US-VISIT, WHTI and Trusted Traveler Programs

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The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) established the United States Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology Program (US-VISIT) in 2003 to verify the identities and travel documents of foreign nationals. Individuals subject to US-VISIT are required to provide digital finger scans, photographs, or other biometric identifiers upon arrival in, or departure from, the United States.
  • Individuals arriving in the U.S. with nonimmigrant visas
  • Those arriving under the Visa Waiver Program
  • Lawful Permanent Residents of the United States (green card holders)
There are just a few exceptions:
  • Diplomats
  • Children under 14
  • Adults over 79
  • Canadian citizens entering as visitors without an I-94 admission document

Additional information about US-VISIT can be found at

There are various laws which require DHS to create an integrated, automated biometric entry and exit system that records the arrival and departure of foreign nationals; biometrically compares the identities of foreign nationals; and authenticates travel documents presented by such individuals through the comparison of biometric identifiers. US-VISIT is designed to meet these goals. However, travelers should be aware that as US-VISIT allows DHS to track entries to and departures from the U.S., as well as access any arrest or criminal records, it is important that the information DHS (USCIS, the Consulates, CBP) has in its various databases is accurate. Inaccurate information in the database will yield an erroneous “hit” in US-VISIT, causing the traveler delay and frustration. Now more than ever it is imperative that travelers review their I-94 cards for accuracy upon each entry to the U.S., and ensure that all I-94 cards are turned in upon their departure from the U.S. This will help avoid an erroneous database entry of an overstay or other immigration violation.

The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) is a document security program designed to meet the enhanced border security requirements of legislation passed in 2004 (The Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act). The initiative establishes document requirements for travel by land or sea into the United States from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Bermuda.

Yes, the initiative affects United States, Canadian and Bermudian citizens entering the U.S. by land or sea.
  • Since 1/23/07, citizens of the U.S., Canada, Mexico, and Bermuda have been required to present a passport or other WHTI-compliant document when traveling by air between the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Central and South America, the Caribbean and Bermuda.
  • Since 1/31/08, citizens of the U.S., Canada and Bermuda were required to present a document verifying both identity and citizenship when seeking admission to the U.S. via a land or sea port of entry.
  • Since 6/1/09, citizens of the U.S., Canada, and Bermuda will be required to have a passport, passport card, or WHTI-compliant document when entering the U.S. via land or sea ports of entry.
What types of documents are accepted for entry into the US via land and sea under this initiative?
  • U.S. citizens can present a valid U.S. passport, Passport Card, Enhanced Driver’s License, Trusted Traveler Program card (NEXUS, SENTRI, or FAST), U.S. Military identification card when traveling on official orders, U.S. Merchant Mariner document when traveling in conjunction with official maritime business, or Form I-872 American Indian Card, or Enhanced Tribal Card.
  • U.S. and Canadian citizen children under the age of 16 (or under the age of 19, if traveling with a school, religious group, or other youth group) need only present a birth certificate or other proof of citizenship. The birth certificate can be original, photocopy, or certified copy.
  • Canadian citizens can present a valid passport, Enhanced Driver’s License, or Trusted Traveler Program card (NEXUS, SENTRI or FAST).
  • Bermudian citizens are required to present a valid passport.
  • U.S. citizens on closed-loop cruises (cruises that begin and end at the same port) are able to enter the U.S. with a birth certificate and government issued photo ID.
No, WHTI does not affect U.S. lawful permanent residents who are still required to present their permanent resident card (Form I-551) or other valid evidence of their permanent resident status.
Travelers without WHTI-compliant documents are likely to be delayed at the border as CBP officers work to verify identity and citizenship.
Customs and Border Protection’s Trusted Traveler Programs provide expedited travel for pre-approved, low risk travelers through dedicated lanes and kiosks.
Yes, the Trusted Traveler programs include Global Entry, FAST, NEXUS, and SENTRI.
The Global Entry pilot was developed to implement a single integrated passenger processing system that will expedite the movement of frequent international air travelers. Global Entry provides an alternative Passport Control process for pre-approved, pre-screened eligible travelers.
Global Entry allows members to enter the U.S. more quickly by using automated kiosks located in the U.S. arrival areas of select airports. The Global Entry program uses fingerprint biometric technology to verify a registered member and confirm their status.
The Free and Secure Trade (FAST) program is a commercial clearance program for known low-risk shipments entering the U.S. from Canada and Mexico. Initiated after 9/11, this trusted traveler/trusted shipper program allows expedited processing for commercial carriers who have completed background checks and fulfill certain eligibility requirements.

You can obtain information about FAST on the CBP website.

The NEXUS program allows pre-screened travelers expedited processing by United States and Canadian officials at dedicated processing lanes at designated northern border ports of entry, at NEXUS kiosks at Canadian Preclearance airports, and at marine reporting locations. Approved applicants are issued a photo-identification, proximity Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) card.

Individuals approved to participate in NEXUS receive an identification card that allows them to:
  • Receive expedited passage at NEXUS-dedicated lanes, airport kiosks, and by calling a marine telephone reporting center to report their arrival into the United States and Canada; and
  • Cross the border with a minimum of customs and immigration questioning
Cross the border with a minimum of customs and immigration questioning

You can obtain information about NEXUS on the CBP website.

The Secure Electronic Network for Travelers Rapid Inspection (SENTRI) is a land border crossing program that provides expedited CBP processing for pre-approved low-risk travelers. The SENTRI program has dedicated processing lanes at the nine largest ports of entry along the U.S.-Mexico border. Applicants must voluntarily undergo a thorough biographical background check against criminal, law enforcement, customs, immigration, and terrorist indices; a 10-fingerprint law enforcement check; and a personal interview with a CBP Officer. Approved applicants are issued a photo-identification, proximity Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) card.
Participants in the program wait for much shorter periods of time than regular lanes to enter the United States, even at the busiest time of day. Critical information required in the inspection process is provided to the Officer in advance of the passenger’s arrival thus reducing the inspection time from an average of 30-40 seconds to an average of 10 seconds.

ou can obtain information about SENTRI on the CBP website.

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