February 6, 2008 1:35 PM   Subscribe

Should I get a NEXUS pass? (For US-Canada border crossing.)

I'm Canadian and will be moving to the states next year for work. I plan on coming home at least twice a year, and the NEXUS pass seems like good idea. But I'm curious:

1. Will I really save that time at the border? (I'll be flying between SFO, San Francisco, and YYZ, Toronto, most often if that matters.)

2. Is it really a good idea to hand over my fingerprints and iris map (or whatever, "eyeball thingy", I say) to both the US and Canadian government? I've never committed any major crimes, nor do I plan to, but I still feel a bit paranoid regardless. Are there any assurances my data will be kept extremely safe?

3. What have been your general experiences with the program?

posted by patr1ck to Travel & Transportation (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: It will save a lot of time if you tend to go through the border at busy times. At its worst, YYZ can make you wait an hour to clear customers, either coming or going. If you always fly off peak it's not such a big deal. I used to use INSPASS and it was 120% worth it. Walking past those huge US customs lines... so nice.

As far as privacy goes, meh. To me the practical upside outweighed the theoretical downside. It's not as if they don't that I'm crossing the border already. I'm just not getting registered manually.
posted by GuyZero at 1:50 PM on February 6, 2008

I'm considering a NEXUS pass, but I live in Vancouver and drive down to Seattle every few months. I find waiting at the border crossing positively intolerable and I'd like to have an option aside from going across after 9 PM.

It certainly will save you time, especially if those twice a year trips are around holiday season.

I had to give up my fingerprints to both the US and Canada for immigration purposes, so that isn't really a concern for me. But in general, the bureaucracies for both governments are so towering that the chances of anything bad actually coming of it are pretty slim.
posted by Nelsormensch at 2:25 PM on February 6, 2008

I'm also considering a Nexus pass, but one thing I realized that is only covers you, not your passengers. That means if you want to cross the border with passengers, you either need to cross in the regular lanes, or let your passengers out to walk across the border, picking them up on the other side.
posted by cgg at 2:37 PM on February 6, 2008

I haven't used it at an airport yet. but my Nexus pass has saved me lots of time at the US/Canada border, Douglas Crossing, (W. WA to BC, closest crossing for Seattle-Vancouver). Just remember that to use the Nexus lane, everyone in the car must have a Nexus pass.
posted by lois1950 at 2:40 PM on February 6, 2008

Best answer: I can't believe anyone that crosses the border only semi frequently wouldn't have one. It's cheap, it saves nothing but time and it's easy. Why sit in the lines?

Look at it this way. Say it only saves your ass from a ridiculous line once a year, in one direction. It costs $75 for five years, or fifteen dollars a year. When you're standing at the end of that hour long line at the airport, and a fairy appeared offering to escort you to the front for fifteen bucks everyone in the world would go for it. Nexus is the same. It's invaluable.
posted by Keith Talent at 4:19 PM on February 6, 2008

Best answer: Usually Nexus is good for the reasons given above. However, you should keep in mind the following.

You might find the Nexus interview process unpleasant if you've committed minor crimes in the past (anything aside from a traffic ticket), if you do drugs, or have been denied entry to the US for any reason. I have heard of people that have had Nexus cards denied on these grounds. One girl I heard about was banned because she was asked about her pot smoking habits and she said she had smoked pot 17 times.

I will assume that you are not married with children. But if you are married with kids, the Nexus guys prefer to assign cards to everybody in the family. In fact, it is best if everybody in the family shows up to do the interview on the same day. So, if it turns out that your spouse and/or kids cannot get a Nexus card, then they might not give you the card either.

They give you a big fat pamphlet that tells you what you can and can't bring into the country under the Nexus program. If you find that you are bringing a lot of goods that have to be declared outside of Nexus, then it might not be worth it.

If you are going to the US for work - you may find that you have to constantly update your paperwork with Nexus (new visas, new I-94s, etc). In my case I would have to go to Blaine (no appointment necessary) to show the updated information, which is not too inconvenient. However, I don't know how convenient the paperwork updates would be in your case. Since your paperwork will change frequently in the early months/years you may consider the Nexus paperwork maintenance to be more hassle than it's worth.
posted by crazycanuck at 4:38 PM on February 6, 2008

Response by poster: FWIW - I'm not married (single) and have no kids. If there's anything anyone else wants to add, feel free.

I'll probably be applying soon. Thanks for the responses! :)
posted by patr1ck at 4:55 PM on February 6, 2008

Best answer: By being granted the NEXUS pass (by Canada and by the US) you gain the status of Trusted Traveler. It's a mini security clearance: your criminal background is checked in both countries, you get fingerprints taken if you only plan to cross at car crossings, and you also get a retinal scan if you also want your NEXUS to apply to air travel as well. You supply your credit card number so if you spend more than the allowed amount during your stay, they charge against it.

Between application and final interview, the process took me four months last summer. This was before one could apply via web. My interview was brief. I was asked questions like "were you always known as [your name]?" And of course the criminal activity questions, etc. I did two interviews - one for crossing by car (downtown Vancouver) and one for crossing by air (Vancouver airport)

Whenever I cross the border back to Canada by car, I have to fill out a special form and present it to the crossing guard, listing by category how much I spent during my stay in the States. I have to fill out the form before I cross the border - emphasis here is on speed. Guard only wants to see the form (and the Nexus card). I do not do fill out that form when I travel by air.

When traveling to the States, bring your passport as well as your NEXUS card. I was asked for both, the first time I crossed at NEXUS line. Afterwards, I was asked for my NEXUS always, and for my passport occasionally.

One thing to remember: when driving across the border, let your passengers out to walk across the border, is absolutely NOT allowed. You can lose your NEXUS if you are caught doing this. Also, transporting the usual forbidden goods (fruit, meats, etc) will also entail confiscation if you are caught.

Vancouver / Blaine readers, avoid Douglas crossing for the next few months, the crossing is being modernized, and the road has been dug out. It's a big mess there right now.
posted by seawallrunner at 5:36 PM on February 6, 2008

Not to hijack the thread - my wife and I are considering getting them for the few times we cross into the US or fly internationally into Pearson (for many of the reasons listed above) - but would we have to get one for our 2.5 year old daughter as well? It's not clear on either the US or Canadian websites.
posted by Chuckles McLaughy du Haha, the depressed clown at 6:49 AM on February 7, 2008

Yes, you have to get a Nexus card for your 2.5 year old daughter. However, there is no application fee for kids. You have to file a separate application for each individual (3 apps). Your daughter also has to be interviewed. You, your wife, and your daughter should attend the interview together at the same date/time else you may not get your cards (they are concerned about child abduction issues).
posted by crazycanuck at 10:10 AM on February 7, 2008

Thanks crazycanuck. I would love to see that interview though.
"Are you a Canadian citizen?
"My shoes are red. I want a lollipop."

/ hijack
posted by Chuckles McLaughy du Haha, the depressed clown at 11:23 AM on February 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

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