Trusted traveller programs have grown exponentially over the past decade. The most common of these programs is NEXUS, which provides cardholders with expedited clearance through security screening and immigration at nearly 200 participating Canadian and U.S. airports. For frequent flyers or individuals that want to avoid long wait times, a NEXUS card is very beneficial. For immigration officials, NEXUS cardholders are deemed to be low-risk travellers. This allows officials to focus on unknown and potentially high-risk travellers.

In addition, members can enter the U.S. or Canada through a simplified entry process on land. While less common, NEXUS cardholders that cross the border by boat can announce their arrival to marine officials nearly 4 hours before they arrive. Border officials can prepare for their arrival accordingly.

Understanding the eligibility requirements, application, interview, and what to do if your membership has been rejected or cancelled can be the difference between a poor and great travel experience.

Eligibility

To be eligible for NEXUS, you must be a permanent resident or citizen of Canada or the U.S. Permanent residents must have resided in Canada or the U.S. for a minimum of three years in order to have a successful application.

Very few exemptions exist for this eligibility requirement, as immigration officials want to ensure applicants have a close connection to Canada or the U.S. If you are or a family member are an individual in the Canadian or U.S. armed forces, you may be able to receive a NEXUS card regardless of how long you have resided in Canada or the U.S.

Further, to be eligible applicants must be admissible to Canada and the U.S., provide true and complete information on their application, never have violated customs regulations, and not have been convicted of an indictable offence for Canadians, or a felony for U.S citizens.

NEXUS can be revoked if any of these requirements are breached. NEXUS cardholders, along with any individual crossing the border should always be completely truthful with immigration officials. Dishonesty and misrepresentation are taken very seriously and can violate customs regulations and immigration laws.

Application

NEXUS applications are completed online by visiting the Department of Homeland Security Trusted Travel Programs webpage. It is important that you answer every question truthfully. Failure to complete immigration documentation truthfully can result in your application being rejected and further discipline if warranted.

Applicants will need to list their personal information, including official documentation (passport, driver’s license, etc.), employment information, and travel history. Every individual must fill out a unique application, including children. However, the $50 processing fee will not apply to individuals under the age of 18.

Processing time varies depending on when in the year you submitted the application. For some, the application can be conditionally approved within weeks, while for others it can take months. Plan for between 3-5 months of processing time before a trip to ensure you receive your NEXUS membership in time. An application can be expedited in very specific circumstances. Winter months have traditionally been the best time to apply.

Interview

Once an application is conditionally approved, applicants must book an in-person interview at a port of entry to both verify the information listed and have their biometrics collected (fingerprint and iris scans). It can take days or weeks to book an appointment depending on which enrolment centre you go to.

In the interview, expect to answer questions related to your application and why you are interested in a NEXUS card. With the recent legalization of cannabis in Canada, it is important to note that taking cannabis across Canada’s national border is illegal, whether you are entering or leaving Canada. Also, receiving or sending cannabis into, or out of Canada by mail or courier is also illegal. The officer may ask about your use of and involvement with the substance.

Approval will be given at the interview. It can take up to two weeks for your NEXUS card to be mailed to you. Once you receive your card, you are able to benefit from your NEXUS status, and move through immigration ports quickly.

Revoking a NEXUS Card and Recourse

In some cases, immigration officials will reject your application or revoke your NEXUS card. This can happen based on inaccurate information, a breach of customs regulations, or improper use of your NEXUS status. Fortunately, you can appeal these decisions to the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA).

To request a review of your NEXUS decision, you can either submit an appeal online or in writing. This request must be filed within 90 days from the date of rejection or cancellation. In the appeal, you will be able to state the reason for your request for review and should list all reasons why you believe the decision should be reversed. Individuals can elect to hire a representative to help with their appeal. Acquiring legal counsel can help ensure that you retain your NEXUS status.