If you’re looking to skip the check-in line when crossing the U.S. border, you may be in luck — starting this week, Canada’s Nexus application centres are reopening at eight major airports.
The Nexus trusted-traveller program will fully ramp up within five weeks, the federal government said Monday, after application centres in the country were shuttered for nearly a year in Canada during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) said in an email that the pause resulted in a backlog of around 269,000 applicants currently waiting to be processed. New applications can take 12 to 14 months to process, including the initial risk assessment, according to a spokesperson.
Here’s what you need to know:
What is Nexus?
The Nexus program speeds up border crossings between Canada and the U.S. for “low-risk, pre-approved travellers,” according to the CBSA. It’s run by the CBSA alongside U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
Nexus memberships last for five years and carry a non-refundable $50 (U.S.) application processing fee. Members of a family each need their own membership, although children under 18 are free.
Perks when entering Canada include: Nexus kiosks and gates at nine international airports, TSA pre-check lines at over 200 U.S. airports, dedicated lanes at 21 land border crossings, Nexus gates at Ontario’s Peace Bridge and Ambassador Bridges and expedited clearance through Canadian security screening lines where available.
Privileges when going to the U.S. include: global entry kiosks in eight Canadian airports, dedicated lanes at 16 land border crossings and faster processing at all marine crossings.
Who is eligible for Nexus?
Nexus is open to Canadian citizens, Canadian permanent residents, U.S. citizens, U.S. lawful permanent residents and Mexican nationals who are members of the Viajero Confiable program.
To qualify for permanent residency in Canada or the U.S., one must be a legal resident of either country for at least three years. Exceptions may be made for certain members of the armed forces or the family of individuals on a diplomatic mission.
People convicted of a serious criminal offence in any country who haven’t yet been pardoned are ineligible for Nexus. Applicants must pass background and criminal record checks to qualify.
Other requirements include providing truthful and complete information on the application and not violating customs, agricultural or immigration laws.
How can I apply for Nexus?
The program no longer takes paper applications; those eligible must apply through the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s “Trusted Traveller Portal.”
First, create an account on login.gov, a sign-in service used by certain U.S. government agencies. Next, navigate to the Trusted Traveller Portal and select the Nexus pass from the five available options.
You’ll be prompted for your login.gov information. After you sign in with your account, fill in the form and send it off. Once the program conditionally approves your application, you will be invited to an interview with Canadian and U.S. border authorities — check your Trusted Traveller Programs System account for the invite.
Children under 18 must be accompanied by their parent, legal guardian or another adult during their interview.
How did Nexus interviews change?
Starting this week, there are now three options for conditionally approved applicants to complete their interview:
- Like before, applicants can complete a joint interview by U.S. and Canadian border staff at a U.S.-based enrolment location.
- Applicants can choose to do one interview with Canadian border security at one of eight major Canadian airports, followed by a separate interview with U.S. authorities at an enrolment centre at the Canadian border.
Where can I interview for Nexus in Canada?
Starting this week, applicants can book interviews for the following dates at the specified airports:
- Halifax Stanfield International Airport (YHZ)
- Winnipeg James Armstrong Richardson International Airport (YWG)
- Vancouver International Airport (YVR)
- Calgary International Airport (YYC)
- Edmonton International Airport (YEG)
- Montreal-Trudeau International Airport (YUL)
- Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ)
- Ottawa Macdonald-Cartier International Airport (YOW)
How can I renew my Nexus card?
If your five-year membership is almost up or expired, you can renew through the same Trusted Travellers Portal — though you’ll have to pay another $50 (U.S.) fee.
If there are no changes to your personal information and nothing changed to impact your eligibility, you may not need an interview.
Although renewals previously took about 30 days to process, there are currently long wait times for interviews due to the large backlog of applicants.
Why was Nexus closed in Canada?
Although Nexus enrolment centres have been open in the U.S. since May 2022, Canada’s centres have stayed shut until now — partly due to a clash over the “legal authority” of U.S. border staff in Canadian locations.
In January, the two authorities came to a compromise: Canadian border agents will now interview applicants separately from their U.S. counterparts, instead of working together like they did before the pandemic.