≡ Menu

How the NEXUS Frequent Traveller Program Works

The post about CANPASS Air elicited comments indicating that NEXUS might be a better deal for Canadians. So, let us look at what NEXUS offers.

What is NEXUS?

Similar to CANPASS Air, NEXUS aims to fast-track the inspection services and clearance process for low-risk, pre-approved travelers going into Canada and the US. It is a bi-national program operated as a joint initiative between the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) and US Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

One important aspect to keep in mind is that the self-serve kiosks located in the Canadian inspection area can be used by both CANPASS Air and NEXUS members, whereas the self-serve kiosks located in the US pre-clearance area are reserved for NEXUS members. In addition, Canadian and US citizens can also use their NEXUS membership cards to fulfill travel document requirements of the U.S. Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative. To elaborate, a NEXUS card may be used instead of a passport when entering the United States by air, land and sea.

What are the benefits?

NEXUS members get the following benefits:

  • Air – Able to use the automated self-serve kiosks found at designated international airports and also, the Trusted Traveler Security Line to speed up the pre-board screening process. Currently, a Trusted Traveler Trial is ongoing at the Toronto-Pearson Airport.
  • Sea – Can inform border security agents of their arrival by phoning in advance.
  • Land – Speed through the designated lanes at ports of entry.

How does one become a member?

Eligibility. The program is restricted to citizens and permanent residents of Canada and the US. Also, citizens of either country who are living in another country or those who returned recently but did not meet the three-year residency requirement are now eligible to apply due to certain changes effective June 30, 2012.

A person cannot apply for membership if they fit one of the following:

  • Inadmissible to Canada or the US under applicable immigration laws;
  • Intentionally provides inaccurate or incomplete information on the application;
  • Has a record of violation of customs, immigration or agriculture law; and,
  • Has been convicted of a serious criminal offense in any country for which a pardon has not been granted.

For other requirements, please check out the eligibility page. The same page will also provide information about children under the age of 18.

It is worth noting that both Canada and the US must clear the application for membership to be approved.

Application. Applications can be submitted online or by using a paper form. A separate form is required for every applicant and the process may take 6 to 8 weeks for completion. Relevant details are found here. There is a non-refundable processing fee of CAN$50 or US$50 per applicant aged 18 and over.

Enrollment. Once the application has been reviewed, the applicant is required to attend an interview to be conducted by a CBSA and/or CBP officer at a NEXUS Enrollment Center. The interviewing officer will review the information provided on the application including verification of identity, eligibility and original documents. Fingerprints will also be taken.

If accepted into the program, the officer will do the following:

  • Explain the terms and conditions of NEXUS;
  • Request to take a digital photograph of the member’s irises to verify identity when using the self-serve kiosks and another digital photograph of the face for the membership card; and,
  • State other necessary aspects of the program.

If you are a NEXUS member, do you find the program worth the work (application)? If you have used the Trusted Traveler Security Line, did you face any slowdowns?

About the Author: Clark works in Saskatchewan and has been working to build his (DIY) investment portfolio, structured for an early retirement. He loves reading (and using the lessons learned) about personal finance, technology and minimalism. You can read his other articles here.
If you would like to read more articles like this, you can sign up for my free newsletter service below (we will not spam you).

About the author: Clark works in Saskatchewan and has been working to build his (DIY) investment portfolio, structured for an early retirement. He loves reading (and using the lessons learned) about personal finance, technology and minimalism. You can read his other articles here.

{ 5 comments… add one }
  • Genevieve March 6, 2014, 9:47 am

    My husband and I have been a Nexus member for 6 years and we love the program. Even if we use it once a year, it’s worth it to skip the customs line-up at the airport. Plus we get to bypass the security line-up too, so that saves a lot of time. When you travel with kids, that’s worth something! The application process is fairly straightforward, the longest part was waiting for an appointment for the interview. It’s a popular program!

  • Brian March 6, 2014, 12:27 pm

    I use the NEXUS program weekly for my cross-border gas and groceries trip. It’s really nice to cross the border in less than 5 minutes. You may get pulled over for secondary inspection (random selection) from time to time, and that can take an hour to complete.

    One thing to note: It can take up to 6 months to get your NEXUS card depending on how busy your local NEXUS enrollment center is. I applied for my NEXUS card just after Christmas 2012, and couldn’t get an appointment for 5 months (May 2013).

  • Dan @ Our Big Fat Wallet March 6, 2014, 5:48 pm

    I have a colleague who uses the program and loves it. It is especially useful at bigger airports that tend to have more flights (longer lineups, delays etc). It’s also handy at land crossings between major centers. I’d say it’s a must have if you travel frequently during major holidays when lineups are the worst like Christmas, Thanksgiving and Victoria Day. If you only travel in off-peak times or in rural areas likely not worth the cost

  • TSX Trader March 6, 2014, 11:03 pm

    Yeah to add to the comments above be prepared for a bit of a wait, but once you receive approval all things are great!

  • North Island March 7, 2014, 12:27 am

    The way to minimize the wait is to check back on the GOES portal daily and look for cancellations at your nearest interview center. It helps to be flexible and check out multiple locations if you are fortunate enough to live near a couple of them. When I applied, the Vancouver NEXUS location had a five month wait, but the Seattle location had a cancellation the next week.

    You don’t have to wait until the first available appointment… you can often shave months off the time by regularly checking for opening in the GOES system.

    The main advantage of the NEXUS program for air travellers is the ability to bypass the often long, snaking security lines during peak departure times. For a $50 fee, frequent domestic or international travellers will save hundreds of hours otherwise wasted in security lines.

Leave a Comment