9OYS Border Watch
CBP: Use of pre-screening programs rise, as wait times fall
Reporter: Maggie Vespa
NOGALES, Ariz. (KGUN9-TV) - When was the last time you felt stress-free, stuck in stand-still traffic?
The answer? Probably never.
No one knows that to be truer than our trusty Customs and Border Protection agents, who man long lines and explain long wait times day after day.
That is, unless you take part in a few not-so-new programs, proven to expedite the border crossing process.
9OYS headed to Nogales' Deconcini port, for a look at life in the fast lane.
If time is money, life in lane 8 Thursday was dirt cheap.
"It saves them just a world of time crossing the border," said CBP spokesperson Edith Serrano.
"it", is the SENTRI program.
Pending an application process, background check, and on-site interview with a CBP agent, CBP members gain VIP access to and from Mexico for five years.
Even amid the holiday hustle and bustle, wait times rarely surpass 10-15 minutes.
Total, the process costs about $120.
These days, business is booming.
"People are seeing the benefits of being a member of the program, again, because they save so much time from waiting in the regular vehicle lanes," said Serrano.
Since the program's kick-off back in 2005, roughly 22,000 people have signed up in the Nogales area alone. Dozens more are applying daily.
But for those with a little more time and a little less cash, there are slightly slower alternatives.
"You're saving a few seconds and that adds up," said Serrano.
Plan B to the SENTRI lane is the Ready lane, where passengers need papers equipped with a special chip to pass.
"It allows the officers to actually scan the document as opposed to manually typing the information into our database," she said.
Currently radio frequency identification, or RFID, chips come in passport cards, permanent resident cards and border crossing cards issued after April, 2009.
Whichever option you choose, CBP agents say it's a win-win.
"It does allow us to allocate our resources to those areas where we need them a little bit more," said Serrano.
Regarding drivers, she added, "They may want to cross a little bit more knowing that their wait time isn't going to be as long, so they can visit those family members or those destinations in Mexico that they like to frequent."
Serrano stresses the best way to sign find information or sign up for any of these programs is via CBP's official website