SAN DIEGO—U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials in San Diego are anticipating an increase in applications by Mexican travelers for the required I-94 permit during the Easter holiday season and spring break. Mexican border crossing card (or "laser visa") holders who plan to make an extended visit to the United States during the upcoming travel season, are urged to obtain the essential document early instead of waiting until the day of travel.
"We urge travelers to obtain the required document as much as a week or two early to avoid congestion and potential delays," said Chris Maston, director of field operations for the ports of entry on the California border with Mexico. If they apply now they will obtain the essential document faster and more conveniently. Travelers may obtain the permit 24 hours a day at both the San Ysidro and Otay Mesa ports."
All traveling family members need to be present during the I-94 application process. Those requesting the permits must be able to establish financial solvency and proof of residency outside the U.S., and must demonstrate that they have sufficiently strong ties to their country of origin including a home abroad they do not intend to abandon. Applicants who present a border crossing card (or laser visa) are not eligible to work in the United States.
CBP is also offering a number of tips to travelers to expedite the border crossing experience and ensure that they enter the country safely and without incident.
Tip #1 - Plan your trip and allow extra time for crossing the border. Members of the traveling public should consult the CBP website site to monitor border wait times. Information is updated hourly and is useful in planning trips and identifying periods of light usage and or shorter waits. Travelers may also monitor wait time information hourly for the San Ysidro border station by calling (619) 690-8999, for the Otay Mesa border station by calling (691) 671-8999 and for the Tecate border station by calling (691) 938-8300, or on your mobile Smartphone.
Tip #2 - Avoid peak travel times when at all possible. The heaviest traffic periods typically are between the hours of 5 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. daily at area ports. During periods of heavy travel, border crossers may wish to consider alternative entry routes. For example, border crossers may want to use the nearby and less heavily traveled Otay Mesa or the Tecate ports of entry instead of the San Ysidro port.
Tip #3 - Travelers should prepare for the inspection process before arriving at the inspection booth and should have their crossing documents ready to present to the CBP officer. In addition, individuals should end cellular phone conversations before arriving at the inspection booth.
Tip #4 - Declare all agriculture products such as meats, fruits, vegetables and handcraft wreaths or any other holiday decorations that may have hay or straw as an ingredient. These are not allowed into the U.S. due to possible insects and diseases that could harm the nation's agricultural industry.
Tip #5 - Be prepared to show proof of citizenship and identity to enter the United States. For U.S. citizens, this must include a Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) approved document such as a U.S. passport, U.S. passport card, trusted traveler program card (SENTRI and NEXUS), or an enhanced driver's license from participating states. Legal Permanent Residents must present their I-551 legal permanent resident card. U.S. travelers 15 years of age and younger can present just a birth certificate. For other travelers, be prepared to present a valid passport with a valid visa or Border Crossing Card/Laser Visa.
Tip #6 - Travelers should familiarize themselves with the "Know Before You Go" section of the CBP website to avoid fines and penalties associated with the importation of prohibited items. "Know Before You Go" brochures are also available at border ports.
Understand that CBP officers can inspect you and your belongings without a warrant. This may include your luggage, vehicle, and personal searches, and is meant to enforce our laws as well as protect legitimate travelers.
As the busiest land border port in the nation with 35,000-40,000 vehicles and 20,000 pedestrians daily entering the U.S. through its gates, the San Ysidro facility is one of the Southwest border stations most affected by heavy holiday I-94 processing.
CBP officials continually monitor traffic and border crossing times and will employ various traffic management operations to maintain the flow of traffic during periods of exceptionally heavy usage.