How to Get a Nexus Card and Travel Easily Between the U.S. and Canada

Many FareCompare readers who travel regularly between the United States and Canada know how much of a hassle long lines can be at the border.

The Nexus program lets pre-screened passengers who are citizens of the U.S. or Canada to be processed more quickly by officials at certain points of entry on the border. Dedicated Nexus kiosks at selected Canadian airports allow card holders quicker passage between the two countries.

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What Is a Nexus Card?
Nexus cards speed passage through customs and immigration processing points – whether the card holder is traveling by air, land or sea. The card itself is a radio-frequency ID card that can be used at eight Canadian airports with Nexus kiosks. The lines and wait times at these crossings are shorter than at regular customs and immigration points. Nexus processing will be available at the following Canadian airports by spring 2012:

  • Halifax International
  • Montreal Pierre Trudeau International
  • Ottawa McDonald Cartier International
  • Toronto Pearson International
  • Calgary International
  • Edmonton International
  • Vancouver International
  • Winnipeg International

How Do You Get a Nexus Card?
Applicants may submit applications online. Those who want to use their Nexus card for air travel must have an iris capture (eye scan). Both the U.S. and Canadian governments must approve applications, a process that takes 4 to 6 weeks. Citizens or permanent residents of either country may apply as long as they have legally resided there for three consecutive years (excluding children under age 3). Applicants must attend an in-person interview, and must pass law enforcement screening by both countries. Documentation required includes

  • Proof of citizenship such as:
    • Valid passport
    • Birth certificate
    • Canadian citizenship certificate or card with photo
    • Certificate of Indian Status
  • Proof of current residence such as:
    • Valid driver’s license
    • Provincial identification card

A list of Nexus enrollment centers can be found here.

How Much Does It Cost?
Anyone age 18 or over must pay $50 (U.S. or Canadian) to apply for the card. Children under 18 do not have to pay a fee. Every family member must have their own Nexus card, so if you want your spouse and children to take advantage of the Nexus program, each must have their own card. Nexus cards are valid for five years.

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How Much Time Does It Save?
Those who cross the border at busy times report that Nexus cards are terrific time savers. Having a Nexus card lets you book those cheap flights between the U.S. and Canada, confident that you’ll get through customs and immigration quicker and with less of a hassle.

Please note: You should carry your passport even if you have a Nexus card. Some Nexus officials ask to see passports and others don’t, and it is better to err on the safe side and carry your passport as well.


Published: February 28, 2012