What Is a NEXUS Card?

A NEXUS card is a border crossing card permitting expedited travel across the U.S.-Canadian border to low-risk U.S. and Canadian citizens. Based on the bilateral agreement between Canada and the United States, the Canada Border Services Agency and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency jointly manages the Trusted Traveller program.

Several NEXUS border points exist between the two countries, such as at Canadian airports and marine ports. A NEXUS card can be used as an alternative to a passport, and it can be obtained by any U.S. or Canadian citizen, as long as they are permanent residents of one of the countries and have no criminal records. According to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website, the NEXUS card is an acceptable List B document of identification.

NEXUS Card Restrictions: 2017 Updates

In February 2017, Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) confirmed that the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) revoked NEXUS memberships from all Canadian permanent residents with citizenship in any of the seven majority Muslim countries that were affected by the January 2017 U.S. travel ban. In addition to NEXUS memberships, FAST memberships, a program meant to speed up commercial shipments across the U.S.-Canadian border, have also been revoked.

While memberships of dual U.S.-Canadian citizens have not been revoked, but news agency CBC Toronto reported discoveries of many Canadian-born and dual citizens who reportedly had their NEXUS memberships revoked following a U.S. executive order that banned entry for passport holders from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. Additionally, several dual citizens and permanent residents who had direct connections to the restricted countries also received NEXUS membership revocations, according to the CBC.

Canadian Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale stated that a Canadian citizen with a Canadian passport has the same access to the United States as they previously received. He further emphasized that the NEXUS card is a special Trusted Traveler arrangement that extends over and above the passport. Goodale also noted that an appeal process was in place for anyone who believed they were treated unfairly (NEXUS appeals must be filed with the country in which they were denied). 

While Canadians can appeal to a U.S. CBP ombudsman, the process can take as long as eight to 10 months, and appeals are often unsuccessful. In Canada, the officer involved in the revocation offers a narrative on the incident. The person affected by the revocation can offer comments on the report and receive entitlement to a review by a separate CBSA Recourse Directorate. If an appeal is denied, the person can file a judicial review with the Canadian Federal Court. 

Neither U.S. CBP nor the CBSA confirmed the connection between the NEXUS program revocations and the executive travel ban order signed by U.S. President Donald Trump in late January 2017. This order imposed a 90-day U.S. travel ban on individuals from the seven countries listed above.

NEXUS Card: What Is It?

The NEXUS program is voluntary and benefits low-risk permanent citizens of the United States and Canada. It is based on the Beyond the Border Action Plan of 2011, a binational agreement between the two countries. Certain requirements exist for being approved for a NEXUS card, including:

  • Living in the U.S. or Canada for at least three years as a permanent resident or citizen 
  • Passing criminal history checks 
  • Not being convicted for criminal offenses in any country 
  • Having not violated immigration or customs law of any country 
  • Being truthful on NEXUS card applications

NEXUS cards can also be issued for children under the age of 18, if the parent or guardian applies for it, but they must be always accompanied by an adult when traveling. Children can have a NEXUS card, even if their parents or guardians do not have one.

To apply for a NEXUS card, you need the following documents:

  • Birth certificate 
  • Proof of citizenship 
  • Valid passport 
  • Citizenship certificate 

The NEXUS card has an RFID (radio frequency identification) chip that has all the information about the owner. The NEXUS card is issued for five years in Canada and the United States, and costs $50 or CAN$50, while the application for children is free. All fees are non-refundable. There is no limit to how many times an individual can use a NEXUS card for crossing the border.

Why Is a NEXUS Card Important?

The NEXUS card is important for reducing the time Canadians or U.S. citizens need to wait for border crossing. The NEXUS card is beneficial for business professionals who regularly travel between the U.S. and Canada. The main benefit of a NEXUS card is an expedited process of immigration and customs processing at designated border crossings. Cardholders can use dedicated NEXUS lanes at 19 land ports of entry, with self-serve kiosks at nine international airports in Canada and 430 marine ports of entry.

