Since 2008, citizens of the United States and Canada have been required to present a passport or a resident card as proof of citizenship when crossing the border in either direction. This requirement slowed down travel, but a Nexus pass makes crossing the U.S.-Canadian border easier than ever. Here's how!

1. Fast Border Processing

The United States and Canada share over 5,000 border miles, the longest continuous land border on earth. And since both countries share a common language (except for French speakers in Quebec) and, to a certain extent, common culture, there are many reasons to visit each other. Several U.S. cities are close to the border, such as Detroit, Seattle, and Niagara Falls, and their residents often enjoyed frequent, no-hassle trips across the frontier before stricter border requirements were enacted. Now, border lines and delays can make even short shopping trips unpleasant.

The Nexus card aims to speed up travel at these crossings. At 21 designated sites along the border, Nexus cardholders will find special travel lanes that expedite the process of driving across. In these lanes, travelers only have to scan their Nexus cards at a proximity reader, and only have to proceed through visual inspection if instructed to do so. Note that everyone in your car must possess a Nexus card in order for you to take advantage of these lanes.

2. Expedited Security Lines At Airports

The Nexus card provides advantages for air travel as well. Just as border crossings can quickly get congested with travelers, airport customs lines can slow down your trip considerably.

Similar to the TSA Pre-check, Nexus provides for timelier travel processing when citizens of the US or Canada are traveling by air to either country. Travelers with Nexus can access special lines with faster processing, and potentially even reduced screening protocols. Those entering either country at airports can access self-serve kiosks to process entry rather than waiting in line. At the kiosk, processing is simple, and includes scanning your card and performing a biometric scan of your irises. Also, entry on the U.S. side will often require you to scan your fingerprints for access.

Keep in mind that Nexus kiosks are not available at all airports. Smaller airports usually do not feature these kiosks, so if you often travel between Canada and the United States via smaller airports, you might not see a huge benefit to the card.

Man sleeping in airport terminal

3. Declarations Forms Are Processed More Quickly.

While possession of a Nexus card does not exempt you from the requirement to declare goods at the border, processing is streamlined at the Nexus border crossing lanes and airport self-service kiosks. When crossing into either country, Nexus holders can make an oral declaration to a Customs officer in certain circumstances rather than going through a detailed interview or laborious paper process. At an airport, Nexus card holders can complete the appropriate customs declarations form and drop it at the self-service kiosk, or simply note the declaration through the Nexus system. Be aware: in airports that don't have kiosks, or where kiosks are out of order, Nexus card holders are required to proceed as non-card holders.

4. Nexus Is A Second Government ID

For those looking to strengthen their identity protection, a Nexus card is also a second form of government-issued photo identification. This second form of ID can be helpful for those applying for a passport or for travel visas to certain countries, where government-issued picture IDs carry higher quality points. Also, some states have passed stricter identification requirements in line with the Department of Homeland Security's Real ID requirements.

US passport on top of American flag

5. The Application Process Takes A While, So Apply Soon

To get all these benefits, you need the card, and although the application process is relatively easy, it can take some time. Normal processing time is eight to ten weeks, but backlogs of applicants at certain times of the year can cause further delays. Your application must be approved by both the U.S. and Canada, so some additional hurdles are involved. You can apply through the Global Online Enrollment System, which serves to speed the process as much as possible. The application fee is $50 (Canadian or U.S. dollars) and requires an interview as well.

Who cannot apply? The Nexus information website lists the following as disqualifications for membership:

  • 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 offense 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.

While international travel between the United States and Canada likely will not return to the free-flowing borders of the past anytime soon, the Nexus card is a giant step forward. It facilitates your travel and shortens the lines that can make departures and arrivals unpleasant.

Looking for more ways to improve your next trip? Check out Trusted Traveler Programs: 5 Facts To Make Travel Simpler.

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