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 the land crossings at Canadian 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 might be the best thing you’ve ever done.

What is the NEXUS Card?

The NEXUS program provides successful applicants with a NEXUS card which is an identification card that gives American and Canadian citizens expedited processing when entering either Canada or the United States. NEXUS cards can be used when travelling by land, air, or by sea at specific ports of entry that 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, you become a known traveller and get TSA precheck clearance in the U.S., which will speed up the security process when you’re flying out of U.S. airports.

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 regularly. NEXUS members have a much faster and easier way of getting through border security. At airports, there are specific NEXUS kiosks and lines. For land crossing, there are NEXUS lanes. 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. regularly, 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.

Nexus member benefits for entering Canada from the USA include the following:

  • Being able to use self-serve NEXUS kiosks 
  • Access to Transportation Security Administration Pre-Check lines at over 200 American Airports
  • Dedicated vehicle lanes for NEXUS cardholders at 21 land border crossings
  • NEXUS eGates at the Peace Bridge in Fort Erie and Ambassador Bridge in Windsor (both in Ontario)

Nexus member benefits for entering the USA from Canada include:

  • Being able to use Global Entry kiosks at 8 Canadian airports
  • Access to dedicated processing lanes at 16 land border crossings 
  • Faster processing at all marine crossings and marine ports of entry.

How do I get a NEXUS Card?

If you are a Canadian or American citizen, you can apply for a NEXUS card (residency and proof of citizenship will be required). That being said, there is quite the application process.

The first thing is to figure out if you are actually eligible for a NEXUS card. To be eligible, you must be either a citizen or a permanent resident of Canada or the United States (note: some Mexican nationals are also eligible). If you are a permanent resident, you must have been a legal resident for at least three years before applying (there are some diplomatic and military-based exemptions). 

Additionally, you must:

  • Be admissible to Canada and the US under immigration laws
  • Provide true and complete information on your application forms
  • Not have violated any customs, immigration, or agriculture laws.

You will also be required to do a risk assessment and background check. If you have past issues with law enforcement and have ever been convinced of a criminal offence in any country and have not been pardoned, you may not be eligible for a NEXUS card.

If you think you can 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 schedule this interview early as the wait times can be long. Please note that NEXUS cards are not free for adults. The NEXUS application fee is $50 (Canadian or American, depending on your citizenship). However, children under the age of 18 can apply for free. Note that there will be no refunds given if you are denied. 

During the interview, you will be questioned on topics including your citizenship, past criminal offences, criminal charges, outstanding warrants or violations, past border crossing experiences, and travel history. If you travel frequently, please 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, the next step of your NEXUS enrolment will require fingerprinting and scanning your retinas. NEXUS cards are also only valid for five years, which must be renewed.

It is worth noting that you do not need a third party to fill out your NEXUS application. It will not speed up the process. All applications are now done online. Paper applications are no longer accepted.

Current NEXUS interviews

There is currently a very long wait for NEXUS interviews for new applicants. This is because all Canadian offices were shut down during the pandemic meaning there has been a backlog of interviews.

Interviews can now be booked at participating Canadian airports including:

  • Halifax Stanfield International Airport (YHZ)
  • Winnipeg Richardson International Airport (YWG)
  • Vancouver International Airport (YVR)
  • Calgary International Airport (YYC)
  • Edmonton International Airport (YEG)
  • Montreal Trudeau Internațional Airport (YUL)
  • Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ)
  • and Ottawa Macdonald-Cartier International Airport (YOW)

You can also do a joint interview at a land enrolment centre in the US or a split interview at a Canadian and US land NEXUS enrolment centre. 

If you are under 18, one parent or legal guardian with custody can attend the interview. Otherwise, the accompanying adult will need a letter of consent. 

Once you have finished your interview you can keep an eye on your trusted traveller programs system for updates. If you have any issues, you can get help from a Canadian processing centre or e-mail: ttppost-pvfpostes@cbsa-asfc.gc.ca

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 one of the following credit cards:

To get the NEXUS card rebate, you must charge the fee to a qualifying card. You’ll then get credited the same amount back a few days later.

NEXUS Card Renewal

As mentioned above, NEXUS cards are only valid for five years. If you want to renew your NEXUS card, you must renew your NEXUS card membership. This can be done online via the Trusted Traveller Program. You will need to once again pay the non-refundable $50 fee (if you are above 18).

The new process means many individuals may not need to be interviewed again. However, if your personal information has changed or if there is new information that may impact your eligibility, you will need to interview again.

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 travel 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 valid 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 membership card is well worth your while if you regularly travel 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.

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

21 Comments

  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

      William,

      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.

  2. Kris Brooks on May 2, 2022 at 4:04 PM

    So it says I need a criminal check who pays for that is that included in the $50

    • Barry Choi on May 2, 2022 at 4:26 PM

      Kris,

      They just scan their internal records. You don’t need to pay for a separate criminal check.

  3. Craig on May 7, 2022 at 7:30 PM

    Do you know when one can start to book their interviews? I have been waiting for well over a year to try and book it. But website still says interviews are not available.

    • Barry Choi on May 8, 2022 at 11:11 PM

      Hey Craig,

      No info on that yet. I’ve been waiting myself for quite some time.

    • mark on September 14, 2023 at 4:46 PM

      it took 18 months for my process to be completed – just last month

  4. Mohammed Nashat on May 9, 2022 at 3:35 PM

    Hi,
    Why do we need to carry our passports if we have Nexus cards with us? Especially at the land border?

    • William on May 9, 2022 at 6:51 PM

      I don’t think you need your passport and you can use your Nexus on the Nexus lane..but it would be good to have your passport as backup ‘just in case’..

    • Barry Choi on May 9, 2022 at 7:55 PM

      Hi Mohammed,

      I concur with William. You don’t technically need your passport if you have Nexus, but you’ll want it if anything goes wrong. There have been times where US customers has asked me for my Passport in addition to my Nexus card.

  5. Chdonn on May 16, 2022 at 12:27 PM

    No interview appts available. Reached out to my MP, no response on why unavailable in Canada
    Very frustrated

    • Andrea on August 25, 2022 at 9:47 PM

      Offices have not been reopened since covid
      Per nexus website
      contact nexus
      Nexus enrolment centres
      Only US enrolment centres available at this time

  6. Anne H on September 28, 2022 at 6:00 PM

    For now you have to go to Niagara Falls NY for an interview. Also, I have gone through the Nexus queue at Pearson several times with a friend who does not have a Nexus card. They just let her through with me.

    • Barry Choi on September 28, 2022 at 7:09 PM

      Hey Anne,

      I can’t even find times in Niagara. I may book a flight to Detroit to do my interview.

      Interesting to hear about your experience of bringing someone without a Nexus card with you. Did that person still have to go through the regular US customs line after they cleared security?

  7. Brenda on October 27, 2022 at 8:14 PM

    I believe the a American Express Gold rewards cards also offer a rebate for Nexus cards. I thought the offices are closed still post covid. I would be using YVR.

    • Barry Choi on October 28, 2022 at 9:09 AM

      Brenda,

      That’s correct. I need to update this post a bit.

  8. Yoda on November 7, 2022 at 6:01 PM

    Hi, I applied for a Nexus card with my existing Canadian passport and Ontario driver’s license. The whole process is taking longer than I thought. I am moving to the US soon so I will need to swap my Ontario license for a US license. Also, my Canadian passport will expire in a few months so I need to have it renewed. What should I do? Do I just bring my new passport and new US driver’s license to the interview? Will these changes adversely affect my application please?

    • Barry Choi on November 8, 2022 at 10:37 AM

      Yoda,

      If you were conditionally approved and just waiting for an interview, I would bring both the new and old documents (if they let you keep them). Just bring every document possible.

      • Yoda on November 8, 2022 at 1:44 PM

        Many thanks Barry for your advice.

  9. Jigar on January 9, 2023 at 2:08 AM

    Hi Barry,

    I applied for the Nexus Card end of Dec through US dhs gov website and I am a Canadian PR. How long does it normally take to get a conditionally approved letter ?

    • Barry Choi on January 9, 2023 at 9:01 AM

      Hey Jigar,

      The reports have been inconsistent. I’ve seen some people get conditionally approved within a few weeks and then others a few months. For me personally, when I renewed, I was conditionally approved pending an interview. After 3 months, they automatically approved me.

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