of residence, (Mortgage or rent payment receipts)

For complete details on how to apply, click here.

During the Interview, information provided on the application will be verified and upon acceptance, CBP will:

  • Take a photograph
  • Get your fingerprints
  • Issue an RFID enabled identification document

Required Fees

Application Fee: $25.00 per person

Fingerprint Fee: $14.50

System Costs Fee: $80.00 per person

Total Fee: $122.25 per person

SENTRI members are eligible to use Global Entry kiosks once they provide 10 fingerprints and document information to CBP.   If you are a Mexican national in SENTRI, you must apply for Global Entry through your GOES account. For additional Global Entry benefit information, log on to your GOES account.

You must use your passport or lawful permanent resident card at Global Entry kiosks not your SENTRI or Global Entry card.  If you have additional questions about SENTRI, visit the website.

Where Do You Need a Passport?

Most people are aware that you need a passport to go to Europe, Africa and Asia. But what if you’re staying closer to home?

A decade ago, getting into Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean was as easy as saying “I’m an American citizen,” but not anymore.  After 9-11, The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative was enacted making it much harder to get in and out of the US without a passport.

Don’t get caught off-guard if you’re heading to one of these destinations:



Visiting Canada? Check your passport, eh? You definitely need one if you’re flying in or out of the country, unless you have a NEXUS trusted traveler card and you are flying to a Canadian preclearance airport with a NEXUS kiosk.

If you’re traveling by land or sea, you need one of the following to re-enter the US: a passport, a passport card, an enhanced driver’s license (currently only 4 states offer these), or a NEXUS, FAST or SENTRI trusted traveler card.


If you’re flying to or from Mexico, you need a valid passport.

If you’re traveling by land or sea, Mexico requires all US citizens to have a passport if they’re traveling beyond the “border zone,” about 12 miles in. However, the US government requirements for re-entering the US are the same as for Canada above, regardless of whether you stay within the “border zone” or not.


To visit Aruba, you need a passport if you’re flying and a passport or a passport card if you’re traveling by sea.

St. Martin

To hang out in this island paradise, you need a passport and a ticket back out of the country.


Bermuda requires all US citizens to present a passport to get into the country.

The Bahamas

If you’re traveling by air, you need a passport book.

If you’re traveling by sea, you can use a passport, passport card, enhanced driver’s license, NEXUS, FAST or SENTRI card.

The British Virgin Islands

The US Virgin Islands are part of the United States, but should you want to visit their British siblings, you’ll need a valid passport book if you’re traveling by air.

If you’re traveling by sea, you’ll need a passport, a passport card, an enhanced driver’s license or a NEXUS, FAST or SENTRI card.

The Cayman Islands

As of January 23, 2007, you must have a valid passport book to enter the Caymans.

Trinidad and Tobago

Unlike many Caribbean countries, a US passport book is the only accepted form of ID to enter this island nation, no matter how you’re traveling. (more…)

New Passport Laws Don’t Impede Border Crossing

In 2009, new passport laws went into effect that changed the documents required for travel between the US, Mexico and Canada. Called the Western Travel Initiative (WHTI), the regulations required most US citizens to have either a passport or a passport card for land and sea travel to either country, with a passport book being required for air travel.

Local businesses on both sides of the border have been ruing that day ever since, blaming the requirements for slowing down the number of consumers able to casually hop from country to country.

Now, a new report suggests that at least on the US/Canadian border, the problem may be an issue of perception rather than an actual increase in wait times.  According to the Spectator, an in-depth study commissioned by the Binational Economic and Tourism Alliance found that 90 percent of the time, cars and trucks had to wait just 5-10 minutes to get across the border.

Executive director Arlene White told the Spectator that the study was prompted by continued angst from businesses over the new passport requirements:

“We just kept hearing that it’s tough to cross and it’s a hassle. We wanted to know the realities of how much had changed and the economic impacts of the changes since 9/11 … We said let’s gather the facts instead of the myths.”

Slightly less encouraging was the study’s finding that only 53 percent of residents living near border areas had a document that would enable them to cross if they wanted to.  The most flexible travel document is a US passport book, which allows for travel by land, air and sea. If the cost of a new passport is prohibitive and you don’t plan on flying, a passport card will allow you to cross over by land or by sea for only $55 per person. Another alternative is a NEXUS card, though the application process is a little more involved and requires a personal interview and a retinal scan.

