Introduction 

 For those who travel between Canada and the US on a regular basis, and that are citizens or permanent residents of either country, are eligible to apply for the NEXUS program.  NEXUS is a joint Canada/US program designed to speed up travel for low risk travellers between the two countries.  Participants are generally not subject to the regular questioning by border officals.  The program is fully integrated and extends to travelling by air, land, or sea into both countries at applicable ports of entry.  You should note NEXUS is offered only at major airports and border crossings. 

Application and eligibility 

If you are a permanent resident or citizen of Canada or the US you can apply to the NEXUS program.  There is a non-refunable application fee of CDN $ 50 fee (if applying by paper and mailing in the application) or US $ 50 if applying online via the US CBP GOES website. Children under 18 must have a seperate application but the application fees are waived.   The eligibility criteria is fairly stringent  and both countries have to approve your application before you can be admitted to the program.  You can be deemed ineligible if you have been convicted of a criminal or immigration offence in either country, submit false information on your application or if you are not deemed a low-risk traveller by either country.

Once you have submitted your application and paid your fee, it could upwards of 6 weeks for the authorities to process your application. Once approved, you will either be invited by letter or by online notification (depending on how you applied) to an interview at a NEXUS enrollment centre and to bring along the original documents you used to support your application.

Note - If you wish to be enrolled into the air traveller side (NEXUS Air) of the program.  It is suggested to schedule an interview at an airport enrollment centre.

You will then be interviewed by the authorities of both countries who will then explain to you the rules of the program, take a photograph of you, a fingerprint and iris scan (at an airport location).  Once all is done, they will either mail you your card or be issued one on the spot. Your card is valid for a period of five years after which you re-apply to the program.

Benefits

Once you are enrolled in the program you are automatically eligible for many of the expedited and trusted traveller programs offered by both Canada and the United States.  As a member you are eligible for participation in the US Global Entry program, the TSA Pre program which offers expedited passenger security screening at major US airports.  Air travellers should enter the NEXUS card number when they book their air travel prior to travelling to avoid potential problems.  

For entry into Canada, members can use dedicated NEXUS Air kiosks at major airports (you must have a iris scan at an enrollment centre first).  You can use the kiosks if you are returning to Canada from anywhere in the world.   As in the United States, members are also eligible for expedited screening at CATSA security checkpoints at major Canadian airports.  These dedicated express lanes are only open at peak travel times.  

There are NEXUS lanes offered at busy land crossings with varying hours depending which one you use.  As those travellers are not subject to the routine screening process for regular travellers they can get through the border fairly quickly.  On a holiday weekend, NEXUS members could expect to wait about 30 minutes (sometimes longer) to cross the border versus wait times of 2 hours or longer for regular travellers.  You can still use the NEXUS lane if you're driving a rented vehicle provided you have permission to take the vehicle across the border.  Of course, you are responsible for anything customs might find in that vehicle should they search it.   

General rules, regulations, and compliance

Note - this is not an exhaustive list of rules and regulations for the program.  It is up to the individual traveller to be fully familiar with the border crossing rules of both countries.  Here are some of the basics and most of these will be explained to you at the interview.

If you're going by land, all people in the vehicle with you (including children) must all have NEXUS cards.   You cannot  carry any third party goods or be carrying anything deemed to be contraband by the authorities.  As with regular travellers, you must declare all your purchases and goods.  It is very important to note that as a NEXUS card holder, the onus is on you to initiate the declaration (verbal or written) to the officer.  Members who are not citizens of either the US or Canada should carry the proof of residency or legal status in addition to the NEXUS cards when they are travelling.  In addition, it is also a requirement to notify the authorities if any of your personal information changes (i.e. address, name, passport expiry) or anything that will affect your low-risk status (e.g. criminal convictions).  You can update your personal information at an enrollment centre or online on the GOES website.  Not updating your information as necessary is deemed to be a violation of the program rules. 

To ensure compliance, the authorities search travellers and their vehicles on a random basis and travellers are also given a secondary examination.  There is a zero tolerance policy for any program infractions, officers from both sides can revoke your membership and possibly deny you entry into the country if  you have been judged to have violated any of the rules.  People have been known to have had their memberships revoked because customs have found an apple in their vehicle that was not declared.   Having an infraction on your record might affect your eligibility if you wish to reapply to the program and affect any potential future visit to the country.  

Persons interested in this article may also wish to read - "Canada: Crossing the Border"

For more information:

US CBP -  http://www.cbp.gov/travel/trusted-tra...

Canada CBSA -  http://www.cbsa-asfc.gc.ca/prog/nexus...