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Saturday, 2 July 2016

Nexus--for ANYONE Xing to the States

My family all have Nexus cards.  Nexus cards are a high security US-issued ID that allows you to cross the border with relative ease and most importantly, SPEED!  If you have little ones, even if you only cross the land borders once a year during the holiday season, the last thing you need is a screaming/whining child because of a long wait at the border–you’ll be thanking me for getting you to spend the $50/adult just to avoid that hassle.
Solution: As a Canadian citizen with a passport, you can apply for a Nexus pass.  The cost:: $50USD or $50CDN for FIVE YEARS ($10 a year), depending which way you apply (on paper or online) and that’s per adult.  Children are FREE until they’re no longer minors!  If you cross at a land crossing, they’re are usually dedicated NEXUS lanes, just for NEXUS card holders.
EACH person in the car though MUST have a Nexus pass or the CBP (Customs and Border Patrol) guard WILL take all of your cards and BAN you from the program, perhaps for years!  It’s at the CBPs discretion.  You may send a letter of apology, BEGGING to get back in and they may say yes.
After applying, you’ll need to schedule an interview with a CBP office–the closest one in the GTA is at Pearson Airport.  Currently, due to renovations, it's on Airport grounds, but NOT at the airport--and there's free parking!
I’d rather go to a bridge crossing that has a CBP office that does interviews; specifically the one at the Whirlpool Bridge.  That bridge is awesome because it is a DEDICATED bridge to Nexus card holders only.  They'll also let you through the bridge on the way back after the interview though you haven't been issued your card yet.  They'll give you a number which you'll mention through the speaker box to them.
It’s a little tricky at first to find the bridge (not far from the Rainbow Bridge, in Niagara Falls) but the wait there is practically ALWAYS minimal.  They’ll probably ask you at the interivew (and your partner if you’re not single) why you want a Nexus and how often you’ll likely be crossing.
You can use the card to get a small discount on your cost of crossing the bridge.  You may put either CDN or USD on your actual NEXUS card at the border crossing booth on the US side (of the Whirlpool) so you don’t have to go scrambling for change since they don’t accept NY highway transponders nor credit cards to pay to cross.
You ARE EXPECTED to always be totally upfront about your business and what you’re bringing over and returning with.  My wife and I have always followed that policy and we’ve NEVER (thank G-d) been pulled over when coming back to Canada except when one of the cards had expired--even then, they were very respectful, professional, and understanding of the matter.
Don’t think if you’re coming back on the Monday of a long weekend that they’re won’t be a wait–ONE TIME we were foolish enough to do what we usually do when we go every few months–to do grocery shopping, but instead of going on a Sunday of a long weekend, we came back on the Monday–and dealt with about a half-hour wait–the longest I’ve ever waited.
The advantage to the Whirlpool is you don’t have to worry about being blocked by cars from getting to the dedicated Nexus lane as you would with other bridges as EVERYONE crossing at that bridge is in the same boat as you–with Nexus cards.  At other bridges, you may be backed up for hours before you can weave your way into that special lane.  And as of the renovations in 2015, there are now up to 2 officers/lanes on each side of the bridge, cutting wait times by 50%!
Oh yes, and babies DO need to get a passport, followed by applying and receiving a NEXUS card too if you wish to use the NEXUS lane.

While you may wish to save money and apply through a paper application so that you pay $50CDN, paying $50USD is worth it as you'll do so through an online application.  You'll have an online ID through the GOES website connected to the Nexus program.  When you reapply 5 years later, your profile will still have all of your info so you won't have to go through the trouble of starting from scratch.  Also, your chances of avoiding another interview are MUCH higher if you reapply online.  Apparently, only 10% of reapplying applicants avoid a new interview, but me and even my wife, whose Nexus expired, had to go for a new interview.

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