What is the Canada NEXUS Program?

Updated: Aug 01, 2022 | Tags: Canada Entry Requirements, Canada eTA

If you visit Canada frequently, you may be looking for a way to reduce the amount of time spent at border crossings. One way of doing this is to make use of the NEXUS program. This joint US-Canada expedited border control system pre-approves some travellers, allowing them to use reserved entry lanes at land border crossings and special kiosks at airports.

Qualifying for NEXUS takes a little extra effort, but it can save you a significant amount of time when entering Canada or the United States, especially if you make the journey frequently.

Who is eligible for NEXUS

In order to apply for NEXUS, you must be a citizen or permanent resident of a qualifying country. This mostly means citizens or permanent residents of either Canada or the United States, although citizens of Mexico who hold Viajero Confiable memberships are also eligible. Adult applicants must also pay a $50 (US) application fee.

NEXUS approval

Applying for NEXUS doesn't guarantee acceptance. In order to receive your NEXUS membership, you'll undergo an immigration status check and security screening. Once this is complete, you'll be interviewed by both the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) and the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP). If this phase of the application is successful, you will receive your NEXUS card.

Renewing your NEXUS card

Your NEXUS card is valid for five years from the date of issue. The renewal process begins about six months before expiration, and may involve being selected for a second interview.

Using your NEXUS card

Once you've been issued your card, you can use it to enter Canada (or the United States) by air, land, and sea. This article covers using your NEXUS card to travel to Canada; procedures for entering the US are similar, but not identical. You'll need to activate your NEXUS card online before travelling to Canada.

Entering Canada by air

You can use your NEXUS card when flying to Canada as long as you are arriving at a participating airport. The exact NEXUS services available vary slightly from airport to airport. The most common are facial verification kiosks. These self-serve kiosks are available at:

  • Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport
  • Calgary International Airport
  • Edmonton International Airport
  • Halifax Stanfield International Airport
  • Montreal-Trudeau International Airport
  • Ottawa Macdonald-Cartier International Airport
  • Toronto Pearson International Airport
  • Vancouver International Airport

In addition, NEXUS eGates can be found at Toronto Pears International Airport at Terminal One as well as at Winnipeg James Armstrong Richardson International Airport.

These kiosks and eGates allow you to confirm your identity using a self-service process. The kiosk or eGate will take your photograph and issue you a printed receipt that you can take with you into the customs hall. The first time you use a NEXUS kiosk or eGate, you will need to scan your passport to verify your identity. If the kiosk or eGate isn't working, you can use the special services counter as an alternative.

If you are carrying more than $10,000 (Can) in money or monetary instruments, you may not use a NEXUS kiosk or eGate.

Air travel and eTA

If you are flying into Canada, you may need to apply for an electronic travel authorization (eTA) before your journey. If you are a permanent resident of the United States, or a citizen of Mexico, you must apply for an eTA in advance. Because eTA processing times may vary, it's best to apply for your eTA before you book your flight. Being a NEXUS member does not exempt you from the requirement to apply for an eTA. Only United States citizens and citizens of Canada do not need to apply for an eTA.

Entering Canada by water

If you're arriving in Canada aboard a marine vessel, you can access NEXUS services at over 400 sites. At least 30 minutes but less than four hours before you arrive, the boat master (that is, the captain, owner or other person in charge of the vessel) has to call the NEXUS Telephone Reporting Centre (TRC) to identify the vessel and provide a time and location of arrival. The boat master will also have to provide names and other information for all NEXUS members on board. It's also the boat master's responsibility to make sure that all NEXUS passengers are carrying the necessary travel documentation. Once this is done, the TRC will issue a report number, which the report master can provide to border officers.

In order to use NEXUS procedures when arriving in Canada by water, all passengers on the vessel must be NEXUS members.

Marine travel and eTA

Unlike air travel, water travel to Canada does not require an eTA for either US permanent residents or Mexican citizens. However, if you are a US permanent resident or Mexican citizen, you will need to provide documentation to prove your status. This means a passport in the case of a Mexican citizen or a passport and Green Card for a US permanent resident.

Entering Canada by land

21 land border crossings into Canada feature NEXUS lanes. To enter Canada using one of these crossings, drive into the designated lane and pull up to the card reader. Hold your NEXUS card up to the proximity reader, then proceed to the booth, where a border services officer will carry out a visual inspection. You may be asked to move into the inspection area; otherwise, you can proceed into Canada.

If you reside in Canada, you can use a Traveller Declaration Card (TDC) to declare any goods you are bringing with you and pay any tax or duties owed. Just complete the card, including your credit card information if necessary, and drop it in the secure box located near the border services booth. Your card will be billed for any amount owed.

As with other forms of NEXUS border crossing, some restrictions apply to entering Canada by land using your NEXUS card. You must declare any controlled or restricted items, or any items the value of which exceeds your personal allowances. Additionally, you cannot use the NEXUS lane if anyone in your vehicle is not a NEXUS member. If you have passengers who are not NEXUS members, use the regular entry lanes.

Land entry and eTA

Entering Canada by land is similar to entering the country by water: you don't need to apply for an eTA before doing so. Similarly, if you're a US permanent resident or Mexican citizen, you will need to bring your passport (and Green Card, if applicable) as proof of your residency or citizenship.

Travelling with pets

You can bring most pets with you when entering Canada using NEXUS. You will need to bring proof of the animal's rabies vaccination, which must clearly identify the animal and the vaccine used, together with its serial number and expiration date. Dogs and cats under three months old do not require vaccination certificates.

You cannot bring pet birds or restricted animals through a NEXUS lane or kiosk. Additionally, animals being brought in for commercial purposes, such as breeding, are not considered pets and are therefore not allowed in NEXUS lanes.

NEXUS advantages

Applying for a NEXUS card and familiarising yourself with the relevant regulations can take a little extra time, but the savings in time at border crossings can be significant. If you regularly travel to Canada from the United States, a NEXUS membership is a great way to speed up and simplify your border crossing experience.