If you need a new passport, it’s important that you don’t wait until the last minute. Passport applications take about six weeks to process. For a $60 expedite fee, the Department of State’s expedited service will save you some time, but you still must allow three weeks. For faster processing, you must either drive to the nearest Regional Passport Agency office or use a private expediting company like RushMyPassport. By hand-delivering your paperwork to the Department of State, we can cut processing time down to as little as 24 hours with no need to wait in line or make an appointment.

Let us help you get your new passport quickly and easily- get started today!

Sport Fishing in Mexico? Don’t Forget Your US Passport!

In California, deep-sea fishing boats crossing into Mexican waters have found themselves on the hook instead, as the Mexican  navy boarded them and checked their passengers’ passports. According to, the sport-fishing boats believed that they were complying with existing regulations that allow anglers to take short fishing trips of a day or less into Mexican waters, as long as they have a Mexican fishing license. However, one of the boats reported being turned back when an angler on board was unable to produce a valid US passport.

Michelle Gandola, a spokeswoman for the Sportfishing Association of California, told SignOnSanDiego that the Association had contacted the Mexican government for clarification:

“We’re trying to get some kind of official statement from the Mexican government. But as far as we know, no new Mexican regulation or policy has come out about passport requirements on sport boats. All we know is that a few of our boats were boarded, and passengers were asked to produce passports. We’ve been operating in Mexico for over 50 years and have had great relations with Mexico. Our hope is that we can work this out and that it’s just a slight hitch that can be taken care of so we can get back to operating without any additional requirements.”

Still, for now, if you plan to go on a sport-fishing trip that includes a dip into Mexican waters, you should probably bring a US passport. Getting one will take six weeks if you apply with regular processing, and about three weeks if you pay an additional $60 for expedited processing.

If you have a trip booked, one way to avoid rescheduling is to make an appointment at the nearest regional passport agency office. For fast service without an appointment, another option is to use a private passport expediting company like RushMyPassport.

Need a US passport? Apply with us today!


Worried About Mexico? Get a Passport and Head Further South

Drug-fueled violence has been simmering over in certain parts of Mexico for well over a year now. The State Department has issued official travel warning after official travel warning to keep US citizens informed of the situation, most recently in April.

With horror stories coming in from across the border on a semi-regular basis, many US citizens have decided that it might be more prudent to take a summer vacation elsewhere. It should be noted that only certain parts of Mexico are affected by the violence- even the cautious bureaucrats over at the Department of State note that “the majority of visitors to Mexico thoroughly enjoy their stay.” The travel warning suggests that you stay away from the following areas: Northern Baja California, Sonora, Chihuahua, Nuevo Leon (especially the city of Monterrey), Tamaulipas Durango, Coahuila, Zacatecas, Sinaloa, Southern Sonora, Nayarit, Jalisco, San Luis Potosi, Michoacán, Guerrero and Morelos.

That still leaves a lot of places in Mexico that are fairly calm. However, if you’d prefer to stay out of the country altogether, Gadling has a couple of alternative suggestions: Costa Rica and Panama. According to the Department of State, the main threat to tourists in Costa Rica is theft. While Costa Rica has long been popular with American tourists, Panama is more of an up-and-coming destination, as evidenced by the construction of country’s first Westin Hotel and resort.

If you want to check out either of these countries, though, you’ll need to get a passport. To enter Costa Rica, you’ll need a US passport valid for at least 30 days after your arrival. If you’re going to Panama, it must be valid for at least three months.

To ensure you get your passport in time, plan ahead. It takes about six weeks to get a passport if you apply for regular service, and about three weeks if you request expedited service for an additional $60.

To get a passport more quickly, you can either make an appointment at the nearest regional passport agency office, or save time and gas money by using a private passport expediting company like RushMyPassport.

Let us help you get a passport quickly today!

Driving to Mexico or Canada? What Can I Use As Proof of Travel?

When you apply for an emergency passport, whether it’s at a Passport Agency office or through an expediting company, the Department of State requires you to prove that you do in fact have an emergency. When you make an appointment at a Passport Agency office, you must bring a hard copy of your itinerary to show that you will be leaving the country within the next 14 days. If you’re using an expediter, you must include proof of travel in the package you send to the company.

For most trips, the State Department will only accept one of the following documents:

  • A copy of your airline reservation, or a printed email confirmation if you’ve purchased an electronic ticket.
  • A reservation with a travel agency
  • If you’re traveling on business, a letter on company letterhead describing the dates you plan to leave the country and what you’ll be doing on your business trip. Someone else at the company needs to sign your business letter, even if you’re the CEO.

But what if you’re visiting our neighbors to the north or south? The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative requires most travelers to carry a passport or a passport card for land travel to and from Canada and Mexico, but if you’re driving, you obviously won’t have a plane ticket to present at the passport office. Increasingly, travelers tend to book their trips independently, without relying on a travel agency. Does that mean you’re out of luck if you need an emergency passport for a road trip to these countries? (more…)

Get an Expedited Passport for cheap fares at Spirit Airlines!

Have you always fantasized about visiting a tropical Caribbean beach but never thought you’d be able to afford it? What if your plane tickets were only $2?

At first glance, joining Spirit Airlines’ fare club seems like it just might be the ticket to bring your dream vacation within reach. Membership costs $39.95 per year, but it allows you to access sales that aren’t available to non-members. For example, right now club members can fly from Fort Lauderdale, Florida to the Bahamas for just $2 round trip, and from Fort Lauderdale to Cancun for $18 round-trip (plus the usual fees and taxes, of course).

Spirit has a members-only sale once every 6 weeks, and as long as you move quickly, you can snag those cheap fares on all the tickets you purchase.

But is it worth it? took a look at the program last year after it was announced and concluded

If you frequently fly between the cities Spirit serves (a heavy emphasis on Florida, the Caribbean, and Latin America), membership is worth the cost. If, for example, you can snag a $2 fare, even with the membership cost and taxes and fees, you’ll still be getting a bargain compared to other airlines’ prices. But, you must keep in mind that availability is often very limited. You’ll find that fares are only offered on about a dozen select dates, and even then, you must rush to book early or risk the best deals selling out.

Some deals are also last-minute. For example, many of the cheap flights in the sale I linked to above depart in August, and it’s now late July. So, if you’re thinking of using the Fare Club to try to snag cheap flights to Spirit’s international destinations, you may find yourself needing an expedited passport.

Generally speaking, it takes about 6 weeks to get your passport application processed if you order regular service. If you use the Department of State’s expedited passport service, it could still take up to 3 weeks or longer. A private passport expediting company costs a little more but provides you with much faster service, often providing expedited passport service in as little as 24 hours without requiring you to take additional time off work to visit a passport office.

Apply for your expedited passport today!

Get Your Passport Application To Fly South With Virgin America

Geese migrate south in the fall, and now you can, too.  According to Jaunted, Virgin America is scheduled to start flights south of the border in the fall, to Cancun and Cab0 San Lucas.  The new route was announced at an anniversary party commemorating the launch of Virgin America’s first international destination, Toronto, last year.

If you’d like to be one of the first to fly Virgin’s new Mexican routes, you’d better get your passport application in now. Flights are expected to leave from San Francisco and Los Angeles starting this fall. Jaunted explains:

Virgin America CEO David Cush says that there’s no official date yet set for the first Mexico flights, but we’re guessing they’ll begin when fall temperatures drop the US back into jacket weather and people start dreaming of hot sun and bikinis again.

Passports are required for flights to Mexico, and you won’t be able to board the plane without one.

When you order a passport, you should expect to wait at least 6 weeks for it to arrive in the mail, assuming you order it with normal processing. If you need it sooner, you can expedite your passport application with the Department of State, but you should still allow at least 3 weeks for it to arrive.

What do you do if you find a great last-minute deal? If you have tickets to leave for Mexico in less than 2 weeks and you don’t have a valid passport, you can make an appointment at a Regional Passport Agency office to get one issued. However, bear in mind that the passport agency is appointment only-you can’t just walk in whenever it’s convenient for you to turn in your passport application.  Also, passport agency offices have limited office hours, and are usually only open on weekdays. Finally, there are only 18 of these passport offices to serve the entire US.

A more convenient option is to use a private passport expediting company like RushMyPassport. RushMyPassport delivers your passport application directly to the Department of State, for processing times as quick as 24 hours and no need to wait in line or visit a passport agency.

Let us expedite your passport application today!

New Passport Cards Confuse Travelers

In 2008, the US Department of State introduced a new passport option: the US passport card.  The wallet-sized card was meant to make international travel to Mexico, Canada and the Caribbean more convenient and less expensive. Passport cards are the same size and shape as a driver’s license, and they cost much less-only $45 for a card compared to $100 for a passport book.

Passport cards are gradually becoming more and more popular, but as Las Vegas’ Fox 5 News reports, there is still a lot of confusion about what type of travel they can actually be used for, and that means people are missing their vacations.

You see, passport cards may be much cheaper than a regular passport, but they are much more limited in terms of where and when you can use them. They are ONLY valid for land or sea travel to Mexico, Canada, or the Caribbean. They aren’t valid for travel to any other countries. Equally important, they can’t be used for air travel at all. So, even if you are flying to Mexico, Canada or the Caribbean, you need a passport book, not a passport card. If you show up at the airport with a passport card, they won’t let you on the plane. That’s exactly what happened to Wendy and Jason Baxter, as described by Fox 5 News:

“You have to have a passport book,” the agent told the family.Last year, when Wendy and Jason Baxter ordered new passports, they were told they could order the passcards to fly to Canada instead of the more expensive passport, they said.“We asked what the difference was” between the two, Wendy Baxter said. Baxter said they were told passports were needed to fly overseas, while the passcard would get them into Mexico and Canada.“(You) get everything packed, everything’s done, (and) you get to the airport … and they say, ‘You can’t go,’” Wendy Baxter said.

Did passport card confusion catch you by surprise? If you need a new passport in a hurry, you have 3 different options: order a new passport with expedited processing, which costs an additional $60 and will get your application processed in 3 weeks instead of the normal 6, make an appointment at a passport agency office, or use a private passport expediting company like RushMyPassport.

Of these options, an expediting company is the most convenient way to get superfast service. At RushMyPassport, we walk you through the application process and hand-deliver your application to the Department of State, resulting in processing times as low as 24 hours.

Apply for your new passport today!

Got a US Passport Card? Wave it in the Air!

Have you gotten one of the new US passport cards yet? If you have one, and you are driving across an international bridge into Mexico or Canada, border officials want you to take that card out of your wallet and “wave it in the air like you just don’t care” before you get to the inspection booth.

No, this isn’t some elaborate prank designed to make you look foolish for border officials’ amusement.  According to the El Paso Times,  this procedure actually helps you get through the border crossing more quickly.

Here’s how it works: about 70 feet before each inspection booth, the government has set up a sensor. Waving your card in front of the sensor allows the officer in the booth to pull up your data before you get to the booth, cutting the time for a routine crossing by about 5 seconds per vehicle.

That doesn’t sound like a big deal, but it all adds up-if everyone who crossed the El Paso border with a passport card used the system, it would save a lot of time. William Molaski, the Customs and Border Patrol port director in El Paso, told the El Paso Times that

“As more people use their cards correctly, wait times will go down. A savings of only five seconds per vehicle reduces overall crossing times by about 30 (collective) hours a day.”

The system currently only works with US passport cards, not the standard US passport books. US passport cards are small, wallet-sized cards introduced to make crossing the border easier for people who have to do it frequently.  They are only good for land and sea travel to Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean, and they are no good for plane travel.

If you are on a cruise or traveling more than a short distance over the Mexican or Canadian border, it makes sense to carry a passport book with you instead of a passport card, since you would need it to fly back home in case of an emergency.

Under a relatively new law that went into effect in June of last year, passports are required for most American travelers visiting Mexico, Canada or the Caribbean.  For more information about the requirements, see the following articles:

Do You Need a Passport to Go to Mexico?

Do You Need a Passport to Go to the Caribbean?

Do You Need a Passport to Go to Canada?

If the new regulations have caught you by surprise and you needed to have your passport application in, like, yesterday, can help. With RushMyPassport, you get personal service and attention from an experienced passport specialist, help with your application and much faster service than you can get submitting your application at the post office. In fact, RushMyPassport can have your application processed in as little as 24 hours!

Apply for your US passport today!