Using A NEXUS Card To Cross The Border

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.

Related: Redeeming Your Aeroplan Miles

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.

Related: Snowbirds – What You Need To Know

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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  1. Sustainable PF on June 27, 2011 at 6:03 am

    We were in the States for vacation in early/mid June. There were 3 cars ahead of us to get into the U.S. The border guard asked us 5 or 6 questions and we were through the lineup in about 5 minutes and his check in about 3 minutes. It wasn’t much of a hassle.

    We spent even less time re-entering Canada, but then we didn’t have to declare things.

  2. The Blunt Bean Counter on June 27, 2011 at 6:52 am

    Thanks for the step by step. My wife has been bugging me to sign up for a Nexus card and now I do not have to research what to do. One caveat with the card my friends have told me about is; dont miss any renewal and dont breach any rule, even to the smallest extent, or your card is toast.

    • Echo on June 27, 2011 at 11:15 am

      @The Blunt Bean Counter
      I agree, breaching rules of any kind is not a good practice after you have been pre-screened for 5 years.

      Good luck with your application!

  3. My University Money on June 27, 2011 at 6:59 am

    I used to work at the border when these were coming in actually. I should point out that you can still be checked at any point, even with a Nexus card. That being said, it is definitely well worth your time if you are going to be crossing at some of the bigger ports of entry.

    • Echo on June 27, 2011 at 11:22 am

      @My University Money
      Good to know. I hope that NEXUS card holders don’t start to adopt the “don’t you know who I am” mentality, which is just asking for trouble. Did you witness any of that behaviour during your time working at the border?

  4. Ross Taylor on June 27, 2011 at 7:31 am

    I can attest a Nexus card is fantastic. Everytime we bypass the Mongolian hordes waiting at US customs in the airport, we count our blessings.

    Do be careful to be meticulous about updating the Nexus office anytime there is a change in your personal circumstances. Even something innocuous like an address change.

    Not long after I got my card, I renewed my passport, and then went to travel to the USA. I was hauled over and admonished for not having advised their office of the passport change. I was told I was lucky they were not permanently removing my Nexus priviliges.

    • Echo on June 27, 2011 at 11:19 am

      @Ross Taylor
      Thanks for sharing your firsthand experience with the NEXUS card. You’re confirming what the Blunt Bean Counter had mentioned.

  5. JT on June 27, 2011 at 8:44 am

    Just a note, you don’t need to be a citizen. At the very least, for Canadians, you can also be a permanent resident and still apply for a NEXUS card.

    • Echo on June 27, 2011 at 11:16 am

      Thanks for the clarification on that point.

  6. Dee on June 27, 2011 at 7:21 pm

    Needing to have a passport as well as the nexus card defeats the purpose from my perspective as a nearly-non traveller. My bf was thinking of applying for a nexus card in lieu of having a passport because it’s slightly cheaper (and I think he thought (perhaps mistakenly) that it was an administratively lighter process). I guess there’s just no getting around needing a passport to cross the border into the US nowadays.

    • Cathy on February 23, 2012 at 6:34 pm

      Nexus members don’t have to have a passport to cross into the US by land (if you are a Canadian or US citizen) … a Nexus card is sufficient proof of citizenship. I don’t have a passport and have never had a problem going to the US … it is recommended that you carry some other proof of citizenship with you and a birth certificate would suffice.

      Any questions about Nexus should be directed to the CBSA Nexus Processing Centre at 1-800-842-7647 where we process Nexus applications (I work there).

  7. Bill on July 3, 2011 at 2:36 pm

    I got a NEXUS card about 18 months ago. It pays for itself even with one or two trips a year, let alone more. We would have missed a connecting flight due to long lines if we did not have the card – scan the eyes and go. That was worth the $50 right there, to avoid the hassle of waiting and getting on another flight.

    Recently I was in Vancouver and decided to spend the day in Washington state. Signs indicated a 90 minute wait to cross. With Nexus, less than 5 minutes (2 cars ahead of us). I saved $50 on food, gas, clothing, and a few other things I brought back!

  8. Leah on January 9, 2012 at 12:39 am

    Dee- I think your bf was probably thinking of the enhanced drivers license (EDL). The EDL is cheaper than a passport, but only allows for land and sea travel in Canada, USA, Mexico and the Carribean. The Nexus is always paired with a passport as a front of the line type card.

    • Cathy on February 23, 2012 at 6:36 pm

      Nexus is only “paired” with the passport for air travel. It can be used on it’s own for proof of citizenship by land (see my reply to Dee above)

  9. PAUL MALLETTE on February 11, 2016 at 1:01 pm

    I just renewed my passeport….. I have a Nexus card…Do I need to inform Nexus about my knew passeport???

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