According to 2013 statistics, 75 percent of the about 920,000 NEXUS members at the time were Canadian. That number was reportedly up from 601,000 from the previous year, courtesy of the binational Beyond the Border Action Plan. 

Examples of Using a NEXUS Card

Families traveling between Canada and the United States with children would benefit from using a NEXUS card. They would be able to get through customs and immigration control in a more expedited way.

Business professionals commuting between the United States and Canada can also gain a preapproved status and speed up the process of border crossing. NEXUS card holders can:

  • Use the designated NEXUS lanes on both sides of the border, instead of waiting for hours during busy periods by using self-serve NEXUS kiosks when entering Canada at nine major international airports and U.S. Global entry kiosks for entry into the United States.
  • Gain expedited clearance through security screening lines at major and select mid-sized airports in Canada.
  • Gain expedited clearance through the U.S. Transportation Security Administration Pre-Check lines at more than 150 participating U.S. airports. 
  • Have a simplified entry process using dedicated vehicle lanes at 21 designated land border crossings
  • When arriving to Canada by marine craft, NEXUS cardholders can report by telephone to a Telephone Reporting Center at more than 450 marine sites across Canada

Examples for Not Using a NEXUS Card

During busy periods, such as summer holidays or Christmas period, waits at border crossings can be long. When traveling with children, this waiting can be stressful. For one-off travel, it is not recommended to use a NEXUS card, given the cost of application and the length of the approval process.

NEXUS cards only apply to one person. Therefore, when traveling in a car with non-NEXUS members, checks still will need to be carried out as normal. For more help, you can consult with an immigration attorney.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How long does it take to get approved for a NEXUS card?

It generally takes six to eight weeks to decide an applicant's eligibility. The cards are then issued a few weeks after approval.

  • How can I apply for a NEXUS card?

You can apply online in your home country. In Canada, you can apply for a NEXUS card online, and in the United States, by visiting nexus-card.com.

  • Can I use my NEXUS card instead of a passport?

The NEXUS card has a radio frequency identification (RFID) chip. When traveling by land, the information stored in the chip gets transmitted to a primary inspection booth where a border services officer in Canada of a U.S. CBP officer can receive the information. Pictures of cardholders appear on a screen and officer verify identity as you pull your vehicle up to a border crossing point. At airport kiosks, identify is confirmed by using an iris biometric, a picture of the eye's iris captured at registration that identifies the individual. 

  • How much does it cost?

The processing fee is $50 or CAN$50 per application, which is nonrefundable. Children's application is free.

  • When can I renew my card?

You can renew your card maximum 120 days before its expiration by going through the same application process as requesting a new card.

Steps to Apply for a NEXUS Card

  • Download and complete the application form from Canada's NEXUS website. You can find the application online at the Canada Border Services Agency's website. You can also complete an application at GOES, the official U.S. government website for the Global Online Enrollment System.
  • Click on the payment button.  
  • Print your confirmation.  
  • Wait for your correspondence and approval.
  • Receive your Trusted Traveler profile for each applicant. Check your application status every week.  Once your application is in the "conditionally approved" status, you can schedule an interview at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency. Once you had your interview and your application is approved, you will receive your card shortly. 

Common Mistakes

Some travelers with children fail to submit a family application, which makes the process more lengthy. Not having a NEXUS card for all travelers will actually not save time. If not all the people in the group or car are NEXUS members, they will still have to go through the regular checks. Not planning ahead can result in disappointment. Processing NEXUS card applications can take weeks; therefore, applications must be submitted months before the planned travel.

NEXUS cards can also be revoked for a number of reasons, which are by discretion of border officials. For example, if you have a baked good or a piece of fruit stashed in your purse or travel bags, your NEXUS membership could be revoked. 

If you need further help with applying for a NEXUS card or would like to check if you are eligible, you can post your question or concern on UpCounsel's legal marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Menlo Ventures, and Airbnb.