Cross border travel has become more complex over the past decade with longer lines and more rigorous checks at customs and airport security. Having to wait in long lines after landing back home to be interrogated, even lightly, can really put a damper on your trip.
One thing I have learned through my travels is that having a NEXUS card can significantly reduce this stress and even if you are not a frequent traveller, having a NEXUS card is an affordable must-have. It’s really helpful when travelling with kids to get across the border or through the airport security checks quickly.
What is the Nexus Card
The NEXUS card is a trusted traveller program between Canada and the USA to aid in expediting the border clearance process for low-risk, approved travellers. It is a reciprocal agreement between the two countries that allows those with the card to enter the partner country with more ease and, in most cases, through dedicated lanes for customs clearance or airport security screening expediting the process and reducing the time waiting in line.
It’s like a Disney Fast Pass for travel!
Note: You’ll need to have the actual card with you since it’s not linked to a passport. I still bring my passport too as a precaution, but I have never needed it.
Cost of the Nexus Card
A NEXUS card costs $50 and it is valid for 5 years. It works out to $10 per year making it very affordable and add in the time savings and it becomes even more valuable and affordable. The CIBC Aventura Visa Infinite credit card offers a rebate on the NEXUS fee so it may be something to look into before applying if you are looking for some travel perks.
The Benefits of Nexus
Air Crossings with a Nexus
Departing from Canada with a Nexus
When you are clearing airport security, there is often a NEXUS line allowing you to skip the potentially long queue of people waiting to empty their lives into those buckets.
You will be directed to either join a line at one of the security check lanes after jumping the main line or there will be a dedicated lane for NEXUS cardholders and trusted travellers. The benefit of this is that it doesn’t matter whether you are going to the United States or to another country in the world your card will help you skip the line.
If you are travelling to the United States, you can use your NEXUS card at the Global Entry kiosks inside the U.S. preclearance areas at the airport. This is the security check to clear customs before you even board the plane instead of clearing it when you arrive. If you are entering the United States through a non-Canadian airport, you need to have your passport.
Arriving in Canada with a Nexus
This is where the NEXUS card really shines! No matter where you are coming back from, you can skip that long line and head straight to the NEXUS line at the airport. You then scan your NEXUS card at the kiosk and answer the questions on the screen.
If you also have the retina scan or facial verification, you can skip even more checks! After you are processed, you will be given a paper print out to show to the customs agents. You will need to hold onto this until after you have picked up your luggage and exited the final check. The CBSA offers more information about flying with NEXUS.
I travelled to Europe with my dad and he did not have the retina scan. When we came back I was through security in about five minutes and he took about double the time since he had to have a quick clearance check (he had to wait for a couple of people to go through ahead of him). Either way, it was significantly less time than the general customs line. We saved at least an hour!
The facial verification system is being rolled out across Canada. The first time you use it, you will need to scan your passport, so make sure you have it with you or you will need to be processed by a customs agent for identity verification. It is currently in place at Vancouver, Halifax, Montréal, and Ottawa Airports. It is coming to Toronto, Winnipeg, Calgary, and Edmonton soon.
Departing from Other Airports with a Nexus
I flew back to Canada from Utah last year and was not able to use my NEXUS card to clear security in the USA any quicker, so this perk might only be for cardholders of the country they are departing or it may have been the particular airport I flew from. I was able to use it to clear customs in Canada though, so that cut down on time and made it worth having.
Land Crossings with a Nexus
I often cross over to the United States for shopping trips or short vacations. The NEXUS card makes it so much quicker! The one thing about the NEXUS only lines is that everyone in the vehicle must have one in order to use the lane, but a NEXUS cardholder than use any lane to enter into the United States.
Whenever I cross the border with a friend who does not have it, I see the nearly empty NEXUS only lines and then cringe seeing the lineup we’re waiting in. We try to time crossing to minimize the lineup which usually means early mornings.
If I am crossing with someone who holds a NEXUS card too, we can leave whenever we want and we rarely encounter a delay. We simply hold the card up to the proximity card readers and proceed to declare our intention for travel with the border services agent and it also gives them a quick visual check that we are who we claim to be on the card.
There are currently 21 land crossing options for travelling between Canada and the United States.
Marine Crossings with a Nexus
I have not used this method to cross borders, but according to the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA), there is a call-ahead system if you are crossing by water. You need to give notice between 30 minutes and four hours before you cross. There are over 400 reporting sites across Canada and you can use the NEXUS at all marine crossings into the United States.
The Downside to Nexus
The process is quite lengthy. You will need to first determine if you qualify (most permanent residents who have been so for at least three years will qualify). Then you will need to fill out the application documents and pay the fee. Once you have been conditionally approved you will need to schedule an appointment at a NEXUS enrollment centre. You are allowed to select the location that works best for you.
Most major hubs are booked months in advance, so it is worth looking for locations that may have shorter wait times. It will most likely take you at least a few months in total to apply, so make sure you get the process started as soon as possible; especially if you know you plan to travel in the next year.
Helpful Tips for Nexus
TSA Pre-check on your boarding Pass
If you have the option, make sure you fill in the Known Traveller number field on your boarding pass with your NEXUS card number. This matters most if you are flying outbound from the United States since TSA Pre-check is dependent on this.
More FAQs About Nexus
Still curious about the NEXUS trusted traveller program? Check out the FAQs from the Canadian Border Services Agency. .
Don’t forget to pin this for later!
Comment below if you enjoyed this post or have any questions.
I personally read each one!
Follow my socials for more tips and photos from around the world and don’t forget to share this post – sharing is caring!