NEXUS Card Guide – Why should you get it?

I’ve had a Nexus card for several years. In my opinion, my nexus card improves your travel experience tremendously, perhaps second only to lie-flat beds in business/first class. However, I was surprised by how many of my friends didn’t have NEXUS. Hopefully, this guide will explain why you should get NEXUS and the application process. NEXUS is jointly administered by the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and as the government puts it, is designed to “expedite the border clearance process for low-risk, pre-approved travellers into Canada and the United States”.

Nexus Card Logo

Nexus Logo

Applying for Nexus

To be eligible for NEXUS, you have to be a permanent resident or citizen of the US or Canada. The NEXUS website also states the following cases for inadmissibility:

  • you are inadmissible to Canada or the United States under applicable immigration laws;
  • you intentionally provide false or incomplete information on your application;
  • you have been convicted of a serious criminal offence in any country for which you have not received a pardon (for U.S. background checks you may be questioned about your full criminal history, including arrests and pardons, which may exclude you from NEXUS);
  • you have a recorded violation of customs, immigration or agriculture law; or
  • you fail to meet other requirements of NEXUS.

The NEXUS application can be completed through the GOES website. It will ask for quite personal information including employment and residency history going back 5 years. Some travellers may not like voluntarily giving their personal information and data to the government, but as a frequent traveller, I don’t mind that at all.

The system will perform a background check, and if you’re conditionally approved you’d go into a NEXUS enrolment center to finalize details and answer any questions the immigration authorities may have, as well as take an iris scan and your fingerprints. Appointment slots are often difficult to get, so check often to snag one. You can do this at major Canadian airports and many locations near the Canada/US border.

Once you’re approved, you’ll receive your very own NEXUS Card.

Sample Nexus Card

Sample Nexus Card

Nexus Card Benefits

NEXUS allows you to use self-serve kiosks in many Canadian and US airports to clear immigration, as well as priority security. Members are also now able to keep their jackets, shoes, and belts on, as well as keep liquids in their bags at the airports in Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal, and Calgary when on flights to the US. That counts when you’ve got long security and immigration lines. At Vancouver Airport (YVR), that’s actually not that much of an issue since US pre-clearance and international arrivals have automated passport kiosks, but at most other airports, there’s a huge time savings to be had.

The best part the kiosks will just spit out a form for you to hand to a border security agent. I’ve heard many stories about the delightfulness of Canadian and American immigration, and not having to talk to them in most cases other than “Thank You” is tremendously useful. I also hate waiting (who doesn’t?), so “cutting” the line at security and immigration in Canada and the US is really satisfying and convenient.

Nexus Card Kiosks

Nexus Kiosks

Surprisingly enough, I’ve found the travel benefits that you get in the US to be as, if not more, useful than what the card does in Canada. The miles and points world is centered around the United States, especially if you live in Canada. I can’t think of a trip in the past few years where I haven’t had a connection or stopover in the US. That might not be the case for you, but at the very least should reduce a bit of the annoyance associated with security and immigration at American airports.

Having a NEXUS Card will get you TSA Precheck, which allows you to go through streamlined security procedures on your domestic and transborder flights with select airlines, as well as Global Entry, allowing you to clear immigration via automated kiosks and is faster than standing in a Non-US Citizen line. Canadian citizens can’t apply for Precheck or Global Entry directly, so NEXUS is the only way to get it. Note that American nationals who can apply for Global Entry can get their cost reimbursed with certain elite statuses and/or American credit cards, while NEXUS can’t be reimbursed.

NEXUS costs $50 to apply for, and the card is valid for five years. Even if you’re only travelling three or four times a year, the cost per trip is at most a few dollars. I’ve saved many hours being able to clear Canadian and American immigration with NEXUS, and haven’t had to worry about making a tight connection in the US, which I know many travellers dread. The cherry on top is that travellers under 18 can apply for free! That means all immature young’uns minors have absolutely no excuse not to apply. 😉

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Comments

  1. I forgot but does Nexus also get you Sentri or the other way around? Im not sure where i read that or something similar.

    Im a Canadian who lives in San Diego. so I often cross the land border to tijuana and once in a while fly back to Canada.

  2. Be sure to update your Nexus profile information in case any of your personal information changes.

    For example, my passport expired last year, and I didn’t know that replacement passports come with new passport numbers (unlike, say, your driver’s license which always has the same number no matter how many times you renew it). I neglected to update my passport number on the Nexus site after I received the new passport, which resulted in me being flagged for secondary screening at the airport just prior to a recent flight. I was told by US TSA agents that they have the power to revoke my Nexus card after even one such infraction. I kissed their asses as it is usually prudent to do when being screened, and they let me off the hook, but new Nexus members beware…

  3. Great post, Jeff. I’ve had my NEXUS card for three years and it’s one of my favourite travel tools. I love it for all the advantages you’ve mentioned. Another benefit is that it’s forced me to pay closer attention to what I carry or purchase so there are no oversights on a customs declaration or answers to questions at a kiosk. The bar is set really high for trusted travellers, and I’d hate to have my card confiscated during a random check where there’s zero tolerance for mistakes. I recently stumbled on a post from a trade lawyer with examples of when travellers have lost their NEXUS privileges: http://tradelawyersblog.com/blog/article/canadians-living-in-border-cities-at-risk-for-nexus-pass-confiscations/

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