Photo courtesy CBP

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials offer tips for Holiday border crossers

Ahead of the busy Christmas holiday season travel,  U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is reminding those who are planning to cross the border that there are of a variety of steps they can take to ensure a smooth and efficient processing experience upon their arrival to the United States in El Paso and other border ports.

“CBP managers will monitor traffic and make every effort to keep as many lanes open as long as possible while also addressing the demands of the ongoing border crisis,” said Hector Mancha, CBP Director of Field Operation in El Paso. “During the holiday season our ports are no different than airports, shopping centers and area roadways. It will be busy so expect larger than normal crowds and plan accordingly. Everyone is in a hurry and CBP is working to help move travelers through our area crossings as quickly as possible while still maintaining our priority homeland security mission.”

The El Paso port of entry will work to implement the All Lanes Open Initiative during the holiday period as resources allow. CBP staffs all vehicle and pedestrian lanes from 6 a.m. until 10 a.m. weekdays and during historically busy periods on weekends.

CBP officials say that this effort will be supplemented with the ongoing public-private partnership between CBP and the city of El Paso in which the city identifies and funds periods where additional CBP service is desired. Specific adjustments to the times are listed below.

Also to avoid any potential delays or fines due to travelers bringing prohibited/restricted agricultural items, CBP encourages travelers to declare all agricultural items to a CBP officer upon arrival and before making their journey to consult the CBP Know Before You Go guide online. This includes tomatoes and peppers which were recently prohibited from importation from Mexico.

Additionally, CBP officials strongly encourage travelers to apply for their tourist permits online. Travelers will receive a provisional I-94 after submitting their application and payment online. To finalize the I-94 process, a traveler must present themselves within seven days of their application and submit biometrics, a photo and be interviewed by a CBP officer.

CBP also encourages travelers to obtain and utilize radio-frequency identification technology equipped travel documents such as U.S. passport cards and the newer versions of the border crossing card and resident alien card so that they can utilize designated and marked Ready Lanes.

Processing in Ready Lanes is 20 percent faster than normal lanes and provide a time savings of up to 20 seconds per vehicle. Those who have renewed their entry documents within the last 24 months already have RFID and may not know it. CBP encourages travelers to obtain RFID entry documents to use Ready Lanes and enroll in trusted traveler programs.

To speed the border crossing process travelers should prepare before arriving at the inspection booth.  The following are tips for crossers:

  • Please have crossing documents available for the inspection.
  • Travelers should declare all items acquired abroad to avoid fines and penalties. This would include agricultural products and gifts.
  • It is also best that any Christmas gifts are not wrapped in the event CBP needs to perform a more thorough inspection of the product.
  • In addition, individuals should end cellular phone conversations before arriving at the inspection booth.

Knowing that this is a busy period travelers should build extra time into their trips in the event they cross during periods of exceptionally heavy traffic. This includes SENTRI/Dedicated Commuter Lane (DCL) users.

During periods of heavy travel, border crossers may wish to consider alternative entry routes.

“Usually wait times are shorter at the Tornillo and Santa Teresa crossings than in El Paso. They should also travel during non-peak hours if their schedule allows,” CBP officials shared.

CBP also suggests the drivers insure that their vehicles are properly maintained and mechanically sound and that occupants avoid riding in areas of vehicles not specifically designed to carry passengers. Failure to follow these steps can expose crossers/passengers to carbon monoxide.

Members of the traveling public can monitor Border Wait Times online or obtain the CBP BWT app on their smartphone via the Apple App Store or Google Play allowing them to check wait times and make an informed decision on where to cross. These wait times are updated hourly.

Travelers can also observe current traffic conditions at the Paso Del Norte, Stanton and Ysleta bridges on the city of El Paso website.

  • Friday, December 20th :  0600-1000  All Lanes Open Initiative (ALOI) – PDN, BOTA, YSL

  • Saturday, December 21st:
  • 0800 – 1000, additional staffing assigned to PDN pedestrian lanes
  • 1000 – 1400 ALOI – PDN, BOTA, YSL
  • 1400 – 2200, additional staffing assigned to primary lanes at PDN and YSL

  • Sunday, December 22nd:
  • 1000-1400 ALOI – PDN, BOTA, YSL
  • 1400 – 2200, additional staffing assigned to primary lanes at PDN and YSL

  • Monday, December 23rd:
  • 0600-1000 ALOI – PDN, BOTA, YSL

  • Tuesday, December 24th:
  • 0600-1000 ALOI – PDN, BOTA, YSL
  • Ysleta Cargo will close at 1600 hours

  • Wednesday, December 25th:
  • BOTA and YSL Cargo are closed

  • Thursday, December 26th:
  • 0600-1000 ALOI – PDN, BOTA, YSL

  • Friday, December 27th:
  • 0600-1000 ALOI – PDN, BOTA, YSL

  • Saturday, December 28th:
  • 1000-1400 ALOI – PDN, BOTA, YSL
  • 1400 – 2000, additional staffing assigned to primary lanes at PDN and YSL

  • Sunday, December 29th:
  • 1000-1400 ALOI – PDN, BOTA, YSL
  • 1400 – 2000, additional staffing assigned to primary lanes at PDN and YSL

  • SENTRI lane operating hours at Stanton and YSL will remain the same