How to Get a NEXUS Card: Everything You Need to Know About NEXUS Applications

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Do you travel frequently back and forth between Canada and the United States? Are you tired of waiting in the long security lines at airports or at land crossing borders? Well then, you may want to consider getting a NEXUS Card. In this article, I’m sharing everything you need to know about how to get a NEXUS card, how to renew a NEXUS Card, and why applying for a NEXUS Card just might be the best thing you’ve ever done.

What is the NEXUS Card?

A NEXUS card is an identification card that gives Canadian and American citizens expedited processing when entering either Canada or the United States. NEXUS cards can be used when travelling by land, air, or by the sea at specific ports of entry who recognize the card. While the NEXUS card program is a partnership between the two nations, they are issued and distributed by the US Customs and Border Protection.

If you have a NEXUS card, not only do you become a known traveller, but you’ll also get TSA precheck clearance in the U.S. which will speed up the security process when you’re flying.

Why do I want a NEXUS Card?

NEXUS cards are a great thing to have for any Canadian or American citizen who crosses the border on a regular basis. NEXUS cardholders have a much faster and easier way of getting through border security. At airports, there are specific NEXUS kiosks, for land crossing, there are NEXUS lanes, and those arriving by water can contact border officials by phone in advance to identify themselves as NEXUS cardholders to expedite their entry into the country.

Even if you don’t travel to the U.S. on a regular basis, getting a NEXUS card is still worth it since you can use the NEXUS kiosks at customs when you return home. These kiosks are always much quicker than the general customs line.

How do I get a NEXUS Card?

If you are a Canadian or American citizen, then you can apply for a NEXUS card. That being said, there is quite the application process.

First thing is to figure out if you are actually eligible for a NEXUS card. To be eligible you must be either a resident or a permanent citizen of Canada or the United States (however, some Mexican nationals are also eligible). Additionally, you’ll need to be able to pass criminal background checks.

If you think you are eligible to apply, you’ll fill out the application form. The NEXUS card application form can be found online here. Once your application has been submitted, you will receive an invitation for an in-person interview. It’s important to book this interview early as the wait times can be long. Please note that NEXUS cards are not free for adults, they cost $50.00 to apply (Canadian or American, depending on your citizenship). This application fee is non-refundable, however, children under the age of 18 can apply for free

During the interview process, you will be questioned on topics including your citizenship, criminal history, past border crossing experiences, and travel history. If you travel frequently, please be sure to have a record of where you went and when to ensure that this process goes as smoothly as possible. You’ll literally want a list of every country you’ve been to, when you were there, and why you were there. The interview will last about 30 minutes on average and is conducted by both Canadian and American border officials.

If you are approved, you will be fingerprinted and have your retinas scanned. NEXUS cards are also only valid for 5 years, at which point they will need to be renewed.

Nexus card discount

Even though the NEXUScard will only cost you $50, if you’re Canadian, you can get a NEXUS card rebate if you have the CIBC Aventura Visa Infinite Card or the CIBC Aventura Gold Card. Both of these cards are ranked as one of the best travel credit cards in Canada and CIBC Rewards is one of the better bank travel loyalty programs in Canada.

To get the NEXUS card rebate, you must charge the fee to a qualifying CIBC Aventura Card so keep that in mind when you’re going through the application process.

NEXUS Card Renewal

As mentioned above, NEXUS cards are only valid for 5 years. If you would like to renew your NEXUS card, you will need to begin your renewal application at least 90 days in advance. The renewal process is similar to the application process in that you will once again be charged a $50 application fee (unless you are under the age of 18), submit an application, pass risk assessment and meet the eligibility criteria.

Updates can be a bit tricky. If you read the website, it says address or employment changes that do not affect your NEXUS eligibility can simply be done online. However, I’ve only found that info on the U.S. site and there have been at the office when people come in person just to make updates. I personally would go in person if you need to make an update to your info. The good thing is that you don’t need to book an appointment for updates. You can usually drop into any NEXUS office and sign in as someone who’s doing an update. This process usually won’t take more than an hour including wait times, but that could differ depending on how many people are there making updates.

Things to Know About Using Your NEXUS card

Having a NEXUS card can save you a lot of time and stress when you travel, but there are a few things to keep in mind:

  • If you are travelling with your family, or as part of a group, you can only go in the NEXUS lanes if everyone in your party has a NEXUS card.
  • Being a NEXUS cardholder does not protect you from the possibility of being pulled over and searched
  • While having a NEXUS card means you don’t need to show your passport, you still should always have your passport on you when you travel between Canada and the United States.
  • When returning to Canada with a NEXUS card, you do not need to fill out a paper customs form
  • If you’re a NEXUS card holder but don’t have any biometrics on file (e.g. children), you still need to fill out a paper form, but you can still use NEXUS lines.

Final thoughts

For only $50, a NEXUS card is well worth your while if you travel regularly between Canada and the United States (or even abroad). Of course, you’ll need to qualify and the application can be a bit tedious, but in the long run, it really is a great thing to have.  

How to Get a NEXUS Card: Everything You Need to Know About NEXUS Applications

About Barry Choi

Barry Choi is a Toronto-based personal finance and travel expert who frequently makes media appearances. His blog Money We Have is one of Canada’s most trusted sources when it comes to money and travel. You can find him on Twitter:@barrychoi


  1. William on November 9, 2019 at 3:53 AM

    I didn’t know that I need to do an update at the Nexus office if I have a change in employment. I also just found out I need to update my renewed passport at the Nexus Canada office. I thought by updating my info on the US web site was sufficient.

    • Barry Choi on November 9, 2019 at 9:29 PM


      Honestly, it can be a bit confusing and sometimes I’m not even sure what needs to be updated in person and what doesn’t. Since there are two parts to Nexus e.g. Canadian and U.S., I typically just stop in at the airport early when flying if I need to make updates.

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