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

**This post may contain affiliate links. I may be compensated if you use them.

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 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, which will need to be renewed.

Current NEXUS interviews

Due to the global pandemic, NEXUS interview locations were shut down in Canada. There’s currently not a single NEXUS office open in Canada. That means if you’ve applied for NEXUS or you need to renew your NEXUS card, you won’t be able to get your final approval in Canada.

The only way around this is to book your NEXUS interview in the U.S. As you can imagine, border cities like Niagara Falls are always booked up. In fact, it’s not uncommon to see appointments booked up to a year in advance. If you need an interview at one of these high-demand locations, your best bet is to follow the Twitter bots that tweet out any available appointments (usually from a cancellation).

The alternative is to fly or drive to a destination that has many slots available, such as Detroit. From Toronto’s Pearson International Airport, you could catch a morning flight to Detroit, do your interview in the early afternoon, and then catch a flight back home on the same day. Admittedly, this is a pain, but it works.

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 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. 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 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.  

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

18 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.

  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.

Leave a Comment





Get a FREE copy of Travel Hacking for Lazy People

Subscribe now to get your FREE eBook and learn how to travel in luxury for less