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My family and I have B1/B2 visitor visas for the US. We also have SENTRI cards through the Trusted Traveler Program, for when we cross via the land border into the US.

Before the southern border closed (approx April 2020) we rarely had to show our passports/visas when entering the US by land, we just showed our SENTRI cards.

Since the border re-opened, however (approx Feb 2022), we have been asked to show our visas and/or our entry stamp almost every time we cross into the US. It seems odd to me since the SENTRI card will show them a photo and all our passport/visa/I-94 info on their screens before we even get to the booth.

Has there been a change in policy where a visitor visa must be sighted every crossing now, even with Trusted Traveler? What has brought about this change? I am unsure whether it coincides with the change in how I-94's are issued (via the app now), or whether it's related to the Ukraine war (I know that Russian citizens are being stopped from entering the US, even those with valid visas)

We've not been delayed or detained at all, just asked the question something like "Do you have your visas with you, can I see them?" and a couple of times they've also asked "where is the latest entry stamp?"

We mostly cross by car, but this has also happened the two times we crossed on foot (plus once by land from Canada, but I was unsure whether that was because they're not used to seeing SENTRI cards there)

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    Anecdotally, the exact way the "trusted traveler" programs work seems to change quite often. I imagine it's some combination of desire to confuse malefactors, incompetence, and the CBP's seething hatred for everyone they interact with, but I don't know if you'll ever get an official answer as to the reason for any specific change.
    – mlc
    Commented Sep 20, 2022 at 3:45
  • @mlc Our interactions with CBP are usually friendly, often chatty (usually because they're surprised to see NZ passports through the Trusted Traveler lanes at the southern border.
    – Midavalo
    Commented Sep 20, 2022 at 13:46

1 Answer 1

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I don't know if this is a policy change at all, but lacking an actual/official answer I'll add what we found out last week.

We entered the US and handed over our SENTRI cards as normal. The CBP officer asked if we were US residents (we're not) or if we had an ESTA (I'm not sure how ESTA was relevant in this case), so we told him we had NZ passports and B1/B2 visitor visas.

He told us that we must always present those along with the SENTRI cards, as the officers don't get that information on their screen (!?!?!) and that they don't know our status unless we give them all our documents. I guess we had mistakenly assumed that the SENTRI system would have pulled up all our details for him.

I suppose the times we've been through SENTRI and shown only the cards may have been the exception to the rule.


Updating to add that while at time of writing this answer ESTA authorisation was not required for land entry into the United States (see comments below), that has since changed and ESTA authorisation is now required for travelers entering the US under the VWP no matter how they are traveling. That rule changed less than a month after I wrote this answer in 2022.

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  • I'm not sure how ESTA was relevant in this case I would imagine most NZ passport holders entering the US without a long term visa hold an ESTA. If you'd answered yes, presumably the officer would have looked you up on their system.
    – MJeffryes
    Commented Sep 20, 2022 at 9:18
  • @MJeffryes ESTA is not required for VWP entry to the US via the land border. I guess he may have been wondering if we had a valid I-94, but that wasn't his question. I'm just surprised it doesn't all show on his screen through the SENTRI card
    – Midavalo
    Commented Sep 20, 2022 at 13:44
  • Ah good point, but still I would think your situation is relatively unusual (VWP eligible, but not holding an ESTA and instead a B1/B2 visa). Maybe in the case of ESTA holders, the I-94 shows up automatically on the screen. So perhaps he was asking to work out if this was a technical issue, since he may have been expecting to see this. Hard to say without knowledge of internal CBP processes.
    – MJeffryes
    Commented Sep 20, 2022 at 14:11

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