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NEXUS for U.S. Travel

Updated: Nov 12, 2022  | Tags: NEXUS, ESTA Experience

This article provides information to readers on what NEXUS is, its many benefits, and how to apply for the program. NEXUS can be used by visitors arriving in the United States under the Visa Waiver Program. An application for an ESTA or U.S. visa can be submitted before or after applying for NEXUS as the processes are independent from one another. Using NEXUS with an approved ESTA can expedite a traveler's experience.

What is NEXUS and how does it work?

The NEXUS pass is a border crossing card that aims to speed up the border crossing process between the United States and Canada. It promises expedited travel at these border crossings for certain pre-identified low-risk US and Canadian citizens. Members are allowed to use NEXUS as an air card when they fly from Canada to the United States or vice versa.

The NEXUS card was specially developed to help expedite the border crossing process between the United States and Canada for pre-approved, low-risk travelers. NEXUS members are able to bypass the normal queues of travelers and join a special customs/security line when they wish to enter either country. These lines are normally a lot shorter, and the process goes a lot faster.

This is because NEXUS members have the benefit of dedicated processing lanes when they cross the border at designated border posts between the two countries. When they enter Canada by air, for example, there are specific NEXUS kiosks they can use and when they enter the US from Canada via an approved preclearance airport there are special Global Entry Kiosks. NEXUS members also enjoy faster processing times at marine border crossings.

What are the benefits of NEXUS?

People who have been approved to join the NEXUS program are issued with a radio frequency identification card. They can then use these when crossing the border between Canada and the United States, provided they do so at a designated NEXUS port of entry. The list of approved ports of entry includes various land, air, and marine border crossings.

Being a member of the NEXUS program enables members to drastically reduce the waiting time at any of the designated ports of entry for the following reasons:

  • They can use a dedicated processing lane at any of these border crossings
  • When entering Canada from the USA, they are able to use special NEXUS kiosks
  • When entering the USA from Canada, they are allowed to use special Global Entry Kiosks
  • If they want to enter the country at a marine border crossing, they are able to call a marine telephone reporting center to report their arrival in either Canada or the United States.

Apart from that, NEXUS members can also use their membership card in place of a passport when they travel from Canada to the U.S. or vice versa. Take note, however, that when entering the United States by air from Canada, you can only use a NEXUS card at Canadian airports where there is a U.S. pre-clearance area. If there is no such area at the airport, you will still need your passport if you want to join the NEXUS processing lane.

Who will benefit from using a NEXUS card?

Although it has many features in common with Global ENTRY, the NEXUS card could be a better choice for someone who:

  • Travels with one or more children. This is because minors under the age of 18 can get a NEXUS card for free, while Global Entry costs the same for everyone, irrespective of his or her age.
  • Travels regularly between the United States and Canada by land, air, or sea.
  • Does not own a travel rewards credit card that will refund his or her Global Entry membership fee. NEXUS is about 50% cheaper than Global Entry, so if you have to bear the cost yourself, NEXUS will most likely be the cheaper option.

Who is eligible to join the NEXUS Program?

Citizens of both the United States and Canada are eligible to join the NEXUS program. The list includes lawful permanent residents of both countries, as well as citizens of Mexico who belong to Viajero Confiable, that country’s Trusted Traveler program. Individuals who are under the age of 18 need a parent or guardian’s consent before they can join the NEXUS program.

The following reasons might disqualify you from participating in the NEXUS Program:

  • You provided incomplete or false information on the NEXUS application form
  • Were found guilty of violating any immigration, customs, or agriculture laws and/or regulations in any country.
  • You have been found guilty of any criminal offense, or criminal charges are pending against you.
  • There are outstanding warrants against you, including a warrant for driving a vehicle while under the influence.
  • You have been pardoned for a criminal offense in any country.
  • You are currently the subject of an active investigation by local, state, or federal law enforcement agencies.
  • You have tried to buy a firearm and been denied permission.
  • You are not admissible to the United States under that country’s immigration regulations. This includes applicants with parole documentation or approved inadmissibility waivers.
  • You are unable to satisfy CBSA or CBP that you are a low-risk case.

Please also take note of the following: Your NEXUS application has to be approved by both Canada and the United States. If either of these countries denies the application, you will not be able to participate in the NEXUS program.

How to apply for NEXUS Membership?

As we’ve explained above, NEXUS was specially created to speed up the border crossing process between Canada and the United States for previously approved, low-risk travelers. By paying a single flat fee, NEXUS members enjoy special crossing privileges at land, air, and marine ports of entry that partake in the program.

With NEXUS, the CBSA (Canada Border Services Agency) and the CBP (U.S. Customs and Border Protection) have joined forces to make border crossings simpler for members, while at the same time improving border security.

For those who want to apply for NEXUS membership, the procedure is fairly straightforward:

  1. Start by visiting the TTP (Trusted Travelers Programs) website
  2. Make sure that you meet the eligibility criteria
  3. Make sure that you are admissible in both the United States and Canada
  4. Send in the application and pass through the registration process
  5. Pass the relevant risk assessments by both the United States and Canada
  6. There is a $50 USD or $50 CAD non-refundable application processing fee per adult. Payment has to be made when you apply. Applicants are currently advised to rather apply online since paper applications might soon no longer be available.
  7. Children who are not yet 18 years old must also apply. If they qualify, they will become NEXUS members free of charge.
  8. If your NEXUS application is approved, you will be issued a photo ID card. This will enable you to use the dedicated lanes at border crossings without being subject to the normal immigration and customs questioning.
  9. Once your membership has been approved, it will remain valid for a period of 5 years.

More information is available on the NEXUS Program page.

What happens after applying for NEXUS?

Once the United States and Canada have completed their risk assessments, you will be sent an email notification that can be viewed on your TTP account’s dashboard. When you get this notification, it means that you have been ‘conditionally approved.’ You then have to arrange an interview at one of the NEXUS enrollment centers to finalize the application process.

If this interview is successful, and you are approved for NEXUS membership, the next step is to have your iris captured so you will be able to use a NEXUS kiosk if you want to enter Canada. At this stage, you can only have your iris captured at specific airports. The list currently includes Toronto, Vancouver, Ottawa, Montreal, Edmonton, Calgary, Halifax, and Winnipeg.

The alternative is to go to one of the dedicated land enrollment centers that can be found throughout the United States.