DHS TRIP Inquiries

 

Introduction

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) runs the Traveler Redress Inquiry Program (TRIP). The DHS website describes the program as “a single point of contact for individuals who have inquiries or seek resolution regarding difficulties they experienced during their travel screening at transportation hubs — like airports — or crossing U.S. borders” [PDF version]. In this article, we will discuss the DHS TRIP with references to the information from the DHS website.

Who is DHS TRIP For?

The DHS explains on its main TRIP page that TRIP is for the following individuals:

People who have been denied or delayed airline boarding;
People who have been denied or delayed entry into or exit from the United States at a port of entry or border crossing; or
People who have been repeatedly referred to additional (secondary) screening.

On a separate page, the DHS addresses in more details when using DHS TRIP Is appropriate [PDF version].

First, the DHS lists several travel-related issues for which travelers can use DHS TRIP to seek information or redress.

General Travel Issues

DHS TRIP may be appropriate in cases when the traveler was unable to print a boarding pass from an airline ticketing kiosk or from the internet. DHS TRIP can be used by travelers who were denied or delayed boarding. A traveler may use DHS TRIP if a ticket agent “called someone” before handing him or her a boarding pass. Travelers who were told that (1) their fingerprints were of incorrect or poor quality; (2) their photo did not match their travel document; (3) their personal information was incomplete or inaccurate; or (4) they are on the no-fly list may use DHS TRIP to seek further guidance.

Travel Issues of Special Interest in Immigration Context

DHS TRIP is recommended in several specifically immigration-related contexts. First, a traveler who wants to “amend a traveler record because of an overstay as a result of not submitting the required [Form] I-94 when exiting the United States” may make an inquiry through DHS TRIP. Second, DHS TRIP may be used by travelers to ensure that their biometric record in the DHS Security Systems is corrected, if it is inaccurate. If a traveler believes that he or she was unfairly denied entry into the United States, he or she may make an inquiry through DHS TRIP.

Screening and Detention Issues

Travelers who believe that they were unfairly detained during travel may use DHS TRIP. Finally, DHS TRIP may be used generally to address cases in which the traveler believes that the U.S. government's record of his or her personal information is inaccurate.

DHS TRIP is not for complaints about mishandled bags or poor customer service. The DHS website has other forms for filing those types of complaints.

Information About DHS Screening and Watchlists

The DHS TRIP page covering cases in which DHS TRIP is appropriate and cases in which it is not includes additional information about terrorist watchlists and screening.

The terrorist watchlist itself is maintained by the Terrorist Screening Center (TSC). The DHS administers the TSC in conjunction with several other Federal departments and agencies. The terrorist watchlist is broken into two sublists: (1) The “No Fly” List; and (2) The “Selectee” list. If a traveler receives a boarding pass, he or she is not on the No Fly list.

The DHS explains that the names of individuals on the terror watchlists are not public knowledge. It stated that most people who believe that they are experiencing delays due to being on the terrorist watchlist are not actually on the watchlist. Specfiically, “[n]inety-nine percent of individuals who apply for redress are not on the terrorist watchlist, but are misidentified as people who are.”

The DHS explained that “[m]any factors” go into designating certain travelers for secondary screening. These factors are not public. Travelers who have been selected for secondary screening multiple times may make an inquiry with DHS TRIP.

Using DHS TRIP

The DHS website includes a page specifically on how to use DHS TRIP [PDF version].

Complaints can be filed on the DHS website at trip.dhs.gov. Travelers may submit any necessary documents by email or by regular mail. The DHS cautions that “[s]ubmitting documents via mail will result in slower processing.” Although the DHS recommends completing the DHS TRIP form online, users can access the DHS TRIP Traveler Inquiry Form online and submit the inquiry via regular mail.

The email address for sending documents is Trip@dhs.gov.

The mail address for mailing documents is:

DHS Traveler Redress Inquiry Program (DHS TRIP)
601 S. 12th St. TSA-901
Arlington, VA 20598-6901

The DHS cautions users who use the regular mail option to not send original documents. Documents sent to the DHS cannot be returned.

Users should carefully follow the form instructions when completing the application, including regarding sending documents either by email or by regular mail.

Users may contact DHS TRIP to file a complaint on behalf of another individual. In order to do so, the user must complete and mail the DHS TRIP Authorization to Release Information to Another Person.

Required Documents

The DHS page on using DHS TRIP includes a list of required documents for any TRIP inquiry. These documents are required in order to ensure that DHS can confirm the identity of the individual filing the inquiry.

United States Citizens

U.S. citizens should submit a copy of an unexpired U.S. passport. Those who do not have U.S. passports should instead submit documentation from the forthcoming list of documents. In the case of a U.S. citizen under the age of 18, “a copy of either a certified birth certificate or a passport is the only identification document required.”

Non-Citizens

Noncitizens should provide copies of the biographical pages in their unexpired passport/identification document, and/or copies of available documents from the forthcoming list.

List of Acceptable Identification Documents

The DHS provided the following list of acceptable identification documents:

Passport
Passport card
Driver's license
Birth certificate (only for individuals under the age of 18)
Military identification card
Government identification card (federal/state/local number)
Certificate of citizenship
Naturalization certificate
Immigrant/non-immigrant visa
Alien registration
Petition or claim receipt
I-94 admission form
FAST card
CENTRI card
NEXUS card
Border crossing card
SEVIS card

In general, the information provided will only be used to process the individual's request for redress. DHS TRIP will share the information within the DHS and outside the DHS with other government components, as necessary, to resolve the request. DHS may share the information with airlines or other third parties only insofar as it is necessary to implement the redress resolution.

The DHS may, in very limited reasons, share submitted information for reasons not related to redress. The DHS provided the following examples:

If the person were to submit information indicating illegal activity, such as providing a fraudulent passport or driver's license.
“[I]nformation may be shared with the National Archives and Records Administration for proper handling of government records or when specifically relevant to litigation involving the federal government or when necessary to protect the person who provided the information from the harm of identity theft in the case of a data breach affecting the system.”

After Filing an Inquiry With DHS TRIP

The DHS website provides information for what happens after an individual files an inquiry with DHS TRIP [PDF version].

Sending Documents

After filing a DHS TRIP inquiry, the individual will be asked to submit the requisite identification documents. Individuals who file online will be asked to provide supporting documentation within 30 days of filing the inquiry.

When submitting documents via email at TRIP@dhs.gov, applicants must bear in mind that attachments exceeding 10 MB will be rejected. If the attachments will exceed this size limit, the DHS asks for individuals to “send separate e-mails with attachments using the same subject line.”

In the case that the documents are sent by regular mail, the DHS advises that “it may take 10-15 business days to receive [the] submission due to federal government mail screening requirements.”

Once DHS TRIP has received the requisite documentation, it will move onto processing the request.

Redress Control Number

Once an individual submits a DHS TRIP Traveler Inquiry Form, the DHS TRIP system will automatically assign the individual a Redress Control Number. The Redress Control Number serves several purposes:

The Redress Control Number can be used to track the status of the inquiry.
Once the inquiry is completed, the Redress Control Number can be used by the individual in making an airline reservation. The DHS explains that the individual can provide his or her Redress Control Number when requested by his or her travel arranger or airline representative, or when prompted by an interactive reservation system. It further explains that “[t]his will enable [the traveler's] airline to determine quickly [his or her] identity and reduce the likelihood of mistaken identity during future trips.

If an individual misplaces his or her Redress Control Number, he or she may contact TRIP@dhs.gov to recover it. The individual must provide his or her full name, date of birth, gender, and city/state of residence.

Individuals who do not have a Redress Control Number should leave the field for the number blank when prompted by an airline or travel site [PDF version].

Tracking the DHS TRIP Inquiry

The DHS will send a determination letter in the mail when a DHS TRIP inquiry has been received.

The status of the inquiry can be tracked at trip.dhs.gov/TRIP/Home/CaseStatus. The user will need his or her Redress Control Number to make use of this feature.

Travelers whose status indicates “Pending Paperwork” or “No Paperwork” should have received a letter from DHS TRIP “describing the additional information needed to complete [the] case review.” A traveler with this status who has not received such a letter should contact DHS TRIP at TRIP@dhs.gov — and include his or her Redress Control Number in the mail. The traveler may also send a letter by regular mail to:

DHS Traveler Redress Inquiry Program (DHS TRIP)
601 S. 12th Street, TSA-901
Arlington, VA 20598-6901

There is a slight delay between filing the complaint and the availability of updated status information. For online filers, “updated status information should be available online within 7-10 days.” For those who send their DHS TRIP request and/or additional documentation by regular mail, “DHS TRIP may not adjust or create an accurate status update for 10-15 days after the documentation is mailed.”

After Resolving the Issue

DHS TRIP cannot confirm or deny any information about filers that may be within federal watch lists. DHS TRIP also cannot reveal any sensitive law enforcement-sensitive information. The DHS makes clear that “DHS TRIP may not resolve all of your travel-related concerns in the future.”

A traveler who completes the redress process through DHS TRIP may still be selected for enhanced screening “based on a variety of factors, or at random.” Thus, while DHS TRIP may help travelers who are selected for enhanced screening or experience other related problems, it does not guarantee that the traveler will not be selected for enhanced screening or subjected to other similar scrutiny during travel.

Conclusion

DHS TRIP is a useful tool for travelers who experience enhanced screening or other delays on a consistent basis. In some cases, the DHS may discover that a traveler is being subjected to enhanced screening or other restrictions based on agency error or a case of mistaken identity. However, DHS TRIP does not guarantee a positive outcome for the traveler, only that DHS will examine the case.

As we noted, DHS TRIP is recommended in several situations that are specifically relevant to non-citizens. These include for amending a traveler record because of an overstay and not submitting the required Form I-94 upon exiting the United States, correcting a biometric record, or seeking redress for unfair detention or denial of entry. In the immigration context, an individual may also consult with an experienced immigration attorney for case-specific guidance, including on whether filing a DHS TRIP inquiry may be helpful and on other options. This is especially important in cases where an alien violates his or her status or is having trouble entering the United States with a valid visa.