If you frequently travel between Canada and the United States you have probably grown accustomed to the long line-ups and delays at airports and border crossings.  Security measures have heightened since 9/11, and many travellers have become frustrated with the new screening process.  Travellers seeking to expedite the border clearance process should look into using a NEXUS card to cross the border.

NEXUS is a joint venture between the Canada Border Services Agency and U.S. Customs and Border Protection to simplify border crossings for card holders while enhancing security.

Applying for a NEXUS Card

Any Canadian or U.S. citizen can apply for the NEXUS card as long as they can pass criminal history and law enforcement checks in both countries.  Children under the age of 18 may also apply for a NEXUS card with their parents’ consent.

After you complete and submit the application form you will be invited to make an appointment to visit a NEXUS enrollment centre for an interview.  The information that you provide on your application will be used to determine your eligibility for the program.  The application process takes approximately six to eight weeks.

There is a non-refundable application fee of $50 for a 5 year membership card.

You can apply online here using the Global Online Enrollment System.

The Interview Process

Once the initial processing of your application is completed, a full interview will take place at a NEXUS enrollment centre.

Canadian citizens will be interviewed by a U.S. CBP officer.  If you currently reside in the United States, you will be interviewed by a CBSA officer.  During your interview the officer will:

  • explain the terms and conditions of NEXUS;
  • review the information that you provided on your application form to make sure it is still valid;
  • verify your identity and review original documents such as proof of citizenship and residency documents, work permits and visas;
  • ensure that you meet all of the eligibility requirements for membership;
  • take your fingerprints;
  • take a digital photograph of your irises to verify your identity each time you enter Canada or the United States in the air mode of transportation using the self-serve kiosks;
  • take a digital photograph of your face;
  • explain the Traveller Declaration Card process (for Canadian residents only); and
  • explain how to cross the border in the land, air and marine modes of transportation using your NEXUS card and, where possible, show you how to use the self-serve kiosks in the air mode.

Benefits of Using a NEXUS Card

Travellers using the NEXUS card have pre-approval when entering Canada or the United States at all participating NEXUS air, land and marine ports of entry.

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NEXUS card holders are identified at land border crossings by presenting their cards for scanning and at airport kiosks by undergoing a retinal recognition scan – a process that only takes a few seconds.

  • Travellers holding the NEXUS card have quicker, less involved border crossings using automated NEXUS self-serve kiosks at participating international airports.
  • At land border crossings, drivers may bypass line-ups and use the special NEXUS card lanes.
  • By water, card holders can report to border officials by phone in advance of arrival.

NEXUS members also enjoy a much easier way to pay for duty and taxes upon their return to Canada.  After your visit to the United States you will simply key in the amount you spent on your trip, and any duty that happens to be due will be calculated automatically and billed to your credit card that you have on file with NEXUS.  You won’t need to make any additional calculations or payments.

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Tips For NEXUS Card Holders

If travelling with a group or family, all members need to have the NEXUS card to use the designated NEXUS line-up.  The border guard may wave you on if he can see that all passengers have a NEXUS card but be prepared to stop and have all NEXUS passes inspected for their validity.

Although NEXUS card holders will not be asked to show their passports at border crossings, technically they are supposed to have passports with them.  NEXUS card holders can still be pulled over and searched.

If your NEXUS cards are fairly recent and have RFID embedded into them the signal will automatically be picked up at the kiosk.

A Hassle Free Way To Travel?

Even if you only travel across the border twice a year, at $50 for five years, the NEXUS card may be well worth your while.

Many Canadians enjoy driving down to the U.S. to shop and take advantage of our strong loonie.  And for frequent business travellers, using a NEXUS card to cross the border seems like a great solution to avoid long line-ups and wait times.

As security becomes more of a priority at border crossings, getting screened and pre-approved for travel makes a lot of sense.  You’ll save yourself plenty of time and frustration in the long run.

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