How to apply for a Nexus card as Canada deals with backlog

How to apply for a Nexus card as Canada deals with backlog

The benefits of the Nexus program include reduced wait times at designated airports and land borders thanks to dedicated lanes and kiosks.J.P. MOCZULSKI/Tausi Insider

What is a Nexus card, and how do you apply for one?

Nexus is an immigration program aimed at facilitating travel from Canada to the U.S. for pre-approved travellers. After an application process, travellers receive a Nexus card that they can use at land, marine and air borders to cross more quickly and efficiently into the other country.

The benefits of the Nexus program include reduced waiting times at designated airports and land borders thanks to dedicated lanes and kiosks. A Nexus card can be used instead of other travel documents at locations that allow it, but it is recommended to bring a passport or permanent resident card as well in case proof of citizenship or residence status is required.

Who can apply for a Nexus card?

To apply to the Nexus program, travellers must be approved by both the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

Applicants who pass a comprehensive background check and have no disqualifying criminal history are invited to visit an enrolment centre to finalize their membership and complete two interviews, one with a customs officer from the U.S. and another with a Canadian one. Nexus memberships are valid for five years and the application costs US$50 for anyone over 18 years old.

What is causing the Nexus application backlog?

At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Canada and the U.S. closed their Nexus enrolment centres, effectively putting interviews for new applicants on hold indefinitely. In November, 2021, U.S. customs reopened Nexus enrolment centres on their side of the border, but a dispute between the two countries has caused Canadian centres to remain closed.

The dispute, which stems from Canada and the U.S. failing to agree on legal protections for U.S. CBP officers who work in Canada, resulted in a current backlog of about 274,000 applicants.

In an effort to tackle the backlog, Canada and the U.S. introduced a pilot workaround last year allowing Canadian applicants to have their interviews at two land border points in Ontario: one near Kingston and one at Fort Erie.

In a joint statement on Jan. 10, Canada and the U.S. said this measure and others had reduced the net backlog of applicants by 100,000.

What is the current state of the Nexus backlog?

Canada and the U.S. remain at odds on the dispute, but they announced a new workaround deal at the North American Leaders’ Summit in January, informally known as the Three Amigos Summit.

The workaround solution would allow Canadian Nexus applicants to conduct their Canadian interview at a set of Canadian airports before boarding a flight to the U.S. After clearing U.S. customs at the Canadian airport, applicants would head into a U.S. customs office to complete their American Nexus interview.

“We expect a new enrollment option for air travellers to be available by the spring that will include CBSA interviews at reopened enrollment centers in Canada and separate CBP interviews in Canadian airport preclearance locations for departing applicants,” the two countries said in a statement.

More details about the workaround solution will be announced shortly, the two countries said.

How to apply for a Nexus card

Despite the backlog causing long waiting times for interviews, some travellers may wish to submit new Nexus applications. To do so, Canadians must fill out their applications online on the Trusted Traveller Programs System.

As part of the application, travellers must upload a digital copy of their proof of citizenship, and driver’s licence if applicable, and supply four years of history of residential addresses and places of employment. Additionally, applicants must provide a list of countries other than the U.S., Canada, and Mexico they have travelled to in the past four years.

Once approved, applicants will be invited to complete their interviews at an enrolment centre. Because of Canada’s closed enrolment centres, the waiting times for interviews are long. Tausi Insider reached out to Canada Border Services Agency for an estimate but had not received it at the time of publication.

What alternatives to Nexus do travellers have?

Some Canadian citizens heading for the U.S. without a Nexus card can use another program, called Mobile Passport Control (MPC) to speed up their airport experience.

MPC allows eligible travellers to submit their passport information and customs declaration through an application on their phone ahead of time, allowing them to use a designated line to go through U.S. customs, typically ensuring shorter waiting times and less congestion.

MPC is available at three Canadian airports: Montreal Trudeau International Airport, Toronto Pearson International Airport, and Vancouver International Airport. Another 31 U.S. international airports support MPC, as well as four seaports of entry.